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TECH NEWS

ArmaUrto says its impact-protection products don’t increase drag… and can sometimes reduce it

Wind tunnel testing suggests that lightweight polymer padding can even improve aero performance in some situations

ArmaUrto says that recent wind tunnel testing shows that its base layer and hip and shoulder pads, designed to offer impact protection and abrasion reduction in the event of a crash, have a minimal effect on drag – which might have been a concern for racers – and can improve aero efficiency in certain situations.

ArmaUrto is working with a UCI WorldTeam – the highest category in professional road racing – in 2022 having supported UCI Continental team Ribble Weldtite Pro Cycling in 2021 as well as Scottish ultracyclist Josh Quigley when he resumed and completed his round-the-world ride.

“Each pro-cycling season, crashes and accidents have ruined months of hard training and preparation,” says ArmaUrto. “Pre-season training camps have been disrupted due to accidents; team tactics are thrown out the window as key members crash out and chances of claiming victory in important one-day and stage races lay in tatters due to impacts and road rash.

“During the development of our new Arma range, we wanted to see if our products detract or even aid the aerodynamics of a rider. Therefore we enlisted the help of Jamie Lowden and the team at Wattshop to put our elite products through their paces in the wind tunnel at the Silverstone Sports Engineering Hub.”

2022 ArmaUrto padding wind tunnel - 3.jpeg

A pedalling rider was used to test ArmaUrto’s Impact Pro Aero Base Layer (£129), a garment with elbow and shoulder pads integrated into its three-quarter length arms. The Arma active polymer pads are a maximum of 4mm thick, tapering to 1mm. ArmaUrto says that the “padding is capable of absorbing and safely dissipating up to 80% of impact energy” should you crash. 

Get more info on Arma padding here.

ArmaUrto’s hip pads – usually present in the brand’s Vipar Bib Shorts (£149) – and shoulder pads were tested on a static mannequin beneath a skinsuit. Each test was conducted at five different yaws (-10°, -5°, 0°, 5°, 10°)

2022 ArmaUrto padding wind tunnel - 6.jpeg

Results

ArmaUrto says, “The aerodynamic impact of the ArmaUrto pads and base layer was minimal and depends on the location of the pads. When tested on a mannequin, the ArmaUrto pads can either increase or decrease CdA [coefficient of drag times frontal surface area] depending on position and airspeed. The observed range of impact on CdA for the mannequin was -1.4% to +1.0% (-0.0037m2 to +0.0029m2). 

“When tested on a mannequin, the shoulder pads generally resulted in a faster performance with a saving of 17 seconds when riding for an hour at 50km/h. This is likely dependent on the positioning of the mannequin and pads and should not be taken to mean these pads are an aerodynamic aid.”

Of course, ride at 50km/h for an hour with or without pads and you’ll cover exactly the same distance: 50km. The research suggests that to go 50km/h with the shoulder pads would require slightly less power, or that you could go slightly faster for the same power and cover 50km 17 seconds quicker.

2022 ArmaUrto padding wind tunnel - 4.jpeg

“The hip pads resulted in a slower performance at all airspeeds tested,” says ArmaUrto. “When riding for an hour at 30km/h the hip pads were 12 seconds slower than baseline. 

“The performance when the shoulder and hip pads were worn together was dependent on airspeed. At 30km/h this setup was 11 seconds slower over one hour. At 50km/h this setup was five seconds faster over one hour.

“When tested on a rider, the ArmaUrto base layer was nine seconds slower [than without a base layer] when riding for an hour at 40km/h.

Naturally, the above comments relating to this type of claim apply here too. 

2022 ArmaUrto padding wind tunnel - 1.jpeg

“Following the detailed testing by the Wattshop team, it’s clear that in certain situations, the presence of ArmaUrto improves the aerodynamic capabilities of the rider. In other situations, the presence of ArmaUrto slightly reduces the aerodynamic capabilities. The results indicate that the positive (or negative) impact is generally minimal.”

ArmaUrto’s director Chris Battin says, “The big win in all this is the protection it offers the rider in the event of a crash or fall with negligible aerodynamic impact.”

We'll publish a review of the ArmaUrto Impact Pro Base Layer on road.cc soon.

Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been road.cc technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now over 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.

