Bicycling Science, 3rd Edition
Everything you wanted to know about the bicycle but were too afraid to ask
David Gordon Wilson is British born Professor of Mechanical Engineering Emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is the co-author of the first two editions of Bicycling Science and was the editor of the journal Human Power from 1994 to 2002.
This book covers the history of human powered vehicles and, as the title suggests, focuses firmly on the bicycle. It is a text in three parts: I Human Power, II Some Bicycle Physics and III Human-Powered vehicles and machines. Each of which can read independently of the others.
The third edition’s (2004) first section, I, ‘Human Power’ opens with a very informative and myth-dispelling addition to the growing canon covering the history of the bicycle. It is a short but authoritative supplement with diagrams and photographs smartly selected and well positioned to support the text. Rather refreshingly all claims, throughout the book, are fully referenced to allow the reader to delve deeper should they so wish along with a recommended reading suggestion here and there (is that a ‘get a life, Dey’ I hear from my ever loving partner!) For the more evangelical bicycle advocate there is a brief but telling list of ‘new’ technologies born from bicycle design, engineering and use; leading the way is the mass production and use of ball bearings with the oft-neglected good-roads movement also getting a mention – topical as the latter is today. Chapter one also covers, in sufficient detail for all but the expert, Human Power Generation. This encapsulates bicycle focused physiology (how energy gets to the muscles of a rider), biomechanics (how the muscle produce power at the pedals) and should, the author states, ‘allow the reader to feel qualified to absorb the main conclusions of the research papers in this area.’ It is essentially a well written literature review and I for one felt a little daunted at times but quickly discovered my research reading skills were revving back up to speed. The counter-intuitive description of ‘the timing and direction of foot force, choice of crank length, the effect of saddle height and gear ratio, and where to stand up or ‘bounce’ the upper body’ are all treated in depth and supported by evidence based research, with the tradition of the philosophical ever present. For the more competitive cyclist there is a very useful treatment covering the measurements of human power output, how to describe pedalling performance quantitatively and a very useful presentation into critical power using power-duration curves along with detailed pedal-force data and graphs. Non-round chainwheels also receive useful coverage, another highly topical debate in the age of Wiggo. There is a closing piece on the thermal effects of cycling. Again one only needs to observe the top riders and teams to see this science trickling in and, not before time, replacing much erroneous traditional methods. The conclusion to the chapter reads like a British Cycling ‘marginal gains’ to do list and the eight pages of academic references tell you all you need to know about the diligence of the author.
Section II ‘Some Bicycling Physics’ is the where I began my reading. For want of getting carried away, as I often do when physics takes centre stage, I shall be brief. Building on the power-duration data from the previous chapter the author presents a quantitative treatment of cycling specific physics. Anyone with an interest in physics, a little patience and, most usefully, a head full of positive secondary school memories, will be amply rewarded for their efforts. The main protagonists are all covered namely propulsive force, air resistance and rolling resistance. The author then takes it a step further; what happens when bumps are encountered – of vital interest to the classics riders out there. The concept of vibration frequencies is simply presented and should allow the reader to filter the engineering and physics from the marketing hype the next time a high-end bike is purchased. A lot of paper is devoted to the relationship between power and speed and this alone makes this book a must-read for anyone venturing into the world of the power meter. Bicycle aerodynamics is covered with the usual simple physics formula, text, graphs and some very eye-catching photographs to emphasise the points and aid the understanding of the concepts – all the while retaining a strong link to the context of the bicycle. Rolling resistance, with a focus on wheels tires and bearings ramps up the physics a wee bit but is well worth devoting time to, especially if, like me, you are considering taking the hand-built wheel route. A brief but detailed design, engineering and physics of braking, in differing weather conditions, brings to a close this very informative and rewarding chapter.
