Olympic Speed System – Adelaide a center of cycling manufacturing excellence

08/12/2016

Track cycling and more specifically high performance track cycling requires that no part of the performance envelope is overlooked, this ensures that when a rider goes to the line that they have the best possible speed system at their disposal. 

With all countries trying to ensure that their athletes have a competitive advantage, it is becoming more and more difficult to get established companies to embrace manufacturing, high value, bespoke bicycle componentry given the limited size of the high end track market, which give an athlete that competitive advantage.

Also, to keep within the UCI rules, all the latest developments have to become commercially available within 9 months after they are used in competition for the first time. Therefore, unique bespoke developments are a thing of the past…or are they?

Two years ago, Cycling Australia started a very ambitious set of projects to redefine the complete ‘speed system’ of the track cyclist. The ideas came from a series of tests conducted in the Monash University wind tunnel. Cycling Australia also wanted to update some of it’s off the bike performance hardware such as its high power ergometers.

Andy Warr, the Performance System manager, at Cycling Australia comments “when a coach comes back from a series of test and goes we need new x, y and z, it is a little overwhelming, especially as I did not have established engineering network in Adelaide, as I had just arrived from Cambridge in the UK. But we reached out to a number of small engineering companies in Adelaide, to see if they wanted to come on the Olympic journey and the response we got was unbelievable”.

One project, was a significant upgrade to the ergometers used within the High Performance program. The physiologists decided that a new set of protocols was needed for the ergo session’s, but to achieve the protocols a completely new set of ergometers was required. 

Warr states “we approached a number of the established ergo manufacturers, but with no engagement coming forth. So I decided to approach a local mechanical design company, Cornell Design, who jumped at the chance at being involved. From the first meeting, I knew we were on a winner, Phil Cornell, invited Paul Johnson from SAGE Automation, which just happened to be next door, and the perfect team was formed”.

Cornell Design produced the mechanical design, with SAGE Automation providing the electrical drive and automation control system. Within 8 weeks they had produced the first fully working prototype, using the skills of a local engineering and fabrication company called Phantom Engineering. The new ergo was an instant success with the physiologist and strength and conditioning team, getting put straight into the training protocol. Since the first prototype a number of mechanical and automation enhancements have been introduced, which makes the system even more valuable.

Warr goes on “you know that you have it right when a brand new device is delivered on time and to budget, and it goes straight into the daily training environment, it has been a total pleasure working with Cornell Design and SAGE Automation”.

Phil Cornell comments, “I think I can speak for both Cornell Design and SAGE Automation, by saying that the ergometer concept was definitely one of the more unusual engineering challenges set for both companies. But it is testament to the local engineering and manufacturing capabilities that we went from concept through to delivered solution in 8 weeks”

Paul Johnson from SAGE Automation, “SAGE is known for large automation control systems, but we are also very capable of delivering  small, one off bespoke solutions. It was a great pleasure in helping Cycling Australia achieve their goals in the quest for gold in Rio”.

Warr concluded “It has been a huge pleasure working with the great engineering companies in Adelaide, they have really taken on the challenges and delivered. All the products developed will be commercially available, so longer term I see no reason why Adelaide could form into a center of manufacturing excellence for cycling”.

Photo credit Graham Watson