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12 comments

Avatar
kil0ran | 2914 posts | 1 year ago
1 like

One of the MotoGP journalists I read regularly mentioned this back in the summer, they'd been trying to get riders onboard for a couple of years with it but all they could see was extra weight and potentially restricted movement. Typically shortsighted. Looks like the company is trying the same angle which worked in motorcycle racing many years ago when they found the back and shoulder protectors ended up being more aero

Avatar
ooblyboo | 91 posts | 1 year ago
1 like

As a time triallist who went over at slow speed a treacherous corner on a winter bike group ride a couple of months ago, I'd take the loss of a few second an hour for more protection on any road bike ride. You can't do anything to gain time if you are off the bike injured.

Avatar
Freddy56 | 731 posts | 1 year ago
0 likes

Nappy Aero spoilers.

I just see three lads in that aero tunnel trying to prove a theory to get sales.

Make the body going thru the air larger- drag increases...unless you are trying to cheat...then it is illegal

Avatar
Secret_squirrel replied to Freddy56 | 3194 posts | 1 year ago
1 like

You're overly generalising. It's not necessarily making it larger though. A smooth curve has a lower surface area than a wobbly one.  Going the other way dimples have an aerodynamic effect. 

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Creakingcrank | 100 posts | 1 year ago
0 likes

UCI rules now limit the size of the lumps and bumps added to clothing for aero purposes to 1mm. I wonder if pro teams would get away with using "bumpy" protective underwear beneath conventional clothing. Shoulder pads would seem to be an ideal place for something like that to act as a boundary layer trip. Must be at least as useful as adding medical tape to your shins.  Little relevance to the rest of us however.

Avatar
IanGlasgow | 347 posts | 1 year ago
6 likes

Having come off on the ice cycling to work a couple of weeks ago, these sound pretty appealling for commuting (and I really don't care if it'll save me 1.7s on my commute).

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SlowOldSteve | 44 posts | 1 year ago
3 likes

Having crashed in January at only 15mph and landed directly on my hip, resulting in multiple fractures of the acetablum and 4 months horizontal,  I  read this  with interest. Got to say though, I  am very skeptical that such a thin pad would offer enough protection to prevent fractures or breaks. Could well prevent road rash, but happy to be proved wrong. I may then become a customer!

 

Avatar
EddyBerckx replied to SlowOldSteve | 1523 posts | 1 year ago
0 likes

SlowOldSteve wrote:

Having crashed in January at only 15mph and landed directly on my hip, resulting in multiple fractures of the acetablum and 4 months horizontal,  I  read this  with interest. Got to say though, I  am very skeptical that such a thin pad would offer enough protection to prevent fractures or breaks. Could well prevent road rash, but happy to be proved wrong. I may then become a customer!

 

one thing I will say is this sort of lightweight protection has been available for motorbike clothing for a number of years now, so maybe they've taken that and developed it a bit more?

Avatar
SlowOldSteve replied to EddyBerckx | 44 posts | 1 year ago
2 likes

Their website is quite interesting, but no video of it being tested. I'm not volunteering though,  the mere thought  of another hip hitting the road gives me the taste of hospital food!

Happy New year and safe riding. 

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wtjs replied to SlowOldSteve | 3079 posts | 1 year ago
2 likes

Having crashed in January at only 15mph and landed directly on my hip, resulting in multiple fractures of the acetabulum and 4 months horizontal

This happened here in North Lancashire on icy roads on Christmas Eve 2020- and that was a young fit bloke. It happened to me the same day up on Beacon Fell, but I was lucky- straight down on right hip and shoulder, and it was painful getting home and for the next couple of weeks, but no permanent damage

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EddyBerckx | 1523 posts | 1 year ago
2 likes

Interesting development. I've wondered for years why this sort of thing doesn't exist already. If they can make it lightweight/comfortable/breathable enough then maybe it's a game changer, certainly for certain situations eg crits, slippery winter roads and so on

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TheFatAndTheFurious replied to EddyBerckx | 443 posts | 1 year ago
3 likes

Whilst not offering much in the way of impact resistance, Sunweb's kit a couple of years ago had "Dyneema" woven into it. There was a bit of discussion about it when Marc Hirschi slid out in the 2020 TdF and his shorts withstood the abrasion.

A quick google suggests that it's currently in use in some BioRacer and Exteondo kit.

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