The final section, III, Human-Powered Vehicles and Machines, is where the author diverges from the bicycle as we know it. It is the authors stated aim to ‘… expand your experience, and perhaps to make you want to use, or even to design and make, some interesting human-powered vehicles other than bicycles.’ In it he takes a more utilitarian approach and differentiates between the developed and developing world, all the while suggesting that the more bicycling the better; ‘… Even in large countries, like the United States, over half the daily “person-trips” by automobile are of under 8 km (5 miles), a distance most people can easily cover on a bicycle in most weather conditions.’ This chapter contains varied examples of human-powered tools and of record breaking and other interesting vehicles – other than the standard bicycle. It concludes with a thought-provoking piece on Human-Powered Vehicles in the Future; one for all you light weight junkies, aero wheel obsessives and mono-blade maniacs. The piece on the hydraulic disc brake, coming as does so soon after a brief summary of governing body regulations and incentives, is somewhat prescient. The question hangs in the air, what drives the industry; science and performance or marketing? If it is indeed the latter then we are living in a dark age of delusion.
Overview, from the back cover
The bicycle is almost unique among human-powered machines in that it uses human muscles in a near-optimum way. This new edition of the bible of bicycle builders and bicyclists provides just about everything you could want to know about the history of bicycles, how human beings propel them, what makes them go faster, and what keeps them from going even faster. The scientific and engineering information is of interest not only to designers and builders of bicycles and other human-powered vehicles but also to competitive cyclists, bicycle commuters, and recreational cyclists.
The third edition begins with a brief history of bicycles and bicycling that demolishes many widespread myths. This edition includes information on recent experiments and achievements in human-powered transportation, including the “ultimate human- powered vehicle,” in which a supine rider in a streamlined enclosure steers by looking at a television screen connected to a small camera in the nose, reaching speeds of around 80 miles per hour. It contains completely new chapters on aerodynamics, unusual human-powered machines for use on land and in water and air, human physiology, and the future of bicycling. This edition also provides updated information on rolling drag, transmission of power from rider to wheels, braking, heat management, steering and stability, power and speed, and materials. It contains many new illustrations.
Bicycling Science – Everything you wanted to know about the bicycle but were too afraid to ask
David Gordon Wilson
MIT Press; 3rd Revised edition edition
Available in Paperback
RRP £19.95 (Paperback)
We got our hands on a selection of Cliff Bars to review for you and Sim and Heather took on the taste and energy test.
I had my first taste of CLIF Bars whilst taking part in the Deloitte Ride Across Britain last year – the chocolate chip version kept me going from John O’Groats all the way to Glasgow, so when I was asked to review CLIF bars for CyclingShorts, I thought why not?
So, a large selection of CLIF Bars in all different flavours made their way through my door – There was the chocolate chip version which I had tried before, then Crunchy Peanut Butter flavour, followed by Oatmeal Raisin Walnut, then Chocolate Almond Fudge, with White Chocolate Macadamia Nut bringing up the rear.
I must say that some of them sounded slightly exotic and I wasn’t convinced that I would like them, but I tried them all anyway (it’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it!)…
So, what did I think? Well, some of the flavours and the texture of the bars are better than others. For example, whilst the Oatmeal Raisin Walnut version may appeal to some due to the lower calorific content than the others, I found that unfortunately it was a bit disappointing – too dry to have on its own, especially trying to eat it going uphill. However, I was pleasantly surprised that the most exotic-sounding one (in my humble opinion), the White Chocolate Macadamia Nut was in actual fact the best of the bunch, mainly due to the addition of white chocolate pieces compensating for the dry nature of the bars in general. However, the Crunchy Peanut Butter flavour came a close second, as CLIF have worked hard to make that bar more chewy and therefore slightly more moist.
The Chocolate Almond Fudge was a bit disappointing too – I thought that it would be the CLIF Bar version of Bakewell Tart but it just seemed difficult to eat, as did the Chocolate Chip version. The bars really fill a hole and contain on average 245 kcals per bar and provide plenty of slow release energy from the seeds and grains used.
CLIF pride themselves on using wholesome and nutritious ingredients and having no trans fats, hydrogenated fats or high fructose corn syrup. It should be noted though that under UK regulations CLIF Bar cannot state that the bars are organic or contain no transfats.
