ON THE DROPS WITH WHEEL ENGINEER, LUISA GRAPPONE

We first introduced Luisa to you last week but finally got the chance to catch her for the dreaded On The Drops interview. Here is a quick refresher on what Luisa will be doing here at Hunt: 

Luisa Grappone hails from the motherland of cycling, pink jerseys and big mountain climbing (aka Italy), but has made the move to Sussex to further strengthen the Hunt wheel development team as our as our full time in-house wheel engineer. With an MSc in Aerospace Enigneering Luisa has a wealth of experience in the bicycle industry and materials engineering, with many years misspent sweating over hot CAD drawings, carbon fibre lay-ups and crunching wind tunnel data, hard work but someone's got to do it and we're delighted Luisa is doing for all HUNT riders from now on. Working previously for 3T components then moving to Campagnolo/Fulcrum as a senior R&D engineer, Luisa has extensive knowledge of composite technology and wheel design. Luisa has also worked as a stress analyst for the 787 Boeing program. Luisa's career has included working with Movistar, Garmin Cervelo Test Team, Top Sport Vlaanderen and the BMC team as a liaison engineer for aerodynamic testing in the wind tunnel.
 

So here is our latest On The Drops with Luisa.

-

On Vicenza Hills

Name: Luisa Grappone

Age: Nice enough to look a lot younger.

Born and Bred: 

Caserta, the city of the Italian Royal Palace, near Naples. Studied Aerospace Engineering at the University of Naples Federico II

 

Ice breaker – describe yourself in three words.

Chatty, stubborn, optimistic

 

You’re from one of the greatest places to ride a bike, how does Sussex stack up against Vicenza, Italy?

It is hard for me to ‘just’ compare Italy to England. But Vicenza is unlike any other city I have been too. I felt in love with Vicenza as soon as I moved there 4 years ago. Beautiful city, friendly people and perfectly located, close to the sea, the big mountains and it has wonderful hills.

Nonetheless, the vivid green and wavy English countryside, with its elegant houses and cottages is always charming and fascinating.

Climbing is...

First Bike and Favourite bike?

My first bike was a red Cinzia. I use to put it up-side-down and pretend to be a mechanic just by spinning the wheels around and getting dirty hands. Unusual for a young girl… perhaps it was it a sign of what was to become! My favourite bike is my golden Alan from the 70’s. I found it in a small garage just north of Milano. It belonged to a girl as tiny as me who was forced by her dad to become a cyclist…

 

Finish this sentence: Climbing on my bike is… thinking about the forthcoming descent. I would rather climb the Mont Ventoux twice than have to descend it once.

 

You have worked with many other cycling companies and previous to starting at Hunt, what was you prior experience before hopping over to the UK?

3T was the one to introduce me to this world, it is like the first love, you will never forget it. I had such a great time whilst working there. But more in general, I have always had good working experiences, met nice people, learned a lot. I will always be grateful for what I went through, for better or worse, all my previous working experiences made me become what I am now.

 

Give us the low down on Aerodynamic testing… how does testing in a wind tunnel affect the R&D process in making a wheelset? Is it trial and error or far more calculated?

With super expensive and sophisticated software tools and high expertise it can be very precisely calculated, but it is a matter of fact that you have to face real world conditions which are not always predictable. The best aero results you get from wind tunnel tests do not always reflect what you find in real life.

High up on the Galibier

If it can be put down to one thing, what is the most important step when designing something, like a rim for instance, from the ground up?

Riders needs are the main goals when I start to conceive any bike component. Hence weight, performances such as perfect braking system, reduced aerodynamic drag, safety.

 

Working with some of the largest cycling teams in the world for aerodynamic testing, are the demands different from what the team wants, to say a product which is being released to the general public?

Most of the time an amateur will want exactly what his/her cycling hero requires. Moreover, as for the article 1.3.007 of the Clarification Guide of the UCI Technical Regulation:

“Bicycles and their accessories shall be of a type that is sold for use by anyone practising cycling as a sport. […] The use of equipment designed especially for the attainment of a particular performance (record or other) shall be not authorised.”

Hence, super aero and light bikes or wheels can be spotted in Bergen during the next world championship or outside the teahouse in Steyning during the Saturday bike club ride.

I think this is cool. Almost no one drives as the same car as Button drives.

 

We noticed you had a role in working for Boeing under the 787 project, do you see much overlap between the experience you have had there and designing bicycles/bicycle parts?

In both the industries you have to be experienced and have high knowledge of what you are working at. But becoming a technician in the wonderful cycling industry is one of the luckiest things happened to me. When I was working on the 787 Boeing project, I barely had an idea of where the hundreds of small pieces would have been mounted and how. Doing engineering into the cycling worlds is simply better in my opinion. You decide the specification, you draw lines, you make the prototype, you test it and at the end you are so proud of it, because it is exactly what you wanted.

 

Italy riding at its best

Have you ever had to do destruction tests on products!? (ed. Let’s face it we all love watching those super slow motion videos of things breaking…)

Basically every component I have been working on has faced a complete destruction at the end of the testing phase. Just think about the UCI impact test on wheels! It is part of the standard procedure.

 

Are the rumours true that your bicycle is a 46cm frame? I mean it looks so so small!

Actually, 47!

But yes, my bike is so small that when I did the Half IronMan race (stop stop stop, I am everything but a triathlete) I could not use the water bottle they would give at the feed stations. I had to stop, bring mine and refill it… This was of course the only reason I did not come first

 

What grinds your gears?

In general, rudeness and bad manners.

At work, when someone says no to new ideas and proposals just because they have been doing something that works for years and years.

 Ventoux

Dream place to ride?

There is not a specific dream place to ride for me actually. But pedalling on the climbs that made the history of Giro, Tour, the Classics, that is always special.

Though I hope to manage to ride and finish the Tour de Flanders amateur race some day… because at the end of the day, Belgium is still the dreamland for any of us.

 

Most memorable ride for all of the wrong reasons?

Last December on a very cold Saturday in the hills around Vicenza. Meeting at the usual place, at the bottom of the hundreds of marble steps leading up to Monte Berico (the same one Gilbert won the Giro) we started to ride in the sun but we soon left the main road and made our way towards the hills.

A first big loop at the bottom of the hill, in a total darkness, at -5 celsius degrees should have given to me an idea of what I would have then experienced. But on the contrary we soon started to climb and it was simply lovely. Unfortunately that feeling did not last long. At the top of the hill instead of taking the short way back home, one of the guys I was riding with decided to descend from the other side. We all said ‘why not? It is a lovely day so why wouldn’t we enjoy this lovely winter ride?’

Pity that in the other valley we found fog, rain, wind and cold. By the end of the descent I was already freezing but I had to climb again. This time was not as nice as the first climb, I started to feel colder and colder till, I lost concentration and by the end of the second descent, I could not even brake or handle my bike because my hands were two pieces of purple frozen ice. I was about to fall down several times till I stopped to the first coffee house, or bar as we call it in Italy, and try to warm up.

I waited there for my boyfriend to go back home, take the car and come to pick me up. I almost lost all of my sensations. It should sound like an exaggeration for any English rider who is used to cold, rain and fog, but believe me, that day was the worst I have ever spent on my bike.

Champion



Comments on this post (2 comments)

  • Martin Hayman says...

    The story is you exactly Luisa!

    On August 23, 2017

  • Rich says...

    Complimenti Luisa :)

    On August 23, 2017

Leave a comment