For the true AeroGeeks out there, there is nothing quite as geeky as a United States Patent for Aerodynamic Bicycle Rim and Wheels. And lucky for them, Hed Cycling has provided us U.S. Patent No. 8,888,195 for your reading enjoyment. Hed first applied for this patent in 2009 and was eventually granted it in 2014.
For those geeky enough to still be reading, if you don’t have the time to read through all 19 pages, here is the abstract:
Embodiments described herein provide aerodynamic bicycle rims and wheels. Embodiments can include a bicycle rim that is wider than the width of the tire proximate to the outer edge of the rim and is shaped so that there is a tangent line tangent to the rim and the tire. The tangent line can be tangent to the rim on the sidewall or elsewhere on the rim. The widest part of the rim can be radially inward from the outer edge of the rim or elsewhere on the rim and the tangent line can be tangent at the widest part of the rim or elsewhere on the rim.
In just slightly more readable format this patent describes a wheel where the bicycle rim is operable to seat the tire so that the cross-sectional shape of the tire and rim body is asymmetrical about the widest portion of the cross-sectional shape and there is a tangent line tangent to the tire and tangent to a sidewall of the bicycle rim radially inward from the radially outermost edge having a tangent angle of 8-17 degrees, wherein the rim is configured such that a wheel formed by the rim and tire has a stall angle of 10-19.5 degrees when the tire is seated.
Ok, let’s try to actually make that readable for real this time. The patent describes a wheel plus a tire where the wheel is wider than the overall tire diameter. If you were then to take that combined wheel and tire and draw a line from the tire’s side to the widest part of the wheel, the angle of that line to the centerline of the wheel (the tangent angle described of 8-17 degrees in the example above) can be used to predict the stall angle (10-19.5 degrees again listed above). And by being able to precisely predict the stall angle, wheel designers can better tune their wheels for the yaw angles they believe their athletes will see. (For a better understanding of Yaw and why it is important to triathletes and cyclists check out our AeroMail article).
So why should you care that Hed was granted a patent? Because other companies have already taken notice and want in. Today Hed Cycling and Specialized announced the creation of a cooperative relationship. As part of the collaboration, Specialized will license Hed’s U.S. Patent No. 8,888,195. What is also important is that Specialized proactively reached out to Hed (this partnership was not the product of a lawsuit), meaning that Specialized either had concerns about their current products or had thoughts to use this patent in future wheel products and wanted to get ahead of the curve.
The big question now is what does this mean for the other wheel companies out there? There is good reason to believe other companies may be impacted by this patent, and only time will tell if others create cooperative ventures with the house that Steve built.