Research & Academia
What do bike helmets, satellite motors and body maps have in common? Research!
Dr Richard Kelso
Low-Drag Bicycle Helmets Associate Professor, University of Adelaide, PhD (Mechanical), University of Melbourne

Associate Professor Richard Kelso was contracted as the lead aerodynamicist by Cycling Australia and Swiss-based Scott Sports SA to develop two helmets: a ‘Pursuit’ helmet for Australia’s Rio Olympic track cycling team; and an ultra-low-drag helmet for competitive road and off -road cycling. Wind tunnel testing used a new full-size anatomically-accurate mannequin, constructed and mounted on a pursuit-style bicycle atop an accurate drag measurement rig. This allowed for detailed investigation of the fl ow over the helmets, head, and cyclist’s entire body. Various techniques were used to gain insights into helmet-body aerodynamics in order to optimise flow and minimise drag.

Cooling studies used a purpose-built, internally-heated, anatomically-correct headform, incorporating 36 thermocouple sensors. Detailed temperature distributions and thermal images enabled identification of hot spots beneath the helmets. These studies, combined with flow visualisation and drag measurements, provided a helmet with even temperature distributions, lower average temperatures than other helmets, and with minimal drag penalties.

Both projects (completed in 2016) produced helmets with lower drag than any competitors. The Scott Sports helmet (‘Cadence’) is the first road helmet to have only vents at front and back, eliminating central vents. This maximises cooling flow and minimises drag penalty from the vents. It has since been used in both the Tour Down Under, and the Tour de France. Cycling Australia’s project (‘Mistral’) needed lower drag than any other helmet, and has to be optimised to match riding positions of each team rider. It provides significant improvement to what is arguably the most highly-developed item of cycling hardware.

Dr Elizabeth Jens
Interplanetary SmallSat Rocket Propulsion Engineer, JPL, PhD (Aeronautics & Astronautics), Stanford University (US)
Prof Melissa Knothe Tate
Cell's-Eye View of Human Hips Chair of Biomedical Engineering, University of NSW, PhD (Mechanical/Biomedical), University of NSW