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Cycling study investigating impact of aerodynamics on riders’ energy

A new study is investigating the relationship between optimising aerodynamics in time trial cycling and the impact it has on the energy of riders.

The researchers want to be able to calculate the best position for each rider

The project, led by a team at Nottingham Trent University, aims to identify the ‘tipping point’ at which more focus needs to be placed on aerodynamic or physiological optimisation of a rider’s position.

It is hoped that the work, which is taking place on a purpose-built track at the NEC in Birmingham, could help to inform professional teams’ rider optimisation strategies and their rider set-ups for triathlons, as well as other competitive time trial cyclists.

The team wants to replicate and improve some previous work undertaken in the laboratory, by taking an accurate measurement of aerodynamic drag during riding, coupled with detailed data regarding riders’ oxygen consumption.

The study, with ten trained triathletes and time trial riders, will involve riders completing several runs over one mile with the height of their handlebars being adjusted to increase or reduce the rider’s frontal area.

The researchers will then measure their aerodynamic drag and the amount of energy they are using in each position.

From this they will be able to calculate the best position for each rider accounting for both aerodynamic and physiological factors.

“We want to further understand the relationship between aerodynamic optimisation and physiological cost, so it’s a great sports engineering project,” said Dr Steve Faulkner, an expert in exercise physiology in Nottingham Trent University’s School of Science and Technology.

He said: “We want to explore the tipping point of aerodynamics and impact on energy. For example, it is unlikely you would ride in the same position for a 4,000m individual pursuit over four minutes as you would for a 180km triathlon and more than four hours of riding.”

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    Nottingham Trent University (NTU) was named University of the Year 2019 in the Guardian University Awards. The award was based on performance and improvement in the Guardian University Guide, retention of students from low-participation areas and attainment of BME students. NTU was also the Times Higher Education University of the Year 2017, and The Times and Sunday Times Modern University of the Year 2018. These awards recognise NTU for its high levels of student satisfaction, its quality of teaching, its engagement with employers, and its overall student experience.

    The university has been rated Gold in the Government’s Teaching Excellence Framework – the highest ranking available. It is one of the largest UK universities. With nearly 32,000 students and more than 4,000 staff located across four campuses, the University contributes £900m to the UK economy every year. With an international student population of more than 3,000 from around 100 countries, the University prides itself on its global outlook. The university is passionate about creating opportunities and its extensive outreach programme is designed to enable NTU to be a vehicle for social mobility. NTU is among the UK’s top five recruiters of students from disadvantaged backgrounds and was awarded University of the Year in the UK Social Mobility Awards 2019.

Cycling study investigating impact of aerodynamics on riders’ energy

Published on 13 May 2021
  • Subject area: Sciences including sport sciences
  • Category: Press office; Research; School of Science and Technology

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