Quest for improved aerodynamic performance

Streamlining makes cars and bikes faster and more efficient

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Aerodynamics is probably the most technical battleground in the development of performance road bikes. Wind tunnel testing is commonplace and the desire for clean lines and aero improvements has led to all sorts of ingenious wind-cheating features: internally routed cables, tear-drop-shaped tubes and hidden brakes among them. Sometimes even smooth surfaces are given a dimpled treatment to reduce unhelpful air turbulence at their leading edge. Not only have the development improved performance, they've also given bikes a stronger, leaner, more aggressive form. 

Bike racing is all about aerodynamics and any professional cyclist will usually spend a decent amount of time looking at this cycling fundamental. More than 80 percent of a rider's effort goes into simply pushing air out of the way when on anything other than the steepest of inclines, thus leaving 20 percent for the bike. The rest: it’s the rider’s body forcing its way through the air. So when talking aerodynamics, changes to body shape will yield the largest returns. In short, aerodynamics means adjusting your position, clothing and equipment to reduce your drag so that you get the most out of the power you’re putting in.

And with the most technologically advanced bikes improving a rider’s aerodynamic performance, it’s no surprise that cars, such as the all­new Mazda3, have been completely re­designed to improve both its looks and efficiency with similar aerodynamic principals.

When the car hit showrooms at the beginning of the year, the 36­strong range of models – available in both five-door Hatchback and four­door Fastback, immediately won plaudits for its striking, low-slung presence. Inspired by Kodo – Soul of Motion, the striking design language for all-new Mazda3 previously seen on Mazda CX­5 and Mazda6 models.

Explaining Kodo – Soul of Motion design language, Tamatani­san, head designer at Mazda says: “The essence of the Kodo design philosophy is to capture beauty and strength of instantaneous motion of animals and athletes.

"I was inspired by racehorses which are very elegant and graceful with a very beautiful silhouette but if they come closer the face is very bold and the muscles are very strong.”

Besides the sculpted bodywork, the underbody has been re-worked for extra streamlining and one model – the 165ps petrol engine version in upper level Sport Nav trim – is fitted with an active air shutter which closes the stylish lower front grille to improve aerodynamic performance when the engine doesn't require cooling. 

This attention to wind-cheating detail has led to some class leading drag co-efficient figures. All-new Mazda3's figures are a slippery 0.26 for the Fastback and 0.275 for the Hatchback.

And when these aerodynamic improvements are allied to a car around 60kg lighter and 30 percent stiffer than the old Mazda3 thanks to the use of more high tensile steels, the result is a more fuel efficient, nippier car.

The arrival of Mazda's award-winning SKYACTIV Technology and the aerodynamic improvements means the all-new Mazda3 delivers highly competitive miles per gallon and CO2 emissions figures.

Whether a bike or a car, aerodynamic advancements usually lead to better performance and enhanced design – a case unquestionably reinforced with the arrival of the all-new Mazda3.

For more information visit the all-new Mazda3 website.               

This article was published by BikeRadar, the world's leading source of bike reviews, gear reviews, riding advice and route information
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