A Simulation Driven Design Process for Downhill Bikes

Downhill mountain bikes must be lightweight and responsive while remaining strong and reliable for use on harsh terrain. The challenge of this in-house project was to meet the contradictory objectives of minimum weight and maximum stiffness while offering exceptional kinematics. The entire virtual development process of an innovative new Downhill Bike – from idea creation, concept development, optimization of components and design to virtual prototype was undertaken by biking enthusiast engineers at Altair ProductDesign.

To complete this development project Altair ProductDesign used its simulation driven design process. Firstly, the engineers made sketches of the bike to be developed. At the same time, topology optimization was deployed to define the load paths, design space and the kinematics of the bike. Based on these results the sketches were developed into CAD geometry which, thanks to the early use of optimization technology, already considered standard components and production feasibility. In the traditional design process, CAD and CAE tools are used subsequently whereas the simulation driven design approach foresees a parallel deployment of CAD and CAE tools. CAE, using intelligent technology and an automated determination of the optimum geometric configuration, allowed the engineers to reach the best performing design more efficiently.

The simulation driven design process enabled the engineers to develop a truly innovative Downhill Bike. The virtual prototype contains a Virtual Pivot Point (VPP) kinematic combined with a floating damper and by using the entire deflection the pedal kickback is only 15°. The bike has a perfect tire lifting curve in rearward direction, a final progression of the damper head line and is breaking neutral. The total weight of the bike’s frame remained below 4kg. The frame has a very low center of gravity as the design foresees a low bottom bracket height of 360 mm, a very low located damper with a 202 mm spring deflection and a standard length of 222 mm 9.5” x 3.0”. In addition there is a low and conic head tube of 1,5” and an axle shaft of 150 mm for an excellent stiffness.

“To reach my goals I used HyperWorks and the simulation driven design process. This enabled me to develop a bike concept that exactly fits my needs a lot faster and better than I thought possible.”
Florian Sickinger, Engineer & Downhill Biker, Altair ProductDesign

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