The downhill contingent of the Trek World Racing (TWR) squad is fresh off a trip to the San Diego Low Speed Wind Tunnel…just in time for the Mountain Bike World Championships in the Australian capital of Canberra (Sept 1-6).
An elite group from Trek’s Advanced Components Group (ACG)—no strangers to the wind tunnel, a couple having worked as members of Lance Armstrong’s now well documented “Formula 1” team—and TWR’s downhill racers spent a day in the wind tunnel with their Session 88’s as Tracy Moseley officially became the first athlete to bring a mountain bike to the tunnel. There, the team began running through a carefully planned and highly guarded “secret” program mysteriously dubbed “Q.” Why take down hill riders and Session 88s to the wind tunnel? Simple: to go faster.
The day spent in the tunnel was as eye-opening for Trek’s engineers and designers as it was for the riders themselves. After countless rider accoutrement swaps and bike component tweaks, Trek walked away with a number of design concepts (number plates, mud guards, wheels, etc.). The riders also left the tunnel with a clear idea of what riding positions are fast, and what riding positions are, well, not so fast.
With so many variables at play, an actual downhill course is much different than the wind tunnel, but for everything that a rider or a bike designer can’t control about a certain race course on a certain day, there are things they can control—aerodynamic things—and those things can shave seconds from a run. And in an event where a race can be won and lost by fractions of a second, it only makes sense to pursue “free speed.”
Which brings us to Australia and the World Championships, the perfect place to put into practice the lessons learned in San Diego. Unlike the wooded courses World Cup DHers usual face, the 1.7km Australian course is wide open. And it lacks the natural features that usually present many of the biggest challenge to the riders. It is, as all things go, a non-technical course, which means riders are less likely to get tangled up and out of sorts. That means times could be very, very close together. And it’s when seconds count that aerodynamics matter more than ever. But it’s not just the aero look that makes these team bikes special — these Session 88’s have been crafted to run XTR cranks, which means a narrower BB, and there’s also a handful of lighter parts, like brakes, suspension links
Heading into Sunday’s women’s race, confidence is running high at Trek and for TWR, as Tracy Moseley set the fastest time in qualifying. Will she run her aero wheels and custom carbon mud guard? Stay tuned and sit tight as Tracy and Justin race for the win.
(Note: Andrew Neethling has suffered a hand injury during practice and will most likely not race on Sunday).