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It starts with an idea. Morphs into an obsession. Then comes the sweat. Practice. Tears. You hear the doubters. It’s an obstacle course. Persevere. Focus. The pressure is on. Determination. Your body and mind are beaten. It’s an arduous journey. Then you see it. The glorious finish line. The reward. The victory.

I’m talking about triathlons here. But I could very well be talking about something else with similar challenges – Startups. Triathlons are intensive and grueling and definitely not for the weak-hearted. Just like shepherding a startup company to success. This is probably why I’m always doffing my hat off in respect for Chris and Jon, brothers, triathletes and the founders of FLO Cycling.

The all new FLO Wheels

(Click on the links to read the full story from FLO Cycling)

Three years ago, we ran a story in Dynamics about FLO Cycling, a startup company poised to crash the bike wheels party with their highly aerodynamic racing wheels at low prices, inspired by the brothers’ search for a leading edge design at affordable cost. This week, we were thrilled to hear back from the ‘Bicycle Brothers’ and guess what? FLO Cycling has arrived to the party – in some style.

In early 2009, the market for racing wheels offered two options: highly aerodynamic, wind tunnel tested wheels at a high cost or affordable lower cost wheels with significant performance reductions. When Chris opened up his new set of highly aerodynamic (and expensive) wheels in 2009, the brothers realized that quality and affordability don’t always need to be mutually exclusive and thus, FLO Cycling was born. Their initial offering of aluminium/carbon wheels, designed with STAR-CCM+® was a resounding success. Recently, the racing market is moving towards carbon clincher wheels, both for their versatility and performance characteristics, and to address this, FLO Cycling are offering a completely redesigned, all new FLO Wheel product line.

To bring these wheels to life, they adopted a five step data-driven design process that took 15 months from concept to final design.

1) Data Collection

To design better wheels, it is crucial to know the riding conditions that the wheel will encounter. So what did they do? They built a custom data logger connected to two custom sensors, one for yaw angle and one for relative velocity, and mounted it to the front of their bikes while competing in four Ironman races.  Insane? Yes. Inspirational? Absolutely.

2) Data Analysis

With over 100,000 measurements from their data collection, they sifted through the numbers to find useful patterns for the design. The data analysis process uncovered relationships between relative velocity, yaw angle and time for multiple riding scenarios (coastal, inland, drafting to name a few). Armed with this information, they identified the percentage of time spent in various yaw angle ranges. Contrary to their belief, it was realized that the majority of time (over 80%) is spent in the 0-10 degree yaw angle range and this narrowed down the design space for the new wheels.

3) 3D Modeling

FLO Cycling partnered with the Engineering Services team at CD-adapco for a simulation-led design process. The base for the CFD optimization study was the Continental GP 4000 S II tire, aerodynamically the fastest tire available. Using a combination of mold and Autodesk Inventor, an accurate 3D model of the tire was created capturing the details of the tire/rim interface accurately.

4) CFD Optimization

A custom optimization algorithm was created to identify the fastest rim shapes from the STAR-CCM+ simulations. The Engineering Services team at CD-adapco used STAR-CCM+ to iterate through 500 different prototypes in two months, with each design evaluated at four different yaw angles (2.5, 7.5, 12.5 and 17.5 degrees). The entire process was automated using Java macros.

5) Wind Tunnel Testing

For confirmation and further evaluation, the finalized designs were tested in the A2 wind tunnel in North Carolina, along with testing of the 2012 wheels. The results from the wind tunnel confirmed the performance of the new bike wheels as predicted from the CFD optimization algorithm. The four new wheels are faster, lighter by a pound and more compliant on the road.

In addition to this, the brothers share their entire story and the design process in detail in their blog.

Are you a cyclist looking for fast, aerodynamic wheels at affordable prices? You can check out the shop here. Finally, here is a brand new video showcasing the design process behind the wheels. 

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