Front end aerodynamics have always been of utmost importance to WattShop. From our roots in Formula One through to our work with HUUB Wattbike, Ribble Weldtite Pro Cycling, Denmark Cycle Union, Canyon SRAM and Jumbo Visma, we know how important aerodynamics are and the front-end of every TT bike drives that. Back in 2017 our relationship with Team KGF and then HUUB Wattbike has heavily influenced all aspects of our development. As a team they have always pushed the boundaries and their cockpits have clearly demonstrated that, often to the objection of the world governing body, the UCI. They have worked alongside us over the past three years to develop the fastest front end in the world. Let us dig in to how that has evolved…
At the start of the 2017/18 UCI Track World Cup season, Team KGF had already begun to push the UCI regulations to the limit to achieve longer positions with higher arm angles within two critical rules: the 80cm rule and the 10cm rule. Simply put, the extension tip can’t be more than 80cm in front of the centre of the BB, and the extension tip can’t be more than 10cm above the arm rest. These rules were put in place to limit the Boardman Superman and Landis Praying Mantis positions, respectively. Team KGF were keen to apply to the letter of the rules, brushing aside the "spirit". We duly obliged in helping them.
Our first step was to produce angled arm rests. Our first iterations were 20 degrees of inclination. We paired this with up to 20mm of low-density arm rest foam padding. At their first UCI Track World Cup in Pruszków, Poland, the UCI were less than impressed but struggled to find a rule to disallow the design. Team KGF went on to their second world cup in Manchester just one week later and narrowly missed out on the bronze medal in the men’s team pursuit. By this point we knew the design wasn’t well liked by the UCI, especially when Harry Tanfield’s excessive foam padding fell off in training at Minsk World Cup in January 2018. The UCI changed their implementation of the rule then, pressing the T bar of the 10cm jig down until the foam fully compressed. Some generous hack sawing and filing of extensions got the team through but their approach to the rule would be short lived, and we knew that.
Brian Walker's original sketch - October 2017
We had been working on a carbon fibre integrated aero extension since October. The idea came from Brian Walker of Walker Brother Wheels, who is renowned for his innovative and progressive approach to the sport since the 80s. You can see his simple sketch he sent to the team above, scribbling on top of the previous extensions and sketching on his idea. Simple, clean, elegant. The seed was planted, and along with UK composite manufacturer, CarbonWasp, we worked to bring the idea to life. A range of FDM 3D printed prototypes were used to check fitment, ergonomics and crucially UCI legality. The two sets of composite extensions landed on Jacob Tipper’s and Dan Bigham’s bikes for the 2018 HSBC UK British Track Cycling Championships. The components worked flawlessly and attracted a lot of attention.
Unsurprisingly, the UCI brought out a regulation change just two weeks before the 2018 World Track Cycling Championships. This regulation said that foam is now only allowed to be one ply thick, and that the 10cm rule will now be measured from the centre of the arm rest, whereas before they were measured from the highest point. We were prepared. Charlie Tanfield and Dan Bigham were their representing Great Britain. They both went out with two options: the new WattShop composite aero extensions and a pair of new arm rests that were 180mm long and inclined at 30 degrees. There were groans and heated debates with the UCI commissaires. The new arm rests were ruled illegal under technical regulation 1.3.004. This rule covers designs that are subjectively deemed to be “technical innovations”. Thankfully, the extensions were allowed, but a new regulation update was soon incoming.
After the 2018 UCI Track World Championships, the UCI duly updated their regulations. Arm rests were now limited to a maximum length of 125mm, a maximum inclination of 15 degrees and each arm rest must be separate. Extensions must be no more than 40x40mm in a cross section taken by a plane perpendicular to the central axis.
