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CHERASCO, Italy (VN) — Five Belgian cycling brands have attracted 500,000 euros ($641,000) in government funding to build a new collaborative R&D facility focused on aerodynamics and other “technologies of human power.” Bike brand Ridley, helmet brand Lazer, clothing brand BioRacer, athletic performance center EnergyLab, and Flanders Drive, a “mobility knowledge center,” will collaborate on the project, which will feature a low-speed wind tunnel and other R&D facilities.
Such a low-speed wind tunnel would be the first in continental Europe.
The collaboration between the five Flandrian sport brands has been dubbed “Bike Valley,” a reference to the project’s location in the beating heart of Belgian cycling.
The announcement comes hot on the heals of Specialized’s launch on Thursday of a new in-house, bike-specific wind tunnel, which will allow the brand to further improve its aerodynamics research and development efforts, and the timing seems to be no coincidence.
“[Bike Valley] is the only way we can compete on an investment level with the large global multinationals in the bicycling industry,” Marc Hufkens, Bike Valley manager, said in a statement.
Like the Specialized project, the planned Belgian tunnel will be designed around low-speed testing, ideal for the development of cycling equipment.
The concept was conceived by Ridley, a company that was among the first in the cycling industry to develop an aerodynamic road racing frame, the Noah. But without outside help, in the form of its collaborative partners and the government funds, the brand did not have the resources to complete the project.
“Because Ridley and the other Bike Valley partners are Small and Medium Enterprises (with no more than 100 employees) we can only realize such an ambitious project if we can count on the support of the different governments in Belgium and by working together”, said Hufkens.
Even with five partners on board, it was not until the influx of government funding that the project could begin to take off.
“The funding of 500,000 euro is a milestone not to be underestimated,” Hufkens said. “One can say this is the actual ‘go’ in establishing Flanders as a worldwide knowledge hub when it comes to cycling in six different domains: sports, industrial activities, tourism and recreation, health, science and technology, mobility.”