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Physics, Sport, Uncategorized

Does the cyclist or the equipment matter more?

There are many ways that a person can modify a bike to give themselves an advantage and with two major cycling events (Tour of Alberta – road cycling and FISE world action sports festival – a couple different BMX events and mountain bike slope style) in Edmonton in September these modifications have been on my mind. I’m going to look at BMX sprint racing today.

Clip pedals or pedals that you can connect your shoes to are commonly seen in a lot of cycling events that require speed. Romero-Rodriguez, Mateo-March, and Zabala (2013) looked at how these pedals affected sprinting speeds and if age and experience had any effect. Not surprisingly to anyone who has used some sort of clip, the clips had a significant effect on sprinting speeds. What was surprising was that none of the other variables affected this. The improvement was seen across the board, regardless of age, cycling experience, and level. So, in racing terms that means you can start using the pedals early.


Bike shoes with cleats for clipping into pedals

Another piece of equipment that I had seen in road cycling but didn’t know it had made its way into BMX sprinting was oval chain rings. Standard chain rings are circular; the idea behind the oval ones is that the shape helps to maximize your power during the down part of the pedal stroke. These are still an acquired taste it seems based on how few riders use them. Mateo-March et al (2014) found that the oval rings helped elite cyclists during the starting sprint in BMX but it did not affect the performance of less skilled riders. So, unlike the pedals, there would definitely be a point where there was an advantage to switching to the non-circular chain rings. I wonder if there would be more advantage if you did train on the non-circular rings at lower skill levels so that you developed your skills specifically for your equipment.

About Tai Munro

I am passionate about making science, sustainability, and sport accessible through engaging information and activities.


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