Optimised metal AM cycling equipment gives Ironman Champion the edge

October 9, 2018

Optimised metal AM cycling equipment gives Ironman Champion the edge

Wind tunnel testing of the customised aero cockpit designed for Patrick Lange (Photo © Marcel Hilger)


Swiss Side, a subsidiary of BANT Engineered Design GmbH, Switzerland; Canyon Bicycles GmbH, Germany; and Sauber Engineering, Switzerland, have collaborated on the development of a totally customised ‘aero cockpit’ for an aero bike (a type of bicycle designed for heightened aerodynamics), in a project titled ‘Project 101’. Designed for Patrick Lange, the fastest ever champion in Hawaii’s Kona Ironman, the additively manufactured aero cockpit is fitted to Lange’s arm shape and position and is said to draw on the latest technology and innovations from Formula 1.

In developing the concept for the aero cockpit, the team at Swiss Side, which designs and produces aero cycling wheels, reviewed Lange’s aero bike’s set-up and system to determine where additional performance improvements could be made. This review concluded that, as Lange rides with a high angle on the bike’s tri-bar extensions, they were very exposed to airflow. Further computational fluid dynamics simulations confirmed that this was producing significant aerodynamic drag. As a result, the aero cockpit was devised to improve the design of the tri-bar extensions and integrate them into the natural riding position of Lange’s arms.

Swiss Side then designed and produced a first concept using plastic Additive Manufacturing, which was tested in a wind tunnel session with Lange in early May 2018. The results of these tests confirmed the potential for significant performance improvement; they were subsequently shared with bicycle designer Canyon, which joined the project to further improve Lange’s race performance with new designs. Swiss Side also approached Sauber Engineering to discuss the possibility of producing the new aero cockpit using its metal Additive Manufacturing capabilities.


Optimised metal AM cycling equipment gives Ironman Champion the edge

Lange’s arms were scanned by Sauber to enable the cockpit design to be perfectly sculpted to him (Photo © Marcel Hilger)


The next step in the cockpit’s development was to scan Lange’s arms in order to perfectly shape the design to him. This was carried out at Sauber, where both his arms and imprints of his elbows were scanned. Together with Canyon, Swiss Side then designed and optimised the aerodynamics for the new aero cockpit and, with the support of Sauber, the parts were optimised for weight and stiffness using FEM (Finite Element Method) structural analysis.


Optimised metal AM cycling equipment gives Ironman Champion the edge

The final metal AM aero cockpit was produced in titanium for the main extensions and mountings, and aluminium for shells for the elbow pads (Photo © Marcel Hilger)


The final design was produced first as a rapid prototype using plastic AM, and tested in a second wind tunnel session together for final approval of the aerodynamic performance of the parts, as well as to check the fit to Lange’s arms and integration with the bike. Following approval, Sauber metal additively manufactured the aero cockpit using titanium with optimised wall thicknesses and internal structures for the main extensions and mountings, and lightweight aluminium for shells for the elbow pads. These metal AM parts were then sent to Canyon for rigorous testing on their test benches, in order to confirm the strength of the parts under the most extreme load cases.

The finished aero cockpit was delivered to Lange’s training camp in St. Moritz, Switzerland, just sixteen weeks after the first exploratory wind tunnel test. The aero cockpit will see its competition debut at the 2018 Kona Ironman World Championships. Speaking on the project, Lange stated, “While working on Project 101, we did something that has never been done before in triathlon. I am very proud to be part of this project… I can’t wait to show the world my new aero cockpit and deliver a strong performance on October 13th at the big race in Kona, Hawaii.”

Jean-Paul Ballard, Swiss Side CEO and Co-founder, commented, “Project 101 has been a synergy of the world’s best in each of their respective fields. We have again brought the latest know-how and technologies, directly from Formula 1 to cycling industry, to make not just marginal gains, but to deliver minutes of additional performance to World Champion Patrick Lange, with our combined goal to… #betherecordbreaker!”




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As well as an extensive AM industry news section, this 188-page issue includes articles and reports on:

  • From rapid prototyping to rocket engines: The evolution of 3T Additive Manufacturing
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