Thursday, 9 January 2014

WAKi-leak #3 - Trike Aero-kit

Companies like Canyon, YT or SR Suntour are now flooding the market with cheap yet quality products and the big companies are getting weary. They realized that their products may be way too expensive in comparison, and their sales may drop. People might just go for something at a half price that is just good enough to do the job. Just before the Christmas I chatted with anonymous senior engineer (I will refer to him as Mr Oslo) that used to work for one of the worlds most iconic bike brands, the "Trike Bicycles Mexico". He has given me blue prints and a spy-shot of the lost child of his life career, a truly ambitious project: Trike Aero Kit! A project that could turn the tide for the big guns!

Trike Mexico started experimenting in the wind tunnel in 2009, just before the MTB World Championships in Canberra, Australia. My source, their former road bike development engineers and ex Formula 1 mechanic, convinced the Trike World Racing Programme to test Downhill bikes and riders in the wind tunnel, just as he used to do with Time Trail road bikes. The president of TWRP Martin Whitefriar agreed and the top riders entered the test at Lockhaed Marvin Aeronautics Organ (LMAO) in Bettlegeuse Springs, California. Some quick prototype elements were made to mount onto the bikes to minimize aerodynamic drag and riders experimented with  various types of clothing and aero tuck positions on the bike. Story has been well documented and published to many Internet Troll caves, yet there was no success in Canberra and the project kind of died. Or so we thought...

While the modified aero bikes have not performed too well in reality, the raw data on paper was intriguing. Mr Oslo talked to the members of the board in 2012, after it has been announced that Downhill racing will once again enter the open air, lousy and smooth territory on 2013 World Championships in Pietermaritzburg. Perfect track conditions to make use of aero kits were about to happen again, especially that since 2009 a lot has changed at Trike. Their flagship Sasha 9, was now made of carbon fiber - material crucial for aerodynamic kits. Then Itzaak Win came to the team, dominating the Downhill racing scene for 2 years in a row. Circumstances could not have been better!  Oslo was given an OK to go but only if racers will be able to win, or at least take the medal. The project went into a full swing and now I shall present you with it's details.

The main component of the package is the front wing mounted to the handlebars and forks stanchions, controlled via left hand shifter mounted to handlebar. It has two functions: it can tilt down to provide up to 300g of downforce in the corners (depending on speed) then most importantly it can tilt up to give up to 5 kilograms of uplift on straights! The the third function of the front wing is to split and open forward to act as the main aerodynamic brake. A pair of secondary aerodynamic brakes is placed on the seat stays. Both front and rear aero brakes are activated by just pressing the front brake lever. They shorten braking distance by almost 5%. There are side skirts on the lower legs of the Shmox SAD 40 fork minimizing the drag caused by the turbulence behind the stanchions.

After the first tests in the tunnel, I.Win was affraid to ride it on a proper flat DH track and engineers needed to install a braking parachute as a safety feature. Win was happier but the accident happened on one of test sessions (!). While airborne Win was blown by the wind, panicked and pulled the parachute, which got then sucked in by the rear tyre during the bottom out, sending him over the bars. That led engineers to add a fourth function to the front wing and that is AABIMAS - Automatic Aerodynamic Balancing in the Mid Air system. It is a system that uses front wing like ailerons and eleveator on an airplane in a way that each side wing can rotate separately. However after few tests it appeared inefficient. Now just think of all those nose divers and dead sailors in the bikeparks! No weekend warrior would ever need to know how to jump if the system worked.

Those first prototypes tested in 2009 had side covers for the front triangle but it was soon revelaed during testing with Itzaak that they provide too much surface for the wind to blow the rider off and since AABIMAS did not work, the idea has been abandoned. New aerodynamicaly proprietary sections for Sasha 6.9 frame were almost ready when suddenly everything fell apart in the course of many unfortunate events.

As many of us know, Trike Sasha 9.76 Aero has never ride the Pietermaritzburg track. The project has been closed down again, as through those few months since the restart, a lot has changed at Trike. Itzaak Win left the team to go to ride for Cafe Roubaix Demo team and there was no other rider that could handle the Sasha Aero on World Champs. Some even argued that Itzaak did it because of Legstrong scandal in the opera that shook Trikes foundations. Mr Oslo has been sent back to clean floors in one of F1 paddocks by the order of Trikes secret CEO: Gary Flusher. He told me though that the project might see the light again as soon as a yet another flat DH track will appear on some DH World Championships in the future. I hope that day will never come though and that Mr Oslo is happy in his new Job.

Arguably yours:
Wacek Kipszak WAKi


  1. Hmm...almost like getting bikes to "race temperature" by that company...wasn't that "trike" as well? Soon privateers will be buying portable heat tents to warm up their bikes before their races!

    1. I've heard nothing of that, but they did some tests with tyre warmers. I will try to get some more info on it!