The wrappers are foil and although this keeps the contents fresh, it can hurt your teeth trying to rip it open (I can’t ride in a group of people non-handed so I have to use my teeth – but don’t tell my dentist!) however if you want weight for your £1, these are definitely substantial bars – you can feel the heft when you pick one up!
So, for marks out of 100, overall I would probably give the CLIF bar range 70% (good start, but some improvements needed) although I would give the White Chocolate Macadamia version 85%.
I confess to being rather skeptical about using Cliff Bars as I have had mixed experiences using energy or nutrition bars when riding, to the point that I have reverted to using trusty old jam and bread on most rides. My experience is that some are gooey and sticky, others sickly and worse still some that encouraged the production of some rather unpleasant gases, which was not good in the bunkhouse when all ten of us had been using the same product with the same effect! So needless to say I was a tad apprehensive when I was among a group of friends taking part in the Manchester 100 who would be testing a range of Cliff Bars. Fortunately we would not all be staying in the same room at the end of the day!
On the day we had four different flavours, Chocolate Chip, Chocolate Almond fudge, White Chocolate Macadamia Nut and Oatmeal Raisin Walnut, to test and we split them across the group of Team Parrotti riders. My son plumped for the Chocolate Chip and I tried the White Chocolate Macadamia Nut.
Out on the road we were particularly impressed with the ease of opening the packaging and the fact that the bar stayed intact allowing us to nibble on the bar and keep popping it back into our back pockets without making a mess. Which is great if you want to use them for a little pick up as you are riding.
The consistency of the bars is moist but not too gooey and this works really well when riding allowing you to take small bites without the bar falling apart. However you do need a sweet tooth as the bars are very very sweet but then that is not surprising considering nearly a third of the bar is sugar (between 21g – 23g for a 68g bar). This was the general experience of all Team Parrotti riders who tested the bars during our day out at the Manchester 100. We all agreed that the bars are worth carrying as a back up source of energy but we all felt that they are a little too sweet to use as a regular nutrition.
Of the flavours tested the clear favourite was Chocolate Chip with White Chocolate Macadamia Nut a close second. The least favourite was Chocolate Almond fudge which was incredible sweet and rather sickly.
The bottom line has to be ‘would we use Cliff Bars again?’ and the answer is a resounding yes. They provide a good energy boost that be easily nibbled on when needed and they are really easy to digest with no adverse effects (if you know what I mean!).
To learn more about CLIF Bars and their extensive range of products visit their website: www.clifbar.co.uk
Cycling Shorts overall rating for the Cliff Bar Range:
Slaying The Badger
LeMond, Hinault and the Greatest Ever Tour de France
by Richard Moore
I love sport – I love the grand tournament, the big match, the great race. What makes sport great for me is how it exposes personality – not just the obvious, like the braggadocio of a Muhammad Ali, the tortured genius of a Paul Gascoigne, the flamboyant elegance of a Valentino Rossi, but also those less touched by that kind of otherworldly ability and charisma, the Joe Fraziers, the Colin Hendrys, the Sete Gibernaus. And when the competition is at its peak, when everything is on the line, when the body, spirit and mind are stretched to the absolute limit, striving to overcome their peers, that’s when the personality is laid bare, that’s when sport is at its very best. There’s no hiding place on the pinnacle of the mountain.
Slaying The Badger tells such a story, of the 1986 Tour de France, a titanic battle between the two best riders in the race, team mates Bernard Hinault, the spiritual leader of the peloton in all his five-times victor pomp, and the young pretender, Greg Lemond, the blond-haired blue-eyed Californian golden boy. I’m sure a lot of readers are aware of how the race went down but if, like me, you go into the book knowing very little of the story of the ‘86 tour, I won’t spoil it for you by telling you what happens – what I WILL say is it was a great, classic race with a twist, and the triumph of Moore’s book is that it doesn’t get hung up on the step by step minutiae of the race, which frankly can be pretty dull (try rereading the text coverage of a stage – it’s not easy to make it a lively read). Instead, a sizeable percentage of the book is given over to Moore’s comprehensive modern-day interviews, not only with Hinault and Lemond, but also with some of their managers, coaching staff and team mates.
