The importance of Stiffness

Your bike may be the lightest, but that doesn’t make you go faster.

To achieve maximum performance in cycling, it is essential to understand that weight is not the only relevant factor; it’s a combination of various factors.

Weight is directly related to stiffness and strength. An identical component with more material will be stiffer and stronger than the same component with less of the same material; therefore, extracting maximum performance from a component is not just about removing material.

First and foremost, it is crucial to understand that a bicycle is a machine that converts the cyclist’s energy into motion. Like any machine, there are always energy losses; no machine is 100% efficient. This is well-known to engineers, and their primary task is to minimize these losses to create more efficient machines and make the most of each cyclist’s energy.

This translates into maximizing the utilization of watts in disciplines like road cycling or XC and improving the efficiency of suspension systems and how they absorb terrain in downhill-focused disciplines.

The goal is always the same: to make the machine as efficient as possible to allow the cyclist to go faster, both uphill and downhill.”

To improve the cyclist’s performance, we not only seek to transfer the maximum amount of energy into motion but also to minimize energy loss in other ways. This involves enhancing the overall behavior of a bicycle so that the balance of all the forces entering and leaving the system results in higher speed within a specified time.

The big question is: How much stiffness and strength are necessary? The key is to find the balance between these factors with the least material possible.

An excessively rigid bicycle will make the cyclist absorb irregularities, leading to fatigue and decreased performance as the kilometers add up. On the other hand, a bicycle that is not rigid enough won’t harness the energy that the cyclist puts into the system and will result in a feeling of instability, lack of control, and inefficiency.

    It is important to understand that different parts of the bicycle should exhibit different behaviors because each one serves one or several specific functions.

    Let’s take an example that closely relates to Gemini, the handlebars.

    When we started thinking about how we could create the best handlebar in the world, it was essential to comprehend the forces it would be subjected to and how they interact with the cyclist.

    On one hand, there are the forces that the arms exert on the handlebar to support and balance on the bike, and on the other hand, the forces we generate on the handlebar to steer.

    For the arm direction, we sought a good balance of stiffness and absorption to provide a firm feel while also helping to absorb terrain irregularities and reduce fatigue. For steering, maximum stiffness is required to have precise control over where we want the bicycle to go and to achieve the highest possible responsiveness.

    That said, it’s worth noting that a tube with a circular cross-section behaves the same in all directions, resulting in the same stiffness in all directions. This is why we developed the GMN section, which allows our handlebars to provide comfort in the arm direction while gripping the bike and be extremely responsive when steering. This is achieved by seeking a specific inertia proportion in each direction and finding a point that provides the perfect balance.

    Inertia, in the context of mechanics and engineering, refers to the resistance of an object or a cross-section to change its state of motion. In the context of a cross-section, such as a beam or a tube, “having more inertia” means that the section is more resistant to bending or deforming when subjected to a load or an external force.

    In other words, a section with greater inertia is stiffer and can withstand larger loads or bending moments without excessive deformation.

    Making a lightweight component is straightforward, but creating a lightweight one suitable for winning a World Cup race is a very different challenge. For our Pröpus handlebar, we made over 100 prototypes that were tested both in the field and on the test bench. I must inform you that this is not something common in the industry, and that’s why its combination of stiffness, weight, and design remains unmatched.

    The behavior of each component depends on various factors, including design, engineering, the mechanical properties of the material and its optimization, structure, and more.

    If this is a topic that interests you, stay tuned for future emails because I will continue to explain it in more detail. 😉


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