‘Cycling Science: How Rider and Machine Work Together’ by tech journalist Max Glaskin guides readers through a wide variety of topics, from tyre rolling resistance and the difference between yield strength and ultimate strength, to the importance of aerodynamics and any impact on speed of smoothly shaved legs.
The book is organised around a series of questions: What is the ideal frame shape? What is the biggest source of drag? What keeps a bicycle from falling over? How much power can a cyclist produce? Which muscles does cycling use? How efficient is a bike and why is it easier to ride than walk? Glaskin has condensed a great deal of often tricky subject matters and dry research papers into an entertaining, informative coffee-table book. It guides readers through the complexities of fundamental physics, engineering principles, materials science, as well as human anatomy and physiology. There are also primers on statistics, sociology and the history of cycling. ‘Cycling Science’ is illustrated throughout by colourful, infographic-style line drawings, which aid understanding.
Glaskin describes the self-stabilising dynamic models of the moving bicycle, a controversial topic among some specialists. Speed freaks will enjoy the chapter on wattage and power measurement; physicists will enjoy the info on Newton’s simplified second Law, moment of inertia and fundamental frequencies via harmonics.
Less academic than the classic Bicycling Science by David Gordon Wilson (and with more pictures), Glaskin’s book is written for a general audience.
‘Cycling Science’ is billed as "the perfect way to analyse your own kit and technique by studying the techniques of the professionals, Cycling Science is the ultimate accessory for any cyclist wishing to understand their craft" and proposes that "cycling is the best way possible for humans to travel."
Glaskin adds: “Cycling occupies a unique niche in the world. It satisfies concerns about the environment, sustainability, health and fitness, competition – while giving millions the freedom to travel independently. Their horizons forever expanded. These benefits would be mere anecdotes if it wasn’t for the fact that thousands of scientists have studied almost every aspect of this seemingly simple activity.”
(Simple? The book counters that. Bear in mind, it was two bicycle enthusiasts who used the science of cycling to create powered flight. How a cyclist banks and turns was the missing link in aviation theory enabling the Wright Brothers, rich bicycle shop owners, to get the first powered airplane off the ground).
In 1988 Glaskin co-authored ‘Mountain Biking’, with Jeremy Torr, one of the first UK books on the growing sport. Along with Torr, Glaskin founded the Mountain Bike Club in the mid-1980s.
He has contributed to newspapers and to magazines such as MIT’s Technology Review, Biophotonics International, The Engineer and New Scientist, through to Reader’s Digest.
Glaskin’s book contains a very detailed reference and further-reading list, with web links. Glaskin also posts relevant new research he finds – and which didn’t make it into his book – via his Twitter account.