It’s Moore’s ability to portrait these characters in words – the pugnacious Hinault, the frankly scatty but puppyish Lemond – and weave them in around the other characters and events before, during and after the race that made this book stand out for me. The result is a gripping snapshot of this great race, a superbly detailed snapshot without getting bogged down in the nitty details – it’s not a pacy thriller that will leave you gasping at every turn, but it spins along at a thoughtful clip and informs as well as entertains. As a book for the cycling fanatic, whether you know the story of the race or not, it’s essential reading, but Moore’s elegant prose is so accessible that I’d have no problem thoroughly recommending this even to the non-cycling sports fan. This is a class piece of work.
Don’t forget to enter our competition to win a copy of the book! Click here to enter!
Closing date: 24/10/2012.
Slaying The Badger – LeMond, Hinault and the Greatest Ever Tour de France
Yellow Jersey Press (Random House)
Available in Paperback, iBook & Kindle
RRP £8.99 (Paperback), RRP £8.99 (iBook) RRP £8.99 (Kindle)
Half Man, Half Bike
by William Fotheringham
I imagine that almost everyone who has had the slightest interest in cycling would know the name of Eddy ‘The Cannibal’ Merck, and if you are like me, also know very little about him beyond that he is often quoted as the greatest racing cyclist that there has ever been.
William Fotheringham’s book certainly addresses this lack of knowledge and through extensive research and interviews, gives the reader a very detailed account of not only how he earned such a lofty title, but also why, what could motivate someone to claim 445 victories? Compared to Lance Armstrong, for instance, which tally below 100 (now following recent events, are several less!).
The introduction inside the cover describes it well:
‘His triumphs only tell half a story that includes horrific injury, a doping controversy and tragedy…..’
The author ‘…..goes back to speak to those who were there at the time and those who knew Merckx best. The result is this extraordinary and definitive story of a man whose fear of failure would drive him to reach the highest pinnacles before ultimately destroying him.’
We learn that his desire to win is an accumulation of many factors that have influenced him throughout his life, even the terrible aftermath of the Second World War has its part to play in shaping his character and popularity, even though he was born in 1945. This inherent fear of failure causes him to race without any regard to riding defensively, it never enters his mind to sit back and relax a little, conserve his energy, even with an apparently insurmountable margin over his rivals.
For example, during the 1969 Tour de France, he was already leading by over 8 minutes, but Merckx hammered a further 8 ½ minutes out of his nearest rivals during a 85 mile solo break in the Pyrenees, his reasoning was ‘just in case’ something went wrong, todays riders would just keep safely in the peloton and not risk over working themselves.
Another difference with the racing of today is the number of races he entered, some years as high as 151! He never treated a race as training, if he was on the start line it was because he planned to win. What surprises me even more is that he seems to be constantly fighting against injury and illness throughout his career.
His dominance guaranteed his place in history and his stardom, but as is often the case it came at a price, after a while he made racing too predictable, the fans and especially the other riders didn’t want him to enter, in their eyes he ‘killed cycling’ by taking all the wins and prize money. The fame also meant that his private life was constantly interrupted with media and fan demands, his household received around 50 phone calls a day, most dealt with and filtered by his Wife and not all them were pleasant.
This constant pressure, both created by himself and externally, eventually took its toll on his body and mind. It was not his way to pick a few races and just take the appearance fee, only the best performance would do, he must be capable of winning. So when this was no longer possible he retired, finding it difficult to adjust without the racing that had been such a large part of his life.
The book is a very good read and very well researched, it must have taken years of searching and organising to get the interviews and trace his life story.
I highly recommended it for anybody interested in cycle racing.
Now I know why he’s called the greatest, do you? Get a copy if you too want to know the story behind this unique man and cyclist. Merckx gets our Star Buy rating.
