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Trek announced today that it is revamping its popular Speed Concept for 2014 based on real-world aerodynamic measures, such as wind conditions on actual triathlon courses.
While Trek is referring to the latest edition of their popular Speed Concept line as “all new,” it obviously takes many cues from the current lineup. The geometry remains unchanged, and visually the bike bears a strong resemblance to its predecessor. In fact, what we might be witnessing is the first occurrence of what might become commonplace among manufactures: refinement of an already aerodynamically sound model using new technology and testing methods. Rest assured, the end result of Trek’s many years of research and development put into the new Speed Concept did result in a bike with many performance improvements.
The real-world testing
One of the most exciting things to come out of the release of this new model is the method and lengths to which Trek was willing to go to maximize aerodynamics. The development of this Speed Concept is the latest in what has been an evolution of methods manufacturers serious about the aero market use to design fast bicycles. Aerodynamic testing and development in a wind tunnel, and using CFD software, is now commonplace. Trek had to go above and beyond the status quo to separate themselves from their peers. Acknowledging that their goal was to design the best bike for the real-world athlete, Trek had to first establish the parameters and conditions that this athlete faced.
The effort that they undertook, a process lasting over the course of a number of years, strived to maximize the new bike’s performance by focusing on real-world aerodynamics. Trek did this by recording actual wind conditions on actual triathlon race courses. Using a mobile sensor system mounted to a motorized scooter following a rider on course, Trek recorded yaw angle and airspeed, along with speed, location, heading and altitude on the bike courses of the Hawaii Ironman, Ironman Arizona and Ironman Wisconsin. A strong indication of Trek’s desire to target the needs of the everyday triathlete is the speeds at which they focused these test on: mainly between an average of 18 and 22 miles per hour. Not the 24 mph-plus that a professional might be pushing. Using this data, based on many, many trials, Trek was able to focus in on the needs of the everyday triathlete. To effectively use this new cache of data, Trek developed its own proprietary race simulation software, allowing them to make many trial runs of potential new designs and put them in many “what if” situations.
The 2014 Trek Speed Concept
The result of all this testing is the new 2014 Speed Concept. The bike shares many features with the current edition, including Kamm tail airfoil shapes in many locations, a narrow integrated front fork and brake system, and an integrated aerobar assembly. However each of these areas are distinctly improved on the new model.
In terms of the exact placement and shape of airfoils, Trek focused in on the areas of the bicycle that are not critical to pedaling stiffness and efficiency, identifying these as areas where they could place more extreme and effective airfoil shapes and not worry about decreasing the stiffness of the bicycle. Another feature found on the new Speed Concept that has recently been popularized by other manufacturers is the use of large fillets between frame tubes. Most noticeably used on the new Speed Concept at the junction between the seat tube and top tube, these fillets have the effect of increasing not only aerodynamics and frame stiffness, but also taking advantage of the “sail-effect” in certain wind conditions.
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How much faster is it?
What do all of these improvements mean in terms of time savings? Trek claims that the new Speed Concept will yield a rider averaging 20 mph of savings of over a minute and a half on an Ironman course compared to the old Speed Concept. If the same rider were to equip their new Speed Concept with Trek’s 2-Pack Rear Hydration System, the savings would be over three minutes. Trek also took advantage of its relationships in the cycling world, using ProTour rider Fabian Cancellara to test the new design in a velodrome, the results of which indicate that a rider of his caliber might save between 30 and 40 seconds on the new bike in a one-hour time trial.
Trek not only wanted to create a bike that performs better than its predecessor, but also a bike that is easier to live with, and one that fits better. As such, the new design sports a redesigned stem and seatpost, each with fewer bolts and moving parts than the current model’s design, as well as simplification in other areas that reportedly decrease build time of the new machine by over an hour. In terms of fit, the new model boasts the same frame measurements as the current lineup. Trek did redesign the handlebar system, allowing for a wider range of fit options and the ability to more effectively fine tune the fit of the Speed Concept to an individual athlete’s needs.
In the new Speed Concept, Trek is not only pushing the envelope of the end result of what a triathlon bike can be, but also the way in which a company gets to this end result. Just like its predecessor, the new Speed Concept is sure to be a triathlon bicycle against which other bicycles are measured for many years to come.
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Check back to Triathlete.com as we learn more about the new Speed Concept, such as release dates and pricing.
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