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Improving aerodynamics for faster cycling

CASE STUDY: Body Rocket

How Body Rocket has collaborated with the University of Southampton to develop a new real-time aerodynamic drag meter for UK cyclists and athletes

Body Rocket was formed in 2018 as a start-up company with a small team of passionate cyclists and technologists. Its focus is on developing real-time aerodynamic drag measurement products for the sports industry, helping to make athletes and cyclists faster through improved aerodynamics.

Validation required for new drag meter

Through the SPRINT programme, Body Rocket gained funded access to collaborate with the University of Southampton on the testing and validation of its new, real-time aerodynamic drag meter. This included independent validation of the technology for gravity sports and cycling, and completion of the technology to enable the cycling product.

Benefits achieved through the SPRINT project included:

  • Validation provided evidence in major Crowdcube investment round, raising £255,424 of new capital from 374 investors (April 2020)
  • Current prototype to be moved to Minimum Viable Product status by the end of 2020
  • Body Rocket to formalise strategic partnerships with pro teams
  • Commercial product to be launched at Eurobike 2021
  • Increase in jobs created at Body Rocket and with key suppliers

Wind tunnels – gold standard in aerodynamic measurement

The device, when fully commercialised, will provide real-time measurement of aerodynamic drag for athletes and make the Body Rocket product the first in the world able to actually measure aerodynamic drag forces outside a wind tunnel. It will help athletes to make vital improvements to their individual competitive performance.

Currently, the most accurate way to measure drag on a cyclist’s body is to conduct tests inside a wind tunnel. The project with the University of Southampton tested the sensing device first in the wind tunnel so that it could then be tested out on the road to measure drag independently.

With wind tunnels continuing to be the gold standard in aerodynamic measurement, the University of Southampton provided Body Rocket with expertise in the aerodynamics of sports and sporting equipment to validate the company’s cutting-edge sensor technology.

The RJ Mitchell Wind Tunnel at the University of Southampton was ideally suited for aerodynamic work and performance sport testing and has been at the forefront of aerodynamic research for more than 30 years. It is used extensively, not only by the performance sport industry, but also industries including automotive, aerospace and marine and maritime.

Measurement is critical to competitive performance

Eric DeGolier, Founder of Body Rocket said: “In many sports, like cycling, where aerodynamics is critical, the athlete’s body is a major contributor to drag. Measuring the effects changes in posture and technique have on aerodynamics while an athlete is competing is critical to improved performance.

“Body Rocket is committed to developing a method of measuring aerodynamic drag without reliance on a wind tunnel. We can achieve this by applying big data techniques used in industries such as motorsport but needed technical expertise and equipment

“By collaborating with the University of Southampton under the SPRINT programme, we had funded access to a great, specialist resource – a one stop shop for all of the expertise and facilities that we need for our product testing and validation including state-of-the-art wind tunnel testing facilities on-site, credibility from previous testings, and space research expertise in inertial navigation and sensor fusion algorithms.”

SPRINT testing key to successful investment bid

Eric DeGolier continued: “The SPRINT project has shown us that this technology is possible and played a very big role in helping us to hit our top target, raising over £¼ million of private capital in our recent Crowdcube investment round.

“Our long-term goal is to validate the system with a cyclist pedalling on the road in real-time. We’re not quite there yet but the SPRINT project enabled us to show that the physics and the concept are valid, and nobody has done that before. It’s also provided us with a good dataset for further development.

“Over the next few months, we’ll be developing the angle sensing system, simulating conditions to test changes in temperature and vibration, and then taking it out on the road. We’ll be targeting professional cycling teams with a view to launching a full product in 2021.”

Image credit: Ian G. C. White

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