Highlights from the 2014 LA Auto Show

Upper Wheel Fairings are designed to give bicycle wind resistance the slip

By

April 24, 2014

The fairings are made to fit most standard road bikes

The fairings are made to fit most standard road bikes

Image Gallery (7 images)

If you were designing a vehicle to be as aerodynamic as possible, it would definitely be counterproductive if parts of that vehicle actually moved into the oncoming wind. According to Los Angeles-based engineer Garth Magee, however, that's just what the forward-turning top sections of bicycle wheels do. His solution? Upper Wheel Fairings, which shield the spokes from the breeze. He claims that cyclists using his fairings can go up to 20 percent faster without any extra effort.

The exact physics by which the fairings are claimed to work are perhaps a little difficult for the layperson to grasp, but Magee explains them thusly:

"Under null headwind conditions, the wind is null at the bottom where the wheel is in firm contact with the stationary ground; and near the top the wind rises to twice the vehicle speed. By shielding the upper surfaces, the effective wind on the wheel is greatly reduced. And if a headwind is also present, the wind is reduced significantly more."

An explanatory diagram of the physics behind the Upper Wheel Fairings

In road tests, cyclists using the fairings reported speed gains of 3 to 20 percent, depending on how much of a headwind was present. The fairings do add 2 lb (907 g) to the weight of the bike, although Garth maintains that the improvement in aerodynamics is well worth it.

And yes, full wheel covers and disc wheels do already exist. These can reduce stability by catching crosswinds, however, plus covers add extra revolving weight.

An Upper Wheel Fairings-equipped bike gets put to the test

Upper Wheel Fairings, by contrast, are attached to the top section of the fork and seatstays, then finely adjusted in order to get the aluminum fairings themselves as snug with the sides of the wheels as possible – without actually touching them. Nylon spacers keep the fairings from damaging the rims, should they make contact due to wind gusts or vibrations.

Magee is currently raising production funds for his Upper Wheel Fairings, on Kickstarter. A pledge of US$199 will get you a full set, when and if they're ready to go. More information is available in the pitch video below.

Sources: Null Winds Technology, Kickstarter

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
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13 Comments

In the real world there is not a chance in hell of this giving a 20% speed increase "He claims that cyclists using his fairings can go up to 20 percent faster without any extra effort."

Gary Bonney
24th April, 2014 @ 10:11 pm PDT

2lbs on the kit they need to speak with me no reason this should weigh more than .5lbs complete

Leonard Foster Jr
24th April, 2014 @ 11:38 pm PDT

I am NOT trying to "bash" this idea. But...I have VERY mildly "aero" rims on my bike and in crosswinds I can tell this. Now if my little rims tug on the bars in a crosswind.....what is THIS going to do in crosswinds? That's right Virginia, into the weeds at speed (if you are lucky, the other option does not bear thinking about!) As well a 20% increase in speed sounds a bit....wishful to me...

Arnold Stonehouse
25th April, 2014 @ 02:04 am PDT

I ride and have raced recumbents, including the fully faired varity. My eperience, which is consistant with the literature on cycling/hpv aerodynamics, shows about a one-third (30 - 33%) speed increase for same effort, terrain, wind speed/direction, etc. if measured at significant speeds (i.e. starting around 30 kph). Under this speed, the effect is negative due to negligable wind impact and added weight.

The claim that adding these small aero devices to an upright bicycle will increase your speed significantly is absurd. 1 % gain. Perhaps. With optimum rider speed, and conditions of wind speed and direction.

Before making such claims, engineer Magee should do some controlled testing (use some science, not reports from some friends !). The Dutch Quest designers, for comparison, use the TU Delft wind tunnel for their work. Maybe Magee could go back to school on this too?

duh3000
25th April, 2014 @ 05:06 am PDT

I might build these for my recumbent front wheeles.

Druid
25th April, 2014 @ 08:21 am PDT

The true aero gains can be measured in the field with a power meter. Until such data is presented you can't help but call it BS.

http://bikeblather.blogspot.com/2013/08/aero-field-testing-using-chung-method.html

@Arnold, rim shape has everything to do with how crosswinds (yaw angles) affect handling. Go over to Zipps website and read about the V shape, Toroidal, Hybrid Toroidal and now Firecrest designs. Each made crosswind performance better. The new deep rims are the previous designs next size down in terms of the crosswind performance.

Don McKinnon
25th April, 2014 @ 08:43 am PDT

wow,, they kind of invented 'fenders', and added some market hype. will help keep mud splatter down I guess

Gary Kaiser
25th April, 2014 @ 08:50 am PDT

I'm also not trying to bash the idea but couldn't it be designed a bit cleaner? It's awfully clunky looking. Maybe if it was incorporated with a fender system it might be worth checking out.

Edwin Austin
25th April, 2014 @ 08:52 am PDT

gary k, thats my first thought.take a fender and change its description...

invention! but then thats our-historic post educational traditions world 4ya! oh, and the upwards, rearwards mud? well, no so much fending off is done by this fender...but thats an entirrly different issue: what to wear on my hip new wheels

waltinseattle
25th April, 2014 @ 03:37 pm PDT

$200 for some long fenders? I almost did a spit take.

Michaelc
25th April, 2014 @ 07:19 pm PDT

Cyclists are always talking about going farther and longer to get a good workout. Yet they always want a ridiculously more expensive lighter and easier to pedal bicycle. If you want a real workout, how about adding more weight or dragging a little parachute behind you? If it is about being outdoors and enjoying the scenery then say so. Every time I see the cyclists that I know, they have their heads down and eyes straight ahead. They seem oblivious to the sights along the way. All they talk about for the next few days is how many miles they covered last weekend. I love to ride bikes as well but five miles through a scenic park with the kids is my style but then we get passed by a dozen guys with a spandex fetish who appear to be sniffing the rider ahead of them. I guess they're having fun but I sure don't understand it. $199 for a wheel fairing? I didn't spend that much for my bicycle. Suddenly I feel like a writer for Seinfeld. Maybe I should have started my comment with "Do you ever wonder why?" To each his own. Enjoy.

Bob
26th April, 2014 @ 07:53 am PDT

I'm a keen cyclist Bob but I agree with you about the MAMILs (middle aged men in lycra).

The principle of this thing is okay, the 20% quantum is way off (but hey, they said 'up to'), and I would like to see the tyre covered too -- it is going forward just as fast and still has air drag.

T N Args
30th April, 2014 @ 12:49 am PDT

I have tried this technology on my e-bike and it works.

This is a picture of my e-bike with wheel fairings made of coroplast and duct tape. I have a watt meter which shows fewer watts at the same speed than without the fairings. Also, my battery range under identical conditions has increased by 25%. As a result of these tests, I am a supporter of Garth Magee. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=630470800379885&set=a.552011381559161.1073741827.100002509115158&type=1

Bill Brytan
13th May, 2014 @ 09:48 pm PDT
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