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Video about aerodynamics and bicycle touring

Old 12-16-20, 05:58 PM
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Video about aerodynamics and bicycle touring

Alee Denham from CyclingAbout and the famous Koga Denham Bars posted a video last week about aerodynamics and bicycle touring. I thought it was an interesting watch.
Lots of references and calculations, including some real world testing, for your viewing pleasure:

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Old 12-16-20, 10:41 PM
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He does some excellent videos and designed some excellent bars that he needs to convince Koga to sell in the U.S. so I can buy the damn things more easily. It's like Koga doesn't want to make boku bucks in the U.S. selling such an awesome bar.
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Old 12-17-20, 12:04 AM
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When we set our tandem up for loaded touring, we were focused on both weight and volume with a view toward losing as little speed as we could manage on both flat and climbs. Our normal cruise on the flat dropped from 18.5 to 18 mph, about 3%. Our loss of climbing speed was greater of course. We limited our gear so that we had a pair of rear panniers, a rack-top bag, 2 saddle bags, a small bar bag and a small frame bag. In the process of figuring this out, we realized that more volume is always more weight. So we started by reducing the volume of everything. And of course, volume is also wind resistance.

Tandems are wonderful for touring is you have the opportunity. We bought a used steel tandem with attachment points for touring gear, except for the fork which is carbon.
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Old 12-17-20, 07:44 AM
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good video, and most importantly he does acknowledge that at regular and common touring speeds, ie 15-25kph (9-15mph) the differences are smaller.
The majority of the comparisons in his and other studies are riding at 30kph, or 20mph, and this is just not a realistic speed for a touring bike for the vast majority of riders.
For decades, my average touring speed tends to be in the mid to high teens in kph, depending on terrain, and in mountainy areas its often 13, 14kph and even less on some killer days. And I'm a fairly good climber and like biking in mountains.

Add in the real world reality of panniers--easy on, easy off which has real advantages quickly putting stuff in tent and locking up bike, or carrying bike up stairs to go to a hotel room--which we all know is a part of a day that we appreciate ease of doing. Add in the fact that for a lot of us, having a certain amount of stuff makes life more enjoyable, and a trip /experience more enjoyable, so not all of us want to be super minimalist, whether on a short trip (although its easier on a short trip) but on a long trip, with time we learn what little things make a difference to our comfort.

Don't get me wrong, I like being efficient and I like eeking out every kph I can get. Most of us also enjoy riding fast, and I totally get the enjoyment of riding a lighter bike, going faster and further for the same energy output, climbing easier.......all completely true.....BUT there's also the reality that touring can be a more laid back thing, and especially when you take into account carrying the volume of a few more things that makes your life more comfortable AND ---this is an important thing---not everyone can go and spend a loooooot of money on the latest and smallest and lightest X, Y or Zed thing--like tents or whatever, and so a lot of us make do with stuff that is good but not the lightest.

Again, Dont get me wrong, if I had all the money in the world and not other obligations in life, I'd get the lightest and smallest and you name it, but I think its fair to say that this is a pretty common issue with lots of us. We use what we have , but we still have fun.

I should finish this by saying that it's still great that the topic of "stuff and volume vs average speed" is looked at, there's nothing but positives that come from careful examination, and yes, it helps make me think more of what stuff I take on a bike trip.
And yes too, all bike stuff is neat, so its fun to see, to think about, and to take into consideration.
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Old 12-17-20, 09:47 AM
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Interesting video.

Before Covid hit I was getting into taking the Via train to points NE of me and trying to ride home fast, like unsupported randoneuring or bike pack racing and added aero bars both to relieve hand strain and to tuck better. I also now use a layered system of road clothing. No data but it's challenging.

