Wind Tunnel vs Catesby Tunnel


With both companies falling under the TotalSim group umbrella, Silverstone Sports Engineering Hub (SSEH) and Catesby Tunnel have been designed to offer superior aerodynamic testing and R&D facilities for performance sports.

Originally built in 1897 as a railway tunnel, Catesby Tunnel has now been repurposed to provide 2.7km of dead straight, perfectly smooth tarmac, making the perfect testing ground for sports such as cycling.

Similarly to the SSEH Wind Tunnel, Catesby also benefits from a completely enclosed test section, removing external variables such as changeable weather conditions and road surfaces, both of which can greatly effect the repeatability and reliability of results.

But what differentiates the two facilities? To answer that question, the team at SSEH recently headed over to Catesby Tunnel to conduct some internal testing.

Points of difference

From testing at both facilities, we found that both offer different experiences, each with their own pros and cons which equally contribute towards creating a clearer overall understanding of aerodynamics in cycling.

Catesby Tunnel

Catesby Tunnel offers a unique experience for cyclists and a layer to aerodynamic testing which has not been seen before. The bike is able to move freely without the constraints of supporting fixtures, providing real world cycling dynamics as experienced when riding or racing on the road. This also presents the opportunity to measure both rolling resistance and the mechanical efficiency of the drivetrain in the riders set up.

Another point of difference is the ability to measure the effects of multiple riders, whether that’s working together in the format of a team time trial or wanting to investigate the effects of drafting in a group.

SSEH Wind Tunnel

In contrast, the wind tunnel requires the bike to be fixed in position, with the tyres in contact with metal rollers. Whilst this may not be “real-world”, it does however provide arguably greater repeatability. Additional measures such as live edges are also available to ensure the riders position is maintained, all of which contribute towards optimising the consistency of results throughout testing, and ultimately make it easier to identify marginal differences between runs.

Another benefit to the bike being fixed in position is the ability to conduct static specimen testing with mannequins, or isolated testing of bikes/ wheels without a rider. When carrying out these tests, customers also have the option to utilise a powered roller to spin the wheel(‘s) to a pre determined speed.

During a wind tunnel session, the wind/ effective rider speed can be maintained at a constant throughout each test. With this variable controlled, the time taken to complete each run can be reduced, making the wind tunnel one of the most efficient and cost effective methods of aerodynamic testing.

The yaw (orientation of the rider to the wind direction) is another variable that can be controlled in the wind tunnel, allowing the customer to simulate an effective crosswind, and create a greater understanding of how a position or product will perform under different conditions.


To further highlight the differences between the two facilities, we have summarised the main points in the table below:


To conclude, we believe the two facilities each have their own unique characteristics which compliment each other very well. The Sports Performance Wind Tunnel provides the perfect controlled environment to quickly and efficiently compare multiple test configurations, before then utilising Catesby Tunnel to validate and further understand the results in a “real-world” setting.

If you would be interested in finding out more about Catesby Tunnel, or booking time in conjunction with an upcoming wind tunnel session, please get in touch on 01327 222830, or via email