Don’t forget to enter our competition to win a Hardback copy of the book! Click here to enter!
Closing date: 24/09/2012.
Merckx – Half Man, Half Bike
Yellow Jersey Press (Random House) & Vintage Digital
Available in Hardback, iBook & Kindle
RRP £16.99 (Hardback), RRP £9.99 (iBook) RRP £16.99 (Kindle)
Must learn to smile next time (and breathe!) ©Korneel Wever
Track cycling has always been a favourite of mine. To watch that is. The anticipation of the cyclists lining up on the track, skin-tight lycra and a face full of determination and concentration, the whirring sound of the wheels spinning at 60kmph+ on a banked wooden track; the creaking boards going un-noticed under the sound of excitement. There has however, always been that little ‘voice’ inside, whispering at me with excitement at watching the pros do what they do best ‘you should do this Hayley, you’d love it!’. As a spectator though, the thought of taking the leap from a comfortable seat in the grandstand to the saddle of a track bike is daunting. But, I remind myself that I am Hayley *fearless* Davies, and I can do this!
Technically I had 9 months to prepare myself for my first experience, having had to cancel my initial session last January due to injury. Taking a leap of faith however, means committing, and so I booked myself on to the first ‘basic training’ session of the 2012/13 season at Amsterdam Velodrome.
Besides excited anticipation starting to form, small niggles of doubt were also playing on my mind in the weeks running up to the session; ‘what happens if I don’t enjoy it’ – counting on this experience to transform me from an average roady to a hooked-tracky; ‘do I have the power and speed it takes… let alone the lung capacity to get me through it?’ But, having built a network of track cycling friends around me, they yet again assured me in knowing my passion for speed; I am not only capable, but I will love it too. If they have faith in me, then I can have faith in me too!
Feeling confident! © Korneel Wever
With 3 indoor tracks throughout the Netherlands; the same number you’ll find in the whole of England and Wales, you could say we’re pretty lucky. When I moved to Holland 2 years ago, I jumped at the opportunity to watch the World Championships in Apledoorn, my first experience at seeing the events live. However, nothing can prepare you for the moment you are stood on the edge of the 200m track, overshadowed by the 47 degree banking; steeper than an average track of 250m – ‘oh my god! I can’t ride on that!’. Shutting the thoughts out, I get down to finding a bike (small enough) and circling the centre court ‘don’t forget you can’t free wheel. And you may find it easier to grab the side to clip in/out’ shouts the instructor. ‘Oh god. The banking is nothing. I have to clip in and out when stopped?!’ But, much to my delight, as seen on my face here, this bike is pretty comfy, and after completing a couple of event-free laps, I feel in control. I am ready!
The instructors gather us on the track and talk us through (in both Dutch and English, happily accommodating our expat needs!) a series of skill exercises from cruising the concrete, getting comfortable in the Cote d’Azur (the blue strip), and slowly coaxing us up onto the boards and around a set of cones set out and slowly moved up until we’re right up at the barriers on the top straight banking; all while looking around and becoming aware of the other rides on the track. Wow, that’s a lot of things to think about! Of course, I have a minor panic attack when a rider in front slows suddenly as I climb the boards, letting out a little squeak (much to the delight of my friends who happened to be sat on the barriers at that exact point); but, I control it and carry on… this isn’t so bad!
Happy with our track-maneuvering skills, we move on to the fast-flying laps. The part, to be honest, I was most nervous about. Split into two groups of 8; the first group is lead out by an instructor and told to build their speed to a minimum of 35kmph, the speed at which you have enough momentum to hug the boards through the banked corners. ‘What you won’t know’ the instructor starts, pointing out the lack of speedo, ‘is if you are actually at your optimum speed. You just have to go for it’. Thankfully, I was in the second group which gave me the opportunity to watch what the other riders were doing; and what they shouldn’t be doing!
