Taking aero to a new level
We wanted the new Noah to be rebuilt from scratch, with every bike detail revised. What set us apart was the idea to create an undivided whole, not just a result of integrated individual components. Different solutions were explored in the early stages of the project. We laid out a large array of possible design directions in the form of sketches and quick ‘n dirty 3D models. After countless hours of drawing, modelling and reviewing a final design emerged from the previous sketches.
Two Ridley-specific technologies played a major role in the development: F-Tubing and F-Surface Plus. Technologies that were already used on previous Noah and Dean models, but which were further optimized and applied to the different intersections of the frame and fork.
Proper tube sections are the prime ingredient of any professional bike. It’s the best indicator of a frame’s aerodynamic quality. F-Tubing profiles will perform like a traditional drop shape while facing a straight airflow, but they will reduce the amount of turbulence that would occur when an airflow hits the frame at a certain angle. The cut-off aerofoil shape, therefore, forms the structural baseline for the bike.
To further reduce the turbulence F-Surface Plus technology is used. It is the application of a textured surface, similar to dimples on a golf ball, in strategic locations for decreased wind drag. What these subtle grooves do is create a tiny turbulence which causes the main flow of air to follow the shape of the tube more sufficiently. With a smooth air travel around the frame, wind resistance on the rider is minimized. The stronger the wind, the more you will feel this technology working.
But we went another step further in terms of aerodynamics. Thanks to F-Steerer technology there are no visible bolts and all cables are integrated within the frame and handlebar. This makes the bike beautiful to behold and aerodynamic drag is reduced to a bare minimum.
Although the initial design provided decent groundwork to build on, multiple iterations of modelling were needed. Sizes and tube sections change on a day-to-day basis. We decided to contemplate all technical decisions using a quick and dirty ‘concept model’. The model was built rapidly and served as a means for design communication, as well as validation through CFD and structural analysis.
CFD (computational fluid dynamics) testing is a method that uses numerical analysis and data structures that involve fluid flows. It improves developers’ understandings of airflow around an object and how it can be influenced.
While investigating the borders of aerodynamics, we have always kept an ultimate fitting in mind. A giant geometry file was kept to constantly monitor every slight change and the effect it had on the overall ergonomics. The XY-Chart below illustrates the spectrum of possible combinations. It’s a visual representation of the coördinates from the center bracket to the handles, for each frame size, using all different handlebar stem lengths and spacer setups. When it comes to designing a professional road bike – as with most professional sports equipment – ergonomics are key. There is no one-size-fits-all-solution here. No two riders are the same, and every millimeter counts. We span the market using five different frame sizes, three different types of steerer spacers and 6 handlebar stem lengths (each with 4 different bar widths). Using any specific combination of these three parameters it’s possible to assemble the perfect bike tailored to any rider’s size requirements.
With this in mind the concept model was approved for further development and all specifications, geometry and tube sections were frozen and the final production files could be made. Several true size 3D-prints were produced to ensure that the frames could be tested to the fullest in the Flanders Bike Valley wind tunnel. Testing for weeks on end resulted in cut-outs of the seatpost, fork and steerer in a way where the ultimate frame component integration was met. The final result? The aerodynamic loss in component integration was zero. So, our R&D department succeeded in minimizing the aerodynamic loss and the drag around the frame and its components to its minimum.
Wind tunnel tests
So, after many edits and alterations, the design was ready for production and prepared for real-life test conditions. The final bike was again tested in the wind tunnel, using PIV-test (Particle Image Velocimetry).