With the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia quickly approaching we thought through the new regulation and a clear loophole presented itself. The UCI clearly wanted us to bring our extension tips further down to limit how high the extensions allowed the rider to get their hands, but we could just bring our arm rests up instead. So, we did just that. With the 15 degree arm rest angle inclination, we kept the arm rest small so that the extension profile could stay close to the rider’s forearm. You can see how this evolved in the photo below of Dan Bigham representing Team England at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
For the 2018 road season and 2018/19 track season we continued to make continual improvements to the design. We changed the hand grip to a hook design so that the rider could hold on with just one or two fingers, raising their hand height further. We cleaned up the mounting face to directly mount on to the HUUB Wattbike Argon18 Electron Pro riser stacks. We also integrated the arm rest into the extension. Small improvements but at the sharp end details matter. This generation achieved great success including winning the men’s team pursuit at the London World Cup and twice breaking the sea level 4km individual pursuit world record when piloted by John Archibald. They were finally used by Ashton Lambie to break the 4km individual pursuit world record at the 2019 Pan Am Championships in Cochabamba, Bolivia.
Photo Credit - Crank Photo
For 2019 we launched the Anemoi carbon fibre aero extensions. This was a production version of what had been a custom and developmental design. Two different versions were produced: UCI legal and 40 degree. Just as with all of our components, these were 100% UK designed, optimised, and manufactured. We love support British engineering. They were ridden by Ribble Weldtite Pro Cycling to great success domestically and internationally, including a Silver medal at HSBC UK British National Road Time Trial Championships and an amazing Bronze medal at the home 2019 UCI Road Worlds TTT Mixed Relay in Harrogate, where they were ridden by Joss Lowden, John Archibald and Dan Bigham.
Photo Credit - Dean Reeve Photography
It didn’t take long for the UCI to throw another curveball, albeit with the rules fairly well defined by now, it wasn't too complex. After being ridden to great success at the 2019 Road World Championships in Harrogate, the world governing body decided that when extensions are mounted to a mono-riser, the joining component must also fit within the 40x40mm extension box. After productive discussions with the UCI we're now back within the regulations and have a solid understanding that the regulations won't be tweaked or adjusted further in the future.
Nonetheless, we hadn’t stood still. We were already ahead with our next generation, in conjunction with Pentaxia. Pentaxia are a world leading composite company, based in Derbados and who serve many Formula One teams and high-end automotive companies. This project was going to be more than just extensions. It involved creating a completely new basebar design for the Argon18 Electron pro, integrating a mono-riser design and of course a step forward in the extensions.
Photo Credit - James Huntly Photography
Taking onboard the CFD performed on our previous designs by TotalSim, we tweaked certain aspects to further reduce the aerodynamic drag of the entire package with a rider onboard. This complete cockpit was utilised by HUUB Wattbike p/b Vita Coco in 2019/20 Track World Cup season and ridden to 2nd place in the 4km Individual Pursuit at 2020 UCI World Track Champs by HUUB Wattbiker Ashton Lambie, with an outstanding time of 4:03.640. Ashton improved 7.6 seconds from his time in the individual pursuit at Minsk World Cup just three months prior, where he had ridden his USA national team equipment and clothing. Arguably the HUUB Wattbike upgrade package of Argon18 Electron Pro frameset, Pentaxia cockpit, Walker Brother Ethereal wheels and Vorteq TK01 skinsuit played a part in that.
Fifth Generation - Anemoi Aero Extension
“Every problem is an opportunity in disguise” - John Adams, former US President
Our latest generation has not been forced by a UCI regulation change, for once! As former US President John Adams famously said “Every problem is an opportunity in disguise”, however I think we’ve had enough problems to solve over these past few years! We have learnt so much about extension design and optimisation and decided to fully integrate this into a product that brings all this performance to everyone. No complex arm moulds, custom mount plates or long lead times. Just straight up universal extensions that offer the fastest extensions in the world to virtually every bike out there. Our latest generation Anemoi aero extensions are future proofed with complete sign-off by the UCI on the design, including being registered and qualified for use at the Tokyo 2021 Olympic Games. The modular design offers a huge range of adjustment and customisation. With a range of angled risers from 5 to 25 degrees, five different mount lengths, +/-5 degrees of toe in/out adjustment, interchangeable hand grips with a range of lengths, angles and profiles on offer, as well as our latest single or dual sided high support arm rests, you can perfectly dial in your position and achieve maximum aerodynamic efficiency with an off the shelf product.
Photo Credit - Detail Bike Tech
You can read more about the full range of adjustment offered by the Anemoi aero extensions here.