CyclingStories #2 : When Comate and KU Leuven joined forces to develop an isokinetic test bike


When innovative partners from the Leuven ecosystem collaborate, you get an excellent outcome. KU Leuven's Bakala Academy joined forces with Comate in 2018 to launch an innovation in the cycling world: an isokinetic test bike.

This week, Leuven is in the spotlight as the sports epicenter of the world. The passage of the World cycling championships puts the city and the region once more on the international map. But it will not only be the fantastic aerial images of the region that will make people's mouths water. The technological know-how of the region is also of world (champion's) level. Every day of this week, we put a Leuven-based bicycle innovator in the spotlight. Today (Tuesday): Comate, KU Leuven, Province of Flemish Brabant and the Bakala Academy.

During modern cycling races, the ability to deliver high power outputs for a short period of time is crucial. By example in a brake away, on climbs or in a final sprint (go Wout Van Aert!). To evaluate functional power output in cyclists the Bakala Academy developed an isokinetic ergometer whereby the cadence is controlled while the cyclist delivers power at free will.

The Bakala Academy is KU Leuven's research- and testing center for top sports, and disposes since 2018 of a true eyecatcher: an isokinetic test bike. This set-up allows cyclists to perform output measurements with their own bike, allowing them to recreate the levels they reach during races. The product is a cooperation between several Leuven MindGate members: Comate designed the machine thanks to funding provided by the province of Flemish Brabant.

“We’ve been using this test for several years already, but the design was open to improvement,” says Professor Peter Hespel from the Department of Movement Sciences. That’s why Bakala Academy joined forces with product design company Comate and the Province of Flemish Brabant. Two years later, the updated and improved device is ready for use.

Bakala Academy is known for attracting world-class athletes from all over the world who are looking for medical tests, body measurements, altitude simulations, running analysis and so on.

"This test allows us to make an accurate image of a cyclists power output", Peter Hespel, professor Exercise Physiology, mentioned in a recent interview. "In certain stages of a race, let's say in an escape or when sprinting towards the finish line, the cyclists have to be capable of delivering very high amounts of strength. During our test, the cyclists perform six efforts at maximum intensity for five seconds. Each effort at a different number of rotations per minute."

Comate worked for two years to fine-tune the mechanics and software before launching the final design in 2018. "One of the big challenges was the choice of the heavy motor that makes the riders pedal at a fixed speed. The stability and safety of the setup were also crucial factors," stated driver Sander Van den Dries at the time.

Sources: Comate, KU Leuven