Then comes our turn. With a deep breath, I push off from the side, behind 4 other cyclists and the instructor on my wheel. We build the speed to what must have been a comfortable 35kmph, until we’re riding in the ‘sprinters line’ – between the black and the red. Within the first fast lap I find myself gaining on the cyclist in front of me– ‘Over take Hayley!’ I hear from behind. Over take?! Is he mad?! That requires going higher… ‘OVER TAKE HAYLEY! DO IT NOW, BUILD YOUR SPEED’. OMG ‘I can’t do it’ I shout back ‘YES YOU CAN! DO IT NOW!”. That’s it, I’m going. I push through the pedals building my speed with power I didn’t know I have, take a quick glance behind and the next thing I know I’m up beyond the blue line, passing the 4 other cyclists that were in front of me, with the cool wind brushing against my skin. OH MY GOD!!! I’M FLYING! THIS IS AMAZING.
I don’t know whether I am holding my breath or if I am over come with adrenaline, but the room is spinning. I slow my speed and head back down to the Cote d’Azur, but after only one recovery lap, I’m back up and flying around again before the whistle is blown for us to gather back at the centre. The instructor gives us a couple of words of advice; to me ‘don’t build or break your speed so fast, other cyclists around you may not be able to respond’. Got it. We’re soon back on the track, riding in two groups, wheel to wheel until the final whistle is blown. Two and a half hours, over so soon? I was only just getting started!
Many say track cycling, regardless of whether it’s your first go, or your 10th go, is addictive. They’re not wrong! Speaking with the instructors after the session, I’m approved to move up into the ‘introduction level’. Not five minutes at home and I’m logged on to the website booking myself in for next Sunday’s session. My track cycling experience; to be continued….!
Basic introduction clinics are held at Amsterdam Velodrome on Sundays throughout September – March and include a 2.5 hour skill session with qualified trainers. Bike, shoes and helmet hire are also available starting from 11 Euros for the session.
Riding since Feb 2011 Hayley is a 30 year old female who loves adventures. If she’s not on one of her many bikes or in the water on a bodyboard/surfboard, then Hayley is probably out looking for something new to keep the adrenaline pumping!
Breaking the Chain
Drugs and Cycling – The True Story
by Willy Voet – Translated by William Fotheringham
Wow what a book. If you had ever wondered how and why the Festina incident exploded or rather imploded during the 1998 Tour de France then this is the book to read. A read that will be hard to put down and if you do will be itching to pick it up as soon as you can! Written by the Festina Team soigneur Willy Voet, the man who was caught red handed with a car full of team drugs. He shows you the murky world of team meds and doping from insiders perspective, it’s quite horrifying.
Actually this book goes much much further then you might have ever imagined, many riders who have used and abused drugs both legal and less then legal are named and in some instances shamed. You will also find out how riders are able to use banned substances and avoid testing positive by either timing of doses or the types of drugs and mixes used. In fact Mr Voet goes a step further and explains how within twenty minutes a rider can take an IV solution that will ensure the rider does not fail a random out of competition test, very convenient if the tester turns up while the rider is in the shower!
This book goes beyond any other book I have read about doping and certainly leaves nothing to the imagination, it also confirms many of the facts disclosed by other books I have read. There is so much more that I would love to tell you about but then it would not be worth you reading the book!
The bottom line is go out and buy a copy, it might not give you all the answers but I can guarantee that it will certainly get you thinking!
PS. If you think Lance is above and beyond suspicion then I would recommend that you read this book and some of the recent revelations from his soigneur are confirmed by Willy as standard practice at the time. It also ties in nicely with some of the issues covered in David Millar’s autobiography (Racing Through The Dark – The Fall and Rise of David Millar, read our review here) they make good companion books. This gets a Cycling Shorts Star Buy rating of 100%… the first!
This really is a must read if you want to make an informed decision about the state of cycling pre and post 1998.
Breaking the Chain: Drugs and Cycling – The True Story
Author: Willy Voet – Translated by William Fotheringham
Published by Yellow Jersey Press & Vintage Digital
Available in Paperback, iBook & Kindle
RRP £8.99 (Paperback), RRP £8.99 (eBook)