With the Leadville Trail 100 just around the corner, Specialized is here once again to answer the important questions. Namely, does grabbing your fork crown actually create any sort of aero advantage that could be used over the course of a long race like Leadville? Do aerodynamics matter off road? Is there a ‘fastest’ position?

Starting with a Specialized Epic full suspension mountain bike, Specialized used the average speed of last year’s Leadville winner Howard Grotts at about 26Kph to set the wind speed.  Measuring the amount of drag in four different positions, the results were somewhat surprising. Keep in mind that this is over the entire 104 mile course, but if you could maintain an aero position for the entire race, you could save up to 23 minutes. But – no one is going to be able to use that position over the whole course, but in the areas where it is possible, it could actually save you valuable seconds or even minutes on the clock.

They’re not the first to consider aerodynamics for this race. Check out our interview with Jeremiah Bishop from a couple years ago about how they were going to attack the course with a few frame mods.

36 COMMENTS

  1. Fork crown position is the sketchiest thing in the world I remember a few months ago seeing some doofus try that hanging onto a road group ride and got an earful. I can definitely see a super tuck helping on some of the descents with a full sus and sloping geometry of most MTB’s it would be a lot more stable than the same move on the road.

    • The super tuck is a perilous position as well. Unless you are in the pro peloton you are a boot licking imbecile by placing yourself and others in your fallout zone in grave danger.

      • Fair enough I do about 1 XC race per year and its a flat and fast course more suited to my TT (read:terrible MTB handling skills) profile. You still cant tell me that grabbing your fork crown is less dangerous than descending on the top tube (which can be quite stable at least on the road if executed correctly with hands placed wide on the bars and practiced by an already good descender).

  2. This testing assumes you can put out the same amount of power in each position. Should have at least attempted some power measurements. Doesn’t Specialized have access to the “most accurate” power meter?

    • That’s a different test that you don’t do in a wind tunnel. My guess would be that they’ve looked into it since Annika Langvad and Kate Courtney used the fork crown tuck extensively at Cape Epic (and crushed the field) and I doubt they just now thought to test this in the Win Tunnel.

      • Annika and Kate only crushed the field because they didn’t have any meaningful competition. Holding onto the fork crowns had less than 1% to do with their victory

  3. Can’t wait for full aero design to come to mountain biking. Optimized tube shapes, deep 50mm wide carbon rims, aero helmets, integrated bar-stem combos hiding cables from the wind, disc brake fairings… it’ll be a whole new world.

    • tbh i wouldnt mind a bit of aero. sounds odd like that i know.. but if you’re biking to your trail mtbs are really bad at speed on the road and its mostly due to aero problems. as long as its subtle, that’s cool

      • those super sticky knobby tires would have anything to do with it either? that would be by far the most resistance on a mtb riding on the road.

        • Rolling resistance is basically always a flat amount regardless of speed, so it’s going it’s going to be dominated by air resistance at higher speeds (even at fairly attainable ones) since that goes up at a square function of velocity.

  4. Is it a “mountain bike race” if over 40 miles is on a road? This is a marathon type bucket lister bike race. Not a real MTB race!. Remember Oprah and P-Diddy “ran” a marathon too.

  5. From my fit analysis, those more aero positions reduce frontal area by 17-20%.

    As for power optimization esp at the extreme aero positions, TdF pros this year have gone to shorter cranks to open up the hip angle.

  6. In XC races i’ve been using efficiently this narrow tucked position for years. Sure it works. Many others had figure it out 🙂 Still make for some easy gain which is cool.

  7. This is assuming you’re maintaining a speed faster than the wind, on a mtb. I live where the wind comes sweepin’ down the plain, so wind direction being head on is coincidental.

  8. So, pads on the bar to rest forearms would be fastest and least fatiguing.

    I wonder if they adjusted for altitude density? Air is much thinner in Leadville than Morgan Hill, Ca.

  9. …so getting lower and narrower on a bike will decrease drag? Amazing discovery, who would have thought?
    It would be interesting to see figures on how much these studies cost. I would also be very interested to see the dollar amount in every Specialized bike or product that is passed on to each customer to fund the entire Win Tunnel operation.

    • Trevor, still using down tube shifters? Think Shimano didn’t roll the costs of engineering, prototyping, marketing, testing, tooling etc into their STI shifters? Cervelo spent tens of thousands of dollars(and probably more) in the San Diego low speed wind tunnel developing the P5 a few years ago. When the accounting department got involved, you can be sure those costs were rolled into those bikes. That’s how technology works. Someone designs a thing and that costs money. You pay the money and you get all of the expense and profit rolled into a shiny new thing.

      • Thanks! I’m well aware of how R&D works for consumer products!

        Furthermore your argument is invalid. They are not developing any new technology in this video(or others like it). Instead this feels more like show boating and pissing money away just because they can. It doesn’t take a genius or windtunnel to realize that getting lower and narrower will decrease drag. Most grade school students could tell us that.

        I was specifically asking about the dollar amount needed in every Specialized product just to fund the WinTunnel and its frivolous self promoting videos.

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