Dr Huang started building wheels in his room at University whilst he was studying for his degree which ultimately ended in his PHD. The more interesting thing though was his degree was not in Mechanical or Aerodynamic Engineering but in Civil Engineering. So how does a PHD in Civil Engineering end up building some of the lightest wheels on sale today? Well, it was the principles of construction that led him here: one chance to get it right, project management to be on time and to cost and that fundamentally the mechanics and aerodynamics of structures are similar. So the civil engineers will work in the virtual environment or with small scale physical tests to validate their calculations. But ultimately the final version is the only one produced.
So why can this principle not be applied to a bicycle wheel - why not use virtual engineering processes to refine the different components as a system so when you build the first one you could be a long way towards the final iteration. It is not to say they do not refine their prototypes it is more the refinement is in the fine detail not selecting the overall direction. And so the wheels Dr Huang (a keen cyclist) were born: “we started by building wheels we wanted to ride that were light but well balanced in all conditions."
One other benefit was Dr Huang had access to all the university testing equipment so when his first wheels were built he could test them (including to destruction) using state of the art techniques (without the capital investment). This included stiffness testing, aerodynamic testing and even thermal testing for the rim brakes. He even could examine sections through his spokes using a high-resolution microscope.
Today the wheels are on their 4th generation and are hand built in Shanghai but the components which are unique to Vortex are manufactured in 3 locations in China where the local expertise is at its highest. Take Xiamen which is one of the centres of carbon fibre manufacturing this is where the rims are made. The moulds are unique to Vortex and so is the highly accurate lay-up method which makes these wheels so special. The proof is in the sales as Vortex wheels which exceed that of the traditional names like Zipp, Enve etc in the high-end market.
This is a small insight into the people and thinking behind the brands which cycling100.com is going to bring to our customers all over the world. Sign up to the newsletter for our updates and new exciting products we have in the pipeline.