Sports Engineering

, Volume 15, Issue 2, pp 73–80 | Cite as

Bicycle aerodynamics: an experimental evaluation methodology

  • Harun ChowdhuryEmail author
  • Firoz Alam
Original Article


Aerodynamically efficient sports equipment/accessories and athlete body postures are considered to be the fundamental aspect to achieve superior performance. Like other speed sports, the aerodynamic optimisation is more crucial in cycling. A standard full-scale testing methodology for the aerodynamic optimisation of a cyclist along with all accessories (e.g., bicycle, helmet, cycling suit, shoes and goggle) is not well developed, documented, and standardised. This paper describes a design and development of a full-scale testing methodology for the measurement of aerodynamic properties as a function of cyclist body positions along with various accessories over a range of wind speeds. The experimental findings indicate that the methodology can be used for aerodynamic optimisation of all cycling sports.


Wind tunnel Full-scale test Aerodynamic drag Cycling Experimental measurement 


  1. 1.
    Abramoff MD, Magelhaes PJ, Ram SJ (2004) Image processing with ImageJ. Biophotonics Int 1:36–42Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Alam F, Chowdhury H, Elmira Z, Sayogoa A, Love J, Subic A (2010) An experimental study of thermal comfort and aerodynamic efficiency of recreational and racing bicycle helmets. Procedia Eng 2:2413–2418CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Brownlie LW, Kyle CR, Harber E, MacDonald R, Shorten MR (2004) Reducing the aerodynamic drag of sports apparel: development of the NIKE Swift sprint running and SwiftSkin speed skating suits. In: Hubbard M, Mehta RD, Pallis JM (eds) The engineering of sport 5, vol 1. International Sports Engineering Association, UK, pp 90–96Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Chowdhury H, Alam F, Mainwaring DE, Subic A, Tate M, Forster D (2008) Methodology for aerodynamic testing of sports garments. In: The proceedings of the 4th BSME-ASME international conference for thermal engineering, BSME, Dhaka, pp 409–414Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Chowdhury H, Beneyto-Ferre J, Tate M, Alam F, Mainwaring D, Forster D, Subic A (2009) Effects of textile and garment design on aerodynamic characteristics applied to cycling apparel. In: The impact of technology on sports III. RMIT University, Australia, pp 131–136Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Chowdhury H, Alam F, Subic A (2010) Aerodynamic performance evaluation of sports textile. Procedia Eng 2:2517–2522CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Faria IE (1992) Energy expenditure, aerodynamics and medical problems in cycling—an update. Sports Med 14:43–63CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Faria E, Parker D, Faria I (2005) The science of cycling factors affecting performance—part 2. Sports Med 35:313–337CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Jekendup AE, Martin J (2001) Improving cycling performance: how should we spend our time and money. Sports Med 31:559–569CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Kyle CR, Caiozzo VJ (1986) The effect of athletic clothing aerodynamics upon running speed. Med Sci Sports Exerc 18:509–515Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Kyle CR, Brownlie LW, Harber E, MacDonald R, Norstrom M (2004) The Nike Swift Spin cycling project: reducing the aerodynamic drag of bicycle racing clothing by using zoned fabrics. In: Hubbard M, Mehta RD, Pallis JM (eds) The engineering of sport 5, vol 1. International Sports Engineering Association, UK, pp 118–123Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Lucia A, Earnest C, Arribas C (2003) The Tour de France: a physiological review. Scand J Med Sci Sports 13:275–283CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Reid J, Wang EL (2000) A system for quantifying the cooling effectiveness of bicycle helmets. J Biomech Eng 122:460–475CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Takaishi T, Sugiura T, Katayama K, Sato Y, Shima N, Yamamoto T, Moritani T (2002) Changes in blood volume and oxygenation level in a working muscle during a crank cycle. Med Sci Sports Excerc 34:520–528CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Wolski LA, McKenzie DC, Wenger HA (1996) Altitude training for improvements in sea level performance. Is there scientific evidence of benefit? Sports Med 22:251–263CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Kyle CR, Burke ER (1984) Improving the racing bicycle. Mech Eng 106(9):34–35Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Lukes RA, Hart JH, Chin SB, Haake SJ (2004) The aerodynamics of mountain bicycles: the role of computational fluid dynamics. In: Hubbard M, Mehta RD, Pallis JM (eds) 5th international conference on the engineering of sport. UC Davis, USA, pp 104–110Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Tour de France (2010) Accessed 26 January 2011
  19. 19.
    Lukes RA, Chin SB, Haake SJ (2005) The understanding and development of cycling aerodynamics. Sports Eng 8:59–74CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Grappe F, Candou R, Belli A, Rouillon JD (1997) Aerodynamic drag in field cycling with special reference to the Obree’s position. Ergonomics 40:1299–1311CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Brownlie LW (1992) Aerodynamic characteristics of sports apparel, Ph.D. Thesis, University of British Columbia, CanadaGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Kyle CR (2003) Selecting cycling equipment. In: Burke ER (ed) High-tech cycling: the science of riding faster. Human Kinetics, Colorado, pp 1–48Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Davies CTM (1980) Effect of air resistance on the metabolic cost and performance of cycling. Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol 45(1):245–254CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Gross AC, Kyle CR, Malewicki DJ (1983) Aerodynamics of human-powered land vehicles. Sci Am 249(6):126–134CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Pugh LGCE (1974) The relation of oxygen intake and speed in competition cycling and comparative observations on the bicycle ergometer. J Physiol 241(1):795–808Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Nonweiler T (1958) The work production of man; studies on racing cyclists. J Physiol 141(1):8–9Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Debraux P, Bertucci W, Manolova AV, Rogier S, Lodini A (2009) New method to estimate the cycling frontal area. Int J Sports Med 30:266–272CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Capelli C, Rosa G, Butti F, Ferretti G, Veicsteinas A, Di Prampero PE (1993) Energy cost and efficiency of riding aerodynamic bicycles. Eur J Appl Physiol 67:144–149CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Heil DP (2002) Body mass scaling of frontal area in competitive cyclists not using aero-handlebars. Eur J Appl Physiol 87:520–528CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Heil DP (2001) Body mass scaling of projected frontal area in competitive cyclists. Eur J Appl Physiol 85:358–366CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© International Sports Engineering Association 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Aerospace, Mechanical and Manufacturing EngineeringRMIT UniversityMelbourneAustralia

Personalised recommendations