The World’s Fastest Bike

21st December 2011 by Tony Norton

This post is taken from Simulate to Innovate

When I hear McLaren, I think of F1 greats like Hunt, Lauda, Prost, Senna, Hakkinen and a parade of other drivers right up to today’s pilots, Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton. So it was a bit of a surprise to learn that the McLaren team’s latest challenge has been to design a bicycle, but not just an ordinary bike – one with a frame under 1kg!


Jonathan Heal from the McLaren Technology Centre recently presented some of the engineering involved in the creation of the S-Works +McLaren Venge, a bike that sets a new benchmark for lightweighting, stiffness and aerodynamics.  He described how McLaren applied materials, technology and expertise from Formula One to the world’s fastest Union Cycliste Internationale-legal road bike.

His presentation focuses on the optimization process involved in developing the composite lay-up for the S-Works + McLaren Venge. For this work OptiStruct is used, along with a new HyperMesh Composite Optimization Setup tool, CompOpt, that was developed in close association between McLaren Racing and Altair UK. This tool reduces the burden of setting up composite optimization detailed sizing studies. The optimization study uses free sizing optimization to identify potentially efficient ply shapes. The detailed sizing section uses a PCOMPP definition of a laminate, which includes material draping.

With OptiStruct, the McLaren team was able to efficiently determine the optimal thickness distribution of composite material throughout the frame. By leveraging Altair’s HyperWorks Units licensing model, the team had a license pool large enough to do multiple OptiStruct runs and thereby accelerate the process.

Among Jonathan’s conclusions from adopting HyperWorks for what must be the most advanced bike ever built:


  • Using free-sizing optimization is an efficient way of generating efficient ply shapes.
  • HyperMesh allows fast and efficient setup of detailed sizing optimization studies, and a customization like CompOpt reducestime and effort further.
  • Composite optimization in OptiStruct is essential in delivering optimal structures to the track in very tight timescales.


Just 48 hours after first emerging from the McLaren Technology Centre, the Venge won the 2011 Milan-San Remo classic, and it is now the regular ride of my favorite bike racer, The Manx Missile Mark Cavendish and the rest of the HTC Highroad team.