-- Success Story --
Cycling experts on the right track with aerodynamic products
Droitwich-based AeroCoach is used to striving for perfection. This specialist cycling consultancy, founded by Dr Xavier Disley, is on a mission to optimise cycling and product design aerodynamics for a range of amateur and professional cyclists, including Tour de France and Grand Tour stage winners, UCI World, Olympic & National Champions, UCI National Federations and UCI World Tour Teams.
“We have clients all around the world who want to optimise their performance in cycling time trials,” says Andy Robbins, Head of Engineering at AeroCoach. “We help them do this in two different ways. First, we offer aerodynamic testing sessions in wind tunnels and indoor and outdoor velodromes, where riders work with our analysts to find the optimum mix of aerodynamics and comfort. Second, we provide a range of cycling products that we have specially designed and manufactured to optimise and streamline their cycling performance.” This includes skin suits, handlebars, saddles, wheels and other cycling accessories.
Product design is a relatively new strand of the business, however — one that AeroCoach only began in earnest in 2017. As such, the company's team of cycling experts realised that expanding their product range would require capabilities and equipment which, at that time, they did not have in-house. “Back then, our range was in its infancy and we knew that designing and manufacturing advanced products would be something of a challenge,” remembers Andy. “We realised we needed expert advice, particularly regarding the type of design and simulation programmes we should be using to design world-class products.”
As a first port of call, Andy spoke to a personal contact at WMG: Jennie Murray, Lead Engineer. “I chatted to Jennie about what we wanted to do and she said WMG would be able to help,” he says. “We arranged meetings with other WMG team members and talked to them about the kinds of products we wanted to design and manufacture.”
One idea was to create the company's first rear disc wheel — specialist wheels which have covers (known as fairings) over the spokes to increase aerodynamic performance. The brief was simple enough: the finished product had to outperform similar wheels offered by existing competitors.
This, however, made creating the design complex.
“We wanted WMG to help us design the fairing part of the disc wheel,” says Andy. “We'd done lots of research and analysis and knew the shape the fairing had to be for optimum aerodynamic performance.” Working closely with Andy, WMG made 3D models of the design and also ensured the company logo could be applied to the fairing in the most lightweight and aerodynamic way. When everything was complete, computer simulation was used to test the design.
In cycling it's important to keep weight to an absolute minimum, so it was crucial to make the fairing out of a lightweight material. AeroCoach chose plastic which was to be vacuum-formed into the required shape. “However, to vacuum-form plastic, you first need a mould,” says Andy. “Fortunately, WMG was able to print four different prototype moulds using their large 3D printers. They were also able to put us in contact with various supply chain partners, including a manufacturing company called Rudd Mcnamara that was located close to us and had vacuum-forming capabilities.”
Rudd Mcnamara produced a trial run of fairings made from different grades and properties of plastic. “This started a research and discovery phase between ourselves at WMG, AeroCoach and Rudd Mcnamara,” says Jennie Murray. “Ultimately, AeroCoach took different fairing designs to the velodrome to test which ones would would yield the desired real-world results.” Consequently, AeroCoach put its AEOX tubeless disc wheel into production, which Hamish Bond — the New Zealand gold-winning rower and a keen cyclist — debuted at the World Championship Time Trial.
AeroCoach — which now makes its disc wheel fairings from carbon rather than plastic using another WMG manufacturing contact — has never been short on innovation. So it should be no surprise to discover that it has since acquired the capabilities and equipment to complete all of its design and 3D modelling work in-house. “AeroCoach are a fabulous company with a real 'can-do' attitude,” says Jennie. “They are highly skilled and everything they do is focussed on creating ground-breaking products that will cut riding times for their many clients.”
The AEOX disc wheel set AeroCoach on the right track when it came to expanding their product line, says Andy. “It was the stepping stone towards the many other products we currently design, including our range of deep section front wheels. Plus the sales we generated from the AEOX enabled us to invest in other aspects of our business.” Best of all, clients have given positive feedback about the AEOX. “customers frequently tell us that they've set new personal best times using the wheel,” says Andy. “Others have sent pictures of it on their bike and commented on how good it looks.”
Working with WMG was a cost-effective way of producing the disc wheel design. For instance, 3D printing the moulds potentially saved the company tens of thousands of pounds; and using WMG supply chain contacts saved AeroCoach precious time. “It was good to work with WMG who were very professional and quick to respond to any comments we had,” says Andy. “Everything we asked for, they delivered.”