Rapha unveils its fastest ever skinsuit for the Giro d’Italia

British brand says a two-year project and a unique approach to fabric testing and evaluation has produced a new range of cutting edge race garments to be used by EF Education-Nippo in the Giro

Rapha Aerosuit
(Image credit: Rapha)

Rapha’s new TT Aero kit, which it has spent two years developing and testing at Loughborough University and the Silverstone wind tunnel, is to be debuted at the Giro d'Italia with EF Education-Nippo, with Canyon//SRAM to race in it later this month.

Rapha says wind tunnel data showed the new men’s package produced a 12.4W energy saving at 55kph and one degree of yaw compared with the old team-issue package.

The brand says it evaluated over 100 fabrics and fabric combinations to find the perfect fabric suite for the suits, socks, overshoes and mitts. Textured fabrics were tested at Loughborough University, in its state-of-the-art wind tunnel laboratory.

Using race data provided by the teams, Rapha says it developed a unique formula to identify the fastest materials in a real-world context, across an entire race profile taking energy expenditure into account.   

Rapha Aerosuit

(Image credit: Rapha)

According to the British brand, it targeted the design to the specific energy expenditure of the athlete rather than just the average speed or the lowest drag measured in the tunnel.

“Where texture is not required for drag-reducing benefit, we elected to use the lightest weight smooth fabrics available to offer high compression and a second skin fit, whilst improving thermal regulation.

“Using the revolutionary wind tunnel at the Silverstone Sports Engineering Hub, which is specifically designed to analyse cycling performance, we were able to evaluate the effectiveness of each skinsuit.”

Rapha says over 40 skinsuits were tested using male and female athletes. These prototypes tested different fabric combinations, seam placements, fit, fabric tension and garment construction techniques.

Dr Barney Wainwright, senior research fellow and practitioner in cycling aerodynamics and biomechanics at Leeds Beckett University, said: “This project was a great example of how design, specific fabric wind tunnel testing, modelling and wind tunnel testing of the rider and bike came together to find the optimum solution for the specific needs of the team.

“The results that we gathered at each stage allowed us to fine tune both the pattern and fabric choice to ensure that the skinsuit and sock package both complement each other at the race-specific air speeds.  

“We configured the test environments in the wind tunnel to replicate the conditions found in Grand Tour time trial stages, which included multiple speed and wind angles. This attention to detail and specificity, which considerably increased the time required in the wind tunnel, provided detailed insight which differentiated between small differences in pattern and fabric. This approach was fundamental in identifying the optimal product choices.” 

The pinnacle product in the new Rapha range is the TT Aerosuit, but Rapha says it has been able to apply the knowledge learnt on the project to the development of our commercial range, starting with its SS22 collection.