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An inside look at Daniela Ryf’s new custom cockpit

An inside look at everything from Swiss Side's concept drawings to aero testing in the wind tunnel and the velodrome

Photo by: Swiss Side/ James Mitchell
Before she competed at Ironman 70.3 Dubai earlier this month, we reported that Daniela Ryf would be competing at the race with a brand-new cockpit that had been custom designed by Swiss Side. That got us wondering about whether or not the company would be expanding its product line beyond wheels and the consulting it does for other bike brands. So, we reached out to the company for some info.
Ryf in the wind tunnel. Photo: Swiss Side
For those not familiar with Swiss Side, it is a company based in, well, Switzerland, that specializes in aerodynamics. Swiss Side was founded by Jean-Paul Ballard, who spent 14 years as a lead engineer with F1 racing teams, including Sauber. In 2014 he decided to turn his sights to the cycling world. His company has worked with Canyon, Cube and DT Swiss to help with frame and wheel design. Swiss Side has also developed its own wheels, which are ridden by the likes of Patrick Lange and Laura Philipp.

Concept drawings of Ryf’s new bars that utilize the two different arm positions. Photos: Swiss Side
“The idea behind the bars is aerodynamics + ergonomics,” Ballard said of Ryf’s new cockpit. “It stems from the Patrick Lange 101 project from 2018, where we designed the cockpit to help Patrick to be the first athlete to go under the eight-hour mark in Kona. The original target back then was aerodynamic improvement, but what we learnt from Patrick, and that race, is that the ergonomic improvement is also huge, allowing the athlete to ride in a lot more relaxed state, which saves energy. So we learnt a lot from that, which we have built on with newer designs which we now apply to our other athletes.”
Ryf’s arm position is scanned. Photo: Swiss Side
Ryf’s new cockpit continues on that concept.
Photo: Swiss Side / @diegomenzi
“The cockpit replaces the original elbow pads with a form-fitting design which support her forearms as far forward as possible, both underneath, and also on the sides,” Ballard said. “What is additionally unique to Daniela’s cockpit is that she specifically wanted a design which allows her to ride her ‘climbing position’ when she slides rearwards with her forearms, (in the TT position), holding the bars with her hands slightly more rearwards. This led to a unique design which had to accommodate both of these hand / forearm positions, whilst providing good support. Her torpedo drink system is also mounted into this design. So the cockpit is quite a complex design, accommodating a lot of factors, which is a small compromise from the optimum aero solution, but still delivers very significant aero gains and a really good a versatile ergonomics solution.”
Photo: Swiss Side
With Swiss Side, and Ballard’s aerodynamic background, it comes as no surprise that the bars were tested extensively in a wind tunnel and in the velodrome and on the road.
So, will the rest of the world have a chance to get a set of bars like this? Yes, if you have a bank account that will support such a purchase.
“Swiss Side will be producing customised cockpit solutions for purchase from the end consumer in the near future,” Ballard said. “We have gained so much experience from the pro-athlete designs we have done that we want to make this available to our customers too.”
The plan is to develop a customized option that won’t require athletes to be scanned as Swiss Side has done with the pro athletes it has worked with on the project. The company will begin with a few bike models and expand from there based on demand.