Those Denman bars just look like swept flats with bar ends added. Pretty easy to recreate.
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Old 12-17-20, 01:36 PM
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And it just happens that, bags, tools, and spares excluded, the sort of stuff one would use bike packing is also ideal for backpacking. We re-outfitted for both in '09, our 3rd in 45 years. We had to shrink the gear to bike tour, plus we weren't comfortable carrying as much stuff as we used to. We can't think of anything we'd change. We essentially bought some new backpacking gear and moved it over to the bike. We had to buy panniers, adding very little for use in town, off the bike, maybe 2 lbs.

But yeah, everyone has their own style, their own way of touring. Thinking about aero, more people than I would have believed carry lawn chairs. I've seen lawn chairs at remote camps in the Cascades. We chose what we chose because we had touring routes that we wanted to ride, a limited amount of time to tour, and a limited amount of energy to expend.
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Old 12-17-20, 01:42 PM
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I remember that old track video, AD compared 40L+ panniers with 25L in bikepacking volume. And what a surprise: the bikepacking set-up 'wins', aerodynamically speaking. Friend of mine toured in Italy with bikepacking gear a few years ago, has 2 Ortlieb panniers now. "I was faster, yes, but it took me ages to pack and unpack, strap this, buckle that... Fighting the wind is time well spent."
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Old 12-18-20, 04:15 AM
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Originally Posted by CMAW View Post
I remember that old track video, AD compared 40L+ panniers with 25L in bikepacking volume. And what a surprise: the bikepacking set-up 'wins', aerodynamically speaking. Friend of mine toured in Italy with bikepacking gear a few years ago, has 2 Ortlieb panniers now. "I was faster, yes, but it took me ages to pack and unpack, strap this, buckle that... Fighting the wind is time well spent."
Yup, but I did notice a difference when I went from two big Ortlieb bags in the front to two smaller ones and a big saddlebag. All of which are easy to take off the bike and pack.
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Old 12-18-20, 09:35 AM
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In recent years you can find bikepacking bags that are a lot more convenient to get on and off. Harness system in front with a separate dry bag (the integrated ones are indeed a holy mess to get on and off every day), rear soft-frame seat bag that again holds a separate bag (ie Mr. Fusion and others like it). These don’t even come with a weight or cost penalty these days. Ortlieb now has 5L fork bags that click on and off, no fussing with a bunch of straps on cargo cages (these are fairly heavy though if you’re counting grams).

But I feel ya, fewer larger bags are always simpler than more smaller bags. I had the same experience with a friend on tour - five bags and a ton of straps and buckles vs my pair of big Ortliebs, and I was always waiting for him to finish packing and unpacking. However he was always waiting for me at the tops of hills...
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Old 12-18-20, 10:56 AM
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Originally Posted by fourfa View Post
In recent years you can find bikepacking bags that are a lot more convenient to get on and off. Harness system in front with a separate dry bag (the integrated ones are indeed a holy mess to get on and off every day), rear soft-frame seat bag that again holds a separate bag (ie Mr. Fusion and others like it). These don’t even come with a weight or cost penalty these days. Ortlieb now has 5L fork bags that click on and off, no fussing with a bunch of straps on cargo cages (these are fairly heavy though if you’re counting grams).

But I feel ya, fewer larger bags are always simpler than more smaller bags. I had the same experience with a friend on tour - five bags and a ton of straps and buckles vs my pair of big Ortliebs, and I was always waiting for him to finish packing and unpacking. However he was always waiting for me at the tops of hills...
I liked that line, and it kinda sums up the whole thing doesnt it?
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Old 12-18-20, 11:05 AM
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Originally Posted by djb View Post
I liked that line, and it kinda sums up the whole thing doesnt it?
Why would bike-packing gear help you climb faster? I suppose racks and heavier panniers would make a small difference, but aerodynamics would be insignificant.
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Old 12-18-20, 11:43 AM
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I may have mentioned this before but I was touring down in the Ozarks a few years back with a woman who was bikepacking. I'm sure that she and her gear were a lot lighter than myself and my more traditionally loaded bike but surprisingly she was faster downhill than I, which must have been entirely due to aerodynamics, but I would over take her on the climbs even with the greater weight due to being the stronger rider.
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Old 12-18-20, 12:01 PM
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Originally Posted by imi View Post
Why would bike-packing gear help you climb faster? I suppose racks and heavier panniers would make a small difference, but aerodynamics would be insignificant.
simple, less volume = less weight. I had more space and being in Italy I couldn't help but carry a new bottle of wine to try in each region. You can pour it into a platypus pouch and leave the glass but it's still an extra 750mL of liquid separate from my main water supply. Same with every new local cookie and salami etc. Cargo always expands to fill available space
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Old 12-18-20, 12:21 PM
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Originally Posted by fourfa View Post
simple, less volume = less weight ... Cargo always expands to fill available space
Huh? Why would I choose to carry more than I need just because I have bigger bags?
When I need to carry more because of the climate, food needs etc, then yes I am glad I have extra space otherwise I wouldn’t be able to do the trip.

