Officially, the 2005 Tour de France includes three time trial races.
Six-time-winner Lance Armstrong’s Discovery Channel team placed first in the team time trials yesterday, and he placed second in the first-day competition against the clock on Saturday. The final, 55-km individual time trial will take place in Stage 20 near the end of the tour on July 23rd.
This year’s Tour de France, however, included an unofficial, yet no less critical race against the clock. Only instead of elite cyclists attempting to snag a yellow jersey, it was designers and engineers of Trek’s Advanced Concept Group straining to beat the clock in their quest to propel Armstrong to an unprecedented seventh win.
In just four insanely short weeks, the team completely redesigned the TTX time trial frame that Armstrong rode to victory yesterday in the team time trials and in several past Tour de France time trial wins. Like the bike Trek introduced in 2000, the frame is made of carbon fiber cloth with an areal density of 110 gsm, molded using a patented process known as Optimum Compaction Low Void (OCLV) for low weight, high stiffness.
But little else remains the same. Among the major design changes on the TTX bike:
* Head tube: Deeper cross section to help create lift in cross winds, yet be more aerodynamic in head winds; a narrower cross section to decrease frontal area for better aerodynamics; and a shaped design that creates stiffness in the front end of the bike
* Seat tube: Added cut-out to facilitate air transition from the frame tubes to the rear wheel; deeper cross section to help with lift in cross winds
* Aero bar: All new, one-piece design eliminates drag; OCLV carbon construction reduces weight and increases stiffness
* Overall lengthening of the wheelbase for better ride characteristics
* Complete redesign of the cable routing
“We were first approached about the possibility of doing this redesign the third week of April, which meant we had to have a bicycle delivered to Lance in under 30 days in order for him to test it out before the Tour de France,” says Trek Senior Designer Michael Sagan.
Sagan is the technology principal responsible for industrial design and for acquiring and integrating all hardware and software tools. “Thanks to advancements in software tools, the cycle time to complete a bicycle design has been getting faster and faster” he says. “But up until now the quickest we had ever done an extensive redesign like this had been four months—now we had just four weeks to do it.”
Lance Armstrong on Trek's new TTX Time Trial bike during the Dauphiné Libéré in France. Photo Credit: Trek Bicycle and
Sagan figured that Trek’s Advanced Concept Group would be able to pull it off, but only if they pulled out every trick in their software toolkit. It’s comprehensive to say the least—starting with Alias Studio Tools for creating concept sketches and final surfaces to Solidworks 3D CAD for mechanical design and analysis tools like CFdesign for virtual wind tunnel studies and COSMOS for simulation modeling. (See the complete toolkit below.)
While these software tools are integral to the design effort, Sagan says that in the past it was sometimes difficult to manage even small design changes without impacting the integrity of the design. “Bike design is a magic combination of both intuition and analysis—it’s a very iterative process, which can be challenging when you have lots of hands touching the model, and that model is constantly changing.”
This year Trek added thinkid from think3 to its toolkit. The industrial design tool features a capability called Global Shape Modeling that works like this: When a user deforms a solid shape or surface, the software automatically makes the necessary geometry calculations to accommodate the shape change and maintain design integrity. Sagan says that this capability allowed the team to make time-critical geometry changes without impacting design intent or production capability—two issues they struggled with in the past. They also slashed time from the process. For example, geometry changes to the frame that once took hours took only minutes.
Sagan also credits the use of AMD Dual Opteron Architecture running on HP 9300 workstations for the quick turn around time. “We saw over 50% speed improvement in running CFDesign software,” he says.
Not only did Trek beat the clock, but Sagan says the new bike is 10% faster than last year’s production bike, 2% lighter, and 15% stiffer—characteristics that add up to better ride performance and quality. No kidding. Those improvements have already powered Armstrong to a second place finish in the individual time trial on Saturday, and the win yesterday in the team time trials that earned him the yellow jersey.
Not to be overlooked is the fact that an aerodynamically superior bike allows the rider to expend less energy. That is going to be critical for Armstrong in the individual time trial in Stage 20 near the end of the Tour de France, when he will have logged some 3,200 kilometers.
“Anytime we shave weight or add an aerodynamic advantage, it’s like banking watts. The rider is not expending energy needlessly,” says Sagan. “And that’s a great thing.”
TTX FRAME WITH AREAS NEEDING TTX FRAME MODIFIED
Even subtle changes in design can require extensive, time-consuming rework of hundreds of surfaces. think3's DesignXpressions enabled Trek designers to perform complex modifications on the new TTX time trial bike frame in just minutes.
To read more about the bikes Trek designed for the Tour de France, go to
Trek’s Toolkit for the TTX
Tool Vendor Application
Tool Vendor Application
Trek Engineers the TTX Bike: The Team
Wes Wilcox, Director
Michael Sagan, Senior Designer/Technology Principal
Hans Eckholm, Industrial Designer
Chad Bailey, Senior Graphic Designer
Scott Nielson, OCLV Engineering
Doug Cusack, Lead Frame Engineer
Paul Andrews, Fabrication Engineer
Damon Rinard, CFD Design and analysis
Mike Zeigle, Prototype Shop Supervisor
Dan Trapp, Prototype Staff
Paul Towne, Prototype Staff
Jarod Brown, Prototype Staff