Aero is everything

Specialized isn't interested in hyperbolic marketing claims. To them, aero truly is everything. It's an ethos embodied in every design decision they make, and it's why they're continually setting new benchmarks for the world's fastest products.


Aerodynamic drag, after all, is the single biggest force affecting a cyclist, and since the only way to eliminate completely is to stop moving, reducing every bit of it is critical. That's why they've spared no expense in building a team of aerodynamic experts and giving them whatever tools they asked for to get the job done—Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD), on-bike Data Acquisition (DAQ), and of course, building them their very own Win Tunnel across the street from their main office in Morgan Hill, California. Add it all up, and having all of this at the disposal of the industry's most innovative minds makes aerodynamic innovation occur at greater speed, making you faster than ever in less time. Chris Yu, Mark Cote, Chris D’Aluisio, Camron Piper, and Chuck Teixeira—between them, this aerodynamic-tour-de-force has over fifty years of aero experience and well over 20,000 hours in wind tunnels. Their expertise and presence is not only unique, but a key component in continuing to move the science forward in new ways. After all, when your tunnel time calls for a walk across the street, not a trip to the airport, you can make commuter fenders and Downhill World Champions faster. It's total freedom, and this has bred a culture of innovation unknown to the cycling industry. In other words, Specialized's team is free to push the buttons of the ideologues and poke the sleeping bears of unchallenged design principles, instead of booking a day in San Diego and only testing yaw angles to reinforce what their models predicted.

The Win Tunnel

Of course, the lynchpin to their whole aero operation is their very own Wind Tunnel. Designed and built to their own exacting standards, it's the world's finest cycling-specific wind tunnel. Specialized optimized it for real bike speeds, and it's large enough to allow them to test multiple riders at once, simulating group situations, like the peloton or a team time trial. Its proximity to the team enables them to conveniently test things without concern to cost or time, so they have the freedom to test everything that Specialized make—from a commuting helmet, to clothing, and everything in between. And since it's also used as an educational facility, there’s room for our fitters and retailers to observe and learn from testing, which directly impacts product development and your experience in the local bike shop.

The freefoil shape library

Surprisingly, Specialized's quest for perfect tube shapes don't always start in the Wind Tunnel. With the latest Venge, they started with a new piece of technology that they call the FreeFoil Shape Library. The engineers wrote an optimization algorithm and utilized a supercomputer (yes, they used an actual supercomputer) to help create new airfoil shapes with different weights, surface areas, and structural targets. Armed with this library of shapes, all with different aspect ratios, they were able to plug them into the different parts of the bike and test a variety of configurations to determine the fastest setup in the Wind Tunnel. And moving forward, this methodology is being applied to nearly all of the bikes and components. So, with a little help from some Silicon Valley supercomputing, Specialized have discovering the new shapes of speed.

Computational fluid dynamics (CFD)

Specialized isn't alone in their usage of CFD, which allows aerodynamicists, like Chris Yu, to play in a virtual space with a range of shapes and surfaces. With it, he can easily simulate the flow of various fluids across shapes of his choosing to test their aerodynamic performance. CFD allows them to see, via simulation, things you can’t see in the real world, like tiny "bits" of drag on a frame. It’s an extremely handy way of predicting aero behaviors. Where their usage diverges from the norm, however, is that they're able to discard designs that are total duds before developing prototypes for testing in their Win Tunnel. Of course, Specialized are in a unique position, in that, they're able to design and test in CFD in the morning, 3D-print a prototype in the afternoon, and test in the Wind Tunnel before the day is done.

Data acquisition (DAQ)

Then there's their own DAQ system. Used on both the road and the velodrome, DAQ takes data from power, speed, rider position, and the direction of wind, and it measures the true coefficient of aerodynamic drag on the rider. Information gleaned from this testing enables them to advise their Body Geometry Fit team, racing staff, and the athletes themselves on changes to their position that'll improve performance. And while the Win Tunnel can certainly be more precise, there's nothing quite like combining what we learn there with real-world riding.