I find this the weakest arguement for the advantages of a bike-packing set-up, and actually an arguement against it as bike-packing gear is an inherent limitation

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Old 12-18-20, 01:49 PM
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Originally Posted by imi View Post
Huh? Why would I choose to carry more than I need just because I have bigger bags?
When I need to carry more because of the climate, food needs etc, then yes I am glad I have extra space otherwise I wouldn’t be able to do the trip.

I find this the weakest arguement for the advantages of a bike-packing set-up, and actually an arguement against it as bike-packing gear is an inherent limitation
You are carrying more than you need to because your bags are bigger. Bigger is heavier. That's the volume = weight argument. If you can reduce the size of everything, the load gets lighter That's partly because small things weigh less, and partly because maybe now you only need one pannier or don't need the front panniers, etc.

Bike packers may be going into maximally unfriendly terrain for bikes, including climate, food needs, etc. No stores, no facilities. The bike packer system is to say, OK, I have exactly this much space, no way to add more, so what do I need, as opposed to what do I want? I've seen thru-hikers on the Washington portion of the PCT with what I estimated to be 12 lb. packs. That's clothes and shelter for all weather, plus 3 days food. Anish averaged 40 miles/day on her thru-hike. Inputs affect output. I'm constantly amazed at what humans can do.
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Old 12-18-20, 02:09 PM
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What is the typical combined volume of bike-packer bags for an extended tour in let’s say reasonable 3-season varied weather, and how much would they typically weigh (empty)?

This is an honest enquiry in order to compare to the weight of say a tubus rack and two ortlieb panniers.

The weight and size of the stuff packed could obviously be either identically minimalistic (weight/size weenie) or maxed out, which would potentially be much greater for the “kitchen sink” tourer.

My point is that the only difference if packing minimally is the difference between the weight of the rack + panniers to the bike-packing bags...

Greater volume then allows one to extend the range of the tour in regards to climate and self-sufficiency, although this is quite rightly deemed as unnecessary by many bike-packers for the kinds of tours they do.

edit to add: A bike-packing set up has other advantages though of course on narrow trails and (back on thread) its aerodynamics, but leaving that aside for the moment

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Old 12-18-20, 02:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post

Bike packers may be going into maximally unfriendly terrain for bikes, including climate, food needs, etc. No stores, no facilities. The bike packer system is to say, OK, I have exactly this much space, no way to add more, so what do I need, as opposed to what do I want?


This definition would make this guy a bike packer
I am confident that he wasn’t carrying a gram more than absolutely necessary for his trip. Nothing he just wanted but didn’t need.
He’s the late Göran Kropp cycling from Sweden to the Himalayas to then climb Everest.
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Old 12-18-20, 06:22 PM
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I've looked at a lot of bike packing setups that look minimalistic but are really more suited to favorable climates. In Canada, in mountains or shoulder seasons, you wind up carrying more bulk (not necessarily weight) than can be packed in those small volume bags. Mainly clothes for harsh conditions that account for getting wet/cold over longer periods of time and a decent cold weather sleeping bag.
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Old 12-19-20, 09:51 AM
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Aerodynamics are mostly moot

During my first tour, I wondered about drag. I'd never had more than backpack before that. I also never carried that type of weight, so it was hard to discern how much of a factor it was. Then, in a cafe in the Keweenaw Peninsula (located in N. Michigan on Lake Superior), an engineer explained to be the waydrag works, how it's squared to the speed you travel. So at touring speeds, it really isn't a huge thing. Weight is, though, since that's squared to the slope.


