At the beginning of 2023, UCI announced changes to their rule book, and among them, the cycling’s governing body further relaxed the frame design guidelines around reach and handlebars/cockpits - something that has been defining bike design for decades. Now, a Kickstarter campaign by the brand Stromm Cycles is aiming to take full advantage of the relaxed rules with a new frameset designed around 8:1 tube profiles and a longer reach.
The revolutionary bike hoping to enter larger-scale production is the brainchild of Stromm Cycles - a group of American bike experts with a background in working with brands such as Felt Bicycles, 3T and Roval. The group has labelled their creation as the first bike to truly take advantage of the scrapped 3:1 frame design rule, which UCI quietly let go back in 2016, and which was more recently followed by relaxing the 3:1 rule for handlebars and the rules on reach (more on that later).
Stromm Cycles say they've been thinking of a new bike design for a while, and the timing of the new rule changes was a lucky coincidence to make their vision come true on a bigger scale.
“Now that we've got a little bit more room to play with, with airfoil sections getting much deeper, we can really optimise each of those tube shapes and even across the tubes. The top tube shape ahead of the rider is a different shape than the top tube behind the rider,” Dave Koesel, Stromm Cycles engineer, summarised the key changes.
The Stromm Cycles bike is made using Toray Composite carbon – no word on what grade of Toray carbon has been used – and the prototype model has been made to be a bunch race frame with drop handlebars. The brand says everything on the bike has been designed to achieve maximum performance gains with the rider, and although we don't have real condition data of yet, according to Stromm Cycles, the 8:1 tube shapes on this bike allow for 600 per cent or lower drag than before.
Since the 1990s, track bikes had been limited by a 3:1 ratio limit, which meant that no tube could be more than three times wider than its depth. With the new rules, the tubes can be designed up to a ratio of 8:1 - this means that the minimum and maximum overall dimensions of the tubes are 10mm and 80mm respectively. The new 2023 track cycling rules also relaxed the rider's position for bunch racing, doubling the allowed reach measurement from 50mm to 100mm.
Stromm Cycles has made the most of the new rules, and the most prominent feature showcasing this is the wide fork. Together with the seat stay design, the fork works to make air flow smoothly over the rider's legs and minimise the effects of wheel differences - Stromm Cycles said any well-designed wheel is fast with this frame.
From what we can see the fork looks similar in design to the Hope track bike and we envisage a lot of others heading in that direction in the coming years with the dropping of the 3:1 rule likely to result in a lot more interesting fork shapes appearing on the road as well as the track.
Elsewhere on the bike, the tube shape changes include a sloping top tube and seat post design that should create vortices that keep the air attached to the rider's back longer, delaying separation and turbulence and thus reducing drag.
'Ah', we hear you say, 'couldn't many of these benefits be achieved with a Kamm tail design?'
Kamm tails, which feature in most aero bike designs, use the air to effectively replicate the trailing edge of a tube of a deep elliptical tube – the actual 'tail' is cut off which helps to reduce weight for the same strength and almost the same reduction in drag. On a track bike though weight doesn't really come in to it - no one seems to be trying to make track bikes lighter so there's no other disadvantage with going with the marginally more aero full aerofoil.
Whether your tube is kammtail or aerofoil shaped though, thinner and longer shapes always tend to have a smaller CDA (coefficient of drag) and are therefore more aero – in a world of marginal gains the full aerofoil is marginally more aero, so it's a gain.
Despite the aero-engineering, this is still a bike that is not made of proprietary components, which is something that Stromm Cycles highlights. Aside from the proprietary seatpost, the bike features widely available standards, such as 1-1/8in steerer tube, 68mm threaded bottom bracket, dropouts that take common 100/120mm track axles, and an adjustable rear drop-out which uses a barrel.
If all of the above sounds great and you wonder where you might get yours, well, you need to wait a while. At the moment there is exactly one of these track bikes manufactured, which is the reason Stromm Cycles has launched a Kickstarter campaign to expand the production and create bikes in all sizes (from S to L).
The obvious aim for the brand would be to have the bike race at the Paris Olympics next year, but in order for that to happen, the bike must first make an appearance at the Track Worlds in August. So in essence, Stromm Cycles needs to meet its funding target (£60,000), build the bikes, get them shipped to the UK and raced in about two and a half months.
If you’d like to contribute to making that happen, you can find the Kickstarter campaign here.
Suvi joined F-At in 2022, first writing for off-road.cc. She's since joined the tech hub, and contributes to all of the sites covering tech news, features, reviews and women's cycling content. Lover of long-distance cycling, Suvi is easily convinced to join any rides and events that cover over 100km, and ideally, plenty of cake and coffee stops.