Speed Merchant Aero Research and Testing is a Low Speed Wind Tunnel (LSWT), located just north of Boston, MA in Plaistow, N.H. It was designed specifically for the needs of the Competitive Cyclist and Triathlete. I caught up with the founder and owner of Speed Merchant, Armand Pantalone whom I was introduced to by a friend of mine at the Massachusetts, Vermont Bike Fitting Shop FitWerx, Marty Miserandino. He was kind enough to respond to some questions I had put forth for him to answer.
TriDigest: When did Speed Merchant Aero first open the doors to the facility?
Armand: We officially opened the doors to the Speed Merchant Aero Research and Testing (SMART) Low Speed Wind Tunnel (LSWT), for paying customers in July, 2010 and have been available to the general public full-time ever since then.
TriDigest: What was the original goal or vision?
Armand: We started the business to specifically address the needs of competitive Road Cyclists, Triathletes and Cycling Equipment Manufacturers. We also take the Science of Aerodynamics very seriously and test any and all other objects that clients bring us that fit into the tunnel’s Test Section. These include but are not limited to: Downhill Skiers, Motocyclists, Bobsleds and Luges, Subscale Cars and Trucks, RC Planes and pretty much any other object that fits into a 4ft wide by 7ft high Test Section.
TriDigest: How has the original goal evolved in the past eight months?
Armand: It has evolved to test skiers, mid-sized RC Planes, plus some other sub-scale objects to date. In the future we plan to market the tunnel services to a whole slew of applications. For the moment, however, we are focused on building the business of testing and improving Cyclists and Triathletes as that is the market in which we have the most direct experience.
TriDigest: How do you compare yourselves to the MIT Wright Brothers Wind Tunnel?
Armand: Unlike the MIT Wright Brothers Wind Tunnel, The Speed Merchant Aero Wind Tunnel is a brand new design and a new facility and is both affordable and available while also being scientifically accurate with the resolution and precision needed to be of significant benefit in direct applications to the Competitive Cyclist and Triathlete as well as to Cycling Equipment Manufacturers. The MIT Wright Brothers Wind Tunnel facility and staff are top notch, as are we. The bottom line is that the Speed Merchant Aero Wind Tunnel is just as accurate but far more affordable and available.
TriDigest: What does the typical session involve? How long does it take?
Armand: For an athlete already properly fitted to their bike and used to racing at any level, there’s no reason that they can’t complete a test session in one hour and expect to either make the slight adjustments needed to get faster out of the gate or to learn where they can get faster. If clients are properly prepared, and know clearly what they have for objectives and goals for their test session (whether they want to focus on body position, gear or both), we can script a session to fit into an hour. It’s only when they have a long list of trials for either body or gear or both that will run them into a second hour.
TriDigest: Does the client receive the results immediately before they leave or days later?
Armand: The simple answer is that a client receives the data and results, “early and often”. In other words, immediately, every second during the test session, between runs, and again at the conclusion of the test session before leaving the tunnel. In addition, the client will receive a full summary of the test results a couple of days later.
TriDigest: Would you then suggest a different setup as a result of the findings? Do you work with a specific bike shop in conjunction with these findings or do you review numerous options?
Armand: Either in real time during the session or after its conclusion, we can suggest a new setup to the client. That setup can either be a different body position or a different piece of gear (helmet, wheel, etc.). The client can either take those suggestions and we make a new set of measurements for the next set of data runs or after the session, suggest a new setup to the client to either take action on or not. We have a good record of the client often leaving the bike in exactly the same configuration we last tested the best, optimized position. We work with any and all bike shops and bike fitters that the customer is comfortable with. But we can also handle all of this in-house as well if the client so desires. We have equipment on hand to try (wheels, bars, helmets, complete bikes, etc.) and can provide anything the client wants though we don’t presently have a large inventory on-hand like your standard bike shop. We can take the client from start to finish if that’s what they would like, but we also collaborate closely with some established, competent and professional outfits like Fitwerx and others like them.
TriDigest: How difficult is it to schedule a reservation?
Armand: To schedule time and book a reservation, it’s very simple – just call us in the office at 603-974-1256 and speak to a live person to handle the whole deal or just email us firstname.lastname@example.org to handle the whole transaction. If there are questions before making the reservation, just call the same phone number to chat with a live person or email us at email@example.com to get the information needed to decide what is right for you. We actually have the client book the session online athttp://speedmerchantaero.com/BookingInfoReservations.aspx but we personally schedule the exact date and time for the test session once we have had a chance to talk to the client(s). Within certain limits, of course, we always schedule test session dates and times around a client’s personal schedule and needs – including not just regular business days and hours but on select weekends as needed.
TriDigest: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Armand: We always have something more to add, but lucky for you, it’s too much to type! We’ll save that for another time. In short, beyond a clip-on aero bar or an aero helmet, there is nothing anyone can spend money on that will even come close to getting you a better return on your investment (ROI), pertaining to natural performance improvements for your money spent than a Wind Tunnel Test Session with Speed Merchant Aero. Nothing. If you want to see the data, just ask and we will provide real numbers, not just marketing hype. We have helped beginners to the very best get faster. For some it’s minor adjustments to save seconds and a couple of watts. For others it’s major adjustments to body and bike that can save minutes! If you care to see what kind of gains our real athletes and customers have seen to date, it’s on our website at:http://speedmerchantaero.com/CustomerTestimonialsResults.aspx
Category: Business of Triathlon