Of course, when going downhill, the drag becomes a greater factor. This is something I don't mind because I'm not interested in going as fast as I can. I find it's oftentimes the opposite. When you're going super fast, it's hard to take in any scenery, which is very often worth seeing at higher elevations. Too fast means I can't stop for photos. On big downhills, I'll even stand up to increase my drag to slow down, rather than chewing up my break pads. Very oftentimes, you have to make hairpin turns and have to slow down anyway.


For bikepackers, their aerodynamic advantage is more pronounced, simply because they travel at faster speeds--a sort of positive feedback loop. Once either climbing of off-road, however, it goes back to being a moot point.


I'm not sure how headwinds factor in. Clearly, a four pannier tourer, like myself, suffers more drag. But, since the wind already slows you down, it's not clear how much of a disadvantage it is. Plus, when there's a tailwind, wouldn't the large exposure help?
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Old 12-19-20, 11:19 AM
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The thru hiking and endurance racing thing is definitely a factor. High energy food that packs down and needs minimum prep. Same kind of thinking for shelter, totally minimum for the task at hand, i.e. quilt rather than sleeping bag.

The guy who owns Rogue Panda bags posted a year or two ago on Facebook his backpack for a planned AZT hike. Nearly half of it was sports drink and protein shake and so on. The "wraps" were iirc peanut butter and Mission tortillas, with some chips and candy bars for variety. No stove.

5 days of hiking, 12 pounds of food. Time for AZTBAM Part 2! The section from Sunflower to Pine is one of the most remote parts of the whole AZT. Here's what I'm eating:

Left: liquid nutrition! Breakfast smoothies, a big bag of my new daily mix, plus one @tailwindnutrition Rebuild per night. In total, 5 out of the 12 pounds are drink mixes.

Center is lunch wraps (plus some mini bell peppers and carrot sticks).

Right is salty snacks. My appetite is super wacky right now and walking down the snack aisle was pretty interesting. My body had very clear ideas of what seemed appetizing and I didn't ask questions.

I'm going no-cook on this trip, and quite possibly every trip from now till November or so. Hot food just doesn't hold much appeal to me with the long days and warmer weather. I've got some cold-soak options to switch things up from the rest of the fare.
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Old 12-20-20, 06:23 AM
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We just ride and enjoy the scenery. Panniers are convenient and practical.I could possibly strap something to my forehead and be .2% more efficient.
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Old 12-22-20, 01:15 PM
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Originally Posted by Comfort is King View Post
During my first tour, I wondered about drag. I'd never had more than backpack before that. I also never carried that type of weight, so it was hard to discern how much of a factor it was. Then, in a cafe in the Keweenaw Peninsula (located in N. Michigan on Lake Superior), an engineer explained to be the waydrag works, how it's squared to the speed you travel. So at touring speeds, it really isn't a huge thing. Weight is, though, since that's squared to the slope.


Of course, when going downhill, the drag becomes a greater factor. This is something I don't mind because I'm not interested in going as fast as I can. I find it's oftentimes the opposite. When you're going super fast, it's hard to take in any scenery, which is very often worth seeing at higher elevations. Too fast means I can't stop for photos. On big downhills, I'll even stand up to increase my drag to slow down, rather than chewing up my break pads. Very oftentimes, you have to make hairpin turns and have to slow down anyway.


For bikepackers, their aerodynamic advantage is more pronounced, simply because they travel at faster speeds--a sort of positive feedback loop. Once either climbing of off-road, however, it goes back to being a moot point.


