The Science Behind the Bike is a series produced for the Open University by Cyclevox. Four eight-minute films investigate how science and technology have transformed the sport of cycling. The four films – embedded below – are the History of the Hour Record, Technology, Physiology and Forces.
The films feature Olympic gold-medallists Chris Boardman and Rebecca Romero and Paralympian gold-medallist Sarah Storey. Throughout the films viewers hear from design experts and cycling legends such as Graeme Obree, Francesco Moser, Gerard Vroomen, Simon Smart, Esme Taylor and others.
Cyclevox founder Anthony McCrossan said: "This project has been extremely interesting to work on. We have worked with some great people to produce the series. The films offer a great understanding about all the concepts that go into cycling and how hard individuals work to achieve their goals."
In the film on the technology of cycling, Chris Boardman talks about the Lotus monocoque carbon bike on which he won Olympic gold in 1992:
"The Lotus bike came from a guy called Mike Burrows. He said wings is what people use in other industries to cut through air so why do we make it a collection of tubes? We’ve got this wonderful new material, carbon fibre, that we can shape it however we like and it will still be structurally sound."
Simon Smart, an English aerodynamacist and consultant to Enve wheels of Utah, said:
"The year that I worked in Formula One the experimentation became very, very important and that was because we were looking for really small incremental gains all the time. And I think that skill was probably the most important skill that I brought across to doing aerodynamic development in the bicycle industry. We’ve tested many people in this wind tunnel – over two hundred and fifty amateur and professional riders – and the one thing that always comes home is that ultimately it’s achieving the [best aero] position that’s fundamental."
Talking about future developments, bike designer Gerard Vroomen, formerly of Cervelo, said:
"I really see a trend towards further system integration so components and the wheels and the frame all come together and are designed together. We already started doing that so that when we design a frame we talk to the wheel manufacturer and see what they’re working on so that we know for sure that in the end all those things work together nicely both from an aerodynamic and from a structural point of view. So we see a big trend towards that and the other big trend is electronics. We see that in shifting. We see hydraulics in brakes so there’s just some new technologies, not necessarily new in the world but new you know to the bike industry that will start to take over certain functions of the bike. Boardman added that bike science borrowed from Formula One but was also about taking inspiration from other areas, including nature:
"You can also look for stimulus in the natural world because there’s billions of years of evolution there that has arrived at designs and we don’t know why. We’re exploring shark skins for hydrodynamics. When you put scaly denticle skin under the microscope you find micro vortices that help the hydrodynamics. It’s all being explored."
The four films are downloadable to computers, iPads and iPhones via iTunesU.