I'm not sure how headwinds factor in. Clearly, a four pannier tourer, like myself, suffers more drag. But, since the wind already slows you down, it's not clear how much of a disadvantage it is. Plus, when there's a tailwind, wouldn't the large exposure help?
Yes, headwinds. We (on our tandem) did a sport century in California, the Lighthouse Century. There was a section where we went north on Hwy 1 for maybe 10 miles, against a 25 mph wind. That section was just after a couple long climbs, back and forth over the coastal range. We were considerably slower than many single riders on the climbing section, but on that upwind section we held a stead 9.3 mph and slowly picked off those fast singles riders, one by one, until we had probably 30 of them drafting us, just in 10 miles. The next leg was back downwind. I knew it was a 25 mph breeze because at 25 we were riding in still air. I expected to be able to go much faster, but 25 was about it. There's more to resistance than air. I also thought that maybe air closer to the ground was not moving as fast, but I don't really know. A vaguely amusing thing was the number of tourists we saw heading north, 4 panniers, making maybe 5 mph on a totally flat road, sitting up nicely in normal tourist style. We thought, "we'd sure hate to be them!" Of course they were nuts to be going the wrong way, but not everyone listens. The resistance in a brisk headwind feels about the same as on a pass climb, a very long pass climb.
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Old 12-22-20, 03:50 PM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
Yes, headwinds. We (on our tandem) did a sport century in California, the Lighthouse Century. There was a section where we went north on Hwy 1 for maybe 10 miles, against a 25 mph wind. That section was just after a couple long climbs, back and forth over the coastal range. We were considerably slower than many single riders on the climbing section, but on that upwind section we held a stead 9.3 mph and slowly picked off those fast singles riders, one by one, until we had probably 30 of them drafting us, just in 10 miles. The next leg was back downwind. I knew it was a 25 mph breeze because at 25 we were riding in still air. I expected to be able to go much faster, but 25 was about it. There's more to resistance than air. I also thought that maybe air closer to the ground was not moving as fast, but I don't really know. A vaguely amusing thing was the number of tourists we saw heading north, 4 panniers, making maybe 5 mph on a totally flat road, sitting up nicely in normal tourist style. We thought, "we'd sure hate to be them!" Of course they were nuts to be going the wrong way, but not everyone listens. The resistance in a brisk headwind feels about the same as on a pass climb, a very long pass climb.
I still can't figure out the wind, about if it hurts more than it helps. To me, it seems like headwinds slow me down and cause much more anguish than whatever I gain from tailwinds, both with panniers and without. I'm at a point where I think the same of no wind as I used to about tailwinds. "No wind is the new tailwind" is my new mantra. In fact, I'd take a permanent 2mph headwind, no tailwind ever, if that were the strongest I ever had to endure.
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Old 12-22-20, 08:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Comfort is King View Post
I still can't figure out the wind, about if it hurts more than it helps. To me, it seems like headwinds slow me down and cause much more anguish than whatever I gain from tailwinds, both with panniers and without. I'm at a point where I think the same of no wind as I used to about tailwinds. "No wind is the new tailwind" is my new mantra. In fact, I'd take a permanent 2mph headwind, no tailwind ever, if that were the strongest I ever had to endure.
Me and a friend did a 80 km (50 miles) ride at the beginning of this year on the day a storm was blowing from the South-West, running perfectly along the coast. We had a great time just cruising with minimal effort, easily doing 30+ kph (~20 mph) the entire day. It wasn't until we had a small stretch where we needed to head straight West that we ended up having to tuck in and shift down considerably to even be able to get above 10 kph (6 mph). Which wasn't that weird with gusts in excess of 90 kph (55 mph).

I have done worse headwinds. But the one time the front of the bike was lifted off the ground was the moment I started walking.

The tour I did this November was plagued by entire days of headwinds, drizzling rain and no open restaurants or coffee places. I quit and took the train home after 3 days.
This was my setup:



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