Sports Engineering

, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp 59–74 | Cite as

The understanding and development of cycling aerodynamics

  • R. A. Lukes
  • S. B. Chin
  • S. J. Haake


In elite cycling the resistive force is dominated by aerodynamics. Be it on the roads or in the velodrome, the sport has many examples where aerodynamics has won and lost races. Since the invention of the bicycle, engineers have strived to improve performance, often by reducing aerodynamic drag. Over the last 50 years a number of authors have presented their efforts in journals, books and magazines. This review summarises the publications that show the continued development in the aerodynamics of cycling. The review concludes by examining the shortcomings of the current understanding and making suggestions for future research and development.


aerodynamics bicycle cycling drag fluid dynamics wind tunnel 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Apelt, C.J., West, G.A. & Szewczyk, A. A. (1975) The effects of wake splitter plates on, and the flow past, a circular cylinder in the range 104=Re=5104. Part 1.Journal of Fluid Mechanics,61, 187–198.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Ashley, S. (1993) Cheetah sprints to world record.American Society of Mechanical Engineers, 56–59.Google Scholar
  3. Bassett, D.R.J., Kyle, C.R., Passfield, L., Broker, J.P. & Burke, E.R. (1999) Comparing cycling world hour records, 1967–1996: modeling with empirical data.Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise,31 (11), 1665–1676.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Broker, J.P. (2003) Cycling power: Road and mountain. In:High-Tech Cycling: The Science of Riding Faster (ed. Burke, E. R.) Human Kinetics, Colorado, pp. 147–174.Google Scholar
  5. Brownlie, L.W., Kyle, C.R., Harber, E., MacDonald, R. & Shorten, M.R. (2004) Reducing the aerodynamic drag of sports apparel: Development of the Nike Swift sprint running and SwiftSkin speed skating suits In:5th International Conference on the Engineering of Sport, Vol. 1 (eds. Hubbard, M., Mehta, R. D. & Pallis, J. M.) U.C. Davis, USA, pp. 91–96.Google Scholar
  6. Capelli, C., Rosa, G., Butti, F., Ferretti, G., Veicsteinas, A. & di Prampero, P. (1993) Energy cost and efficiency of riding aerodynamic bicycles.European Journal of Applied Physiology,67 (1), 144–149.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Chin, K.Y. & Lim, L.K. (2001)The design of aerodynamically sound, bike’s helmet. Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Adelaide, Adelaide.Google Scholar
  8. Davies, C.T.M. (1980) Effect of air resistance on the metabolic cost and performance of cycling.European Journal of Applied Physiology & Occupational Physiology,45 (1), 245–254.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Grappe, F., Candau, R., Belli, A. & Rouillon, J.D. (1997) Aerodynamic drag in field cycling with special reference to the Obree’s position.Ergonomics,40 (12), 1299–1311.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Greenwell, D.I., Wood, N.J., Bridge, E.K L. & Addy R.J. (1995) Aerodynamic characteristics of low-drag bicycle wheels.Aeronautical Journal,99 (983), 109–120.Google Scholar
  11. Gross, A.C., Kyle, C.R. & Malewicki, D.J. (1983) Aerodynamics of Human-Powered Land Vehicles.Scientific American,249 (6), 126–134.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Hagberg, J.M. & McCole, S.D. (1990) The effect of drafting and aerodynamic equipment on the energy expenditure during cycling.Cycling Science,2 (3), 19–22.Google Scholar
  13. Hanna, K.R. (2002) Can CFD make a performance difference in sport? In:4th International Conference on the Engineering of Sport (eds. Ujihashi, S. & Haake, S.J.) Blackwell Science, Kyoto, Japan, pp. 17–30.Google Scholar
  14. Hill, R.D. (1993) Design and development of the LotusSport pursuit bicycle.Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Part D: Journal of Automobile Engineering,207 (4), 285–294.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Johnson, S.C. & Schultz, B.B. (1990) The physiological effects of aerodynamics handlebars.Cycling Science, 29–12.Google Scholar
  16. Kim, I. (1990) Racers, rough riders, and recumbents.Mechanical Engineering,112 (5), 52–59.Google Scholar
  17. Kyle, C.R. (1979) Reduction of wind resistance and power output of racing cyclists and runners travelling in groups.Ergonomics,22 (4), 387–397.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Kyle, C.R. (1989a) The aerodynamics of handlebars and helmets.Cycling Science,1 (1).Google Scholar
  19. Kyle, C.R. (1989b) The aerodynamics of helmets and handlebars.Cycling Science 1, 122–25.Google Scholar
  20. Kyle, C.R. (1990) Chain friction, windy hills and other quick calculations.Cycling Science,2 (3), 23–26.Google Scholar
  21. Kyle, C.R. (1991a) New aero wheel tests.Cycling Science,3 (1), 27–30.Google Scholar
  22. Kyle, C.R. (1991b) Wind tunnel tests of aero bicycles.Cycling Science,3 (1), 57–61.Google Scholar
  23. Kyle, C.R. (2003) Selecting cycling equipment. In:High-Tech Cycling: The Science of Riding Faster (ed. Burke, E.R.) Human Kinetics, Colorado, pp. 1–48.Google Scholar
  24. Kyle, C.R. & Brownlie, L. (2002) Scholar
  25. Kyle, C.R., Brownlie, L.W., Harber, E., MacDonald, R. & Nordstrom, M. (2004) The Nike Swift Spin cycling project: Reducing the aerodynamic drag of bicycle racing clothing by using zoned fabric. In:5th International Conference on the Engineering of Sport, Vol. 1 (Eds, Hubbard, M., Mehta, R.D. & Pallis, J.M.) UC Davis, USA, pp. 118–124.Google Scholar
  26. Kyle, C.R. & Burke, E.R. (1984) Improving the racing bicycle.Mechanical Engineering,106(9), 34–35.Google Scholar
  27. Lukes, R.A., Hart, J.H., Chin, S.B. & Haake, S.J. (2004) The aerodynamics of mountain bicycles: The role of computational fluid dynamics. In:5th International Conference on the Engineering of Sport, Vol. 1 (Eds, Hubbard, M., Mehta, R. D. & Pallis, J. M.) U.C. Davis, U.S.A., pp. 104–110.Google Scholar
  28. McCole, S.D., Claney K., Conte, J.C., Anderson, R. & Hagberg, J.M. (1990) Energy expenditure during bicycling.Journal of Applied Physiology,68 (2), 748–753.Google Scholar
  29. Melton, M. (1990) The Huffy composite triton.Cycling Science,2 (3), 8–12.Google Scholar
  30. Nonweiler, T. (1956)The air resistance of racing cyclists Cranfield College of Aeronautics, Cranfield.Google Scholar
  31. Nonweiler, T. (1958) The work production of man; studies on racing cyclists.Journal of Physiology,141 (1), pp. 8–9.Google Scholar
  32. Pons, D.J. & Vaughan, C.L. (1989) Mechanics of cycling. In:Biomechanics of Sport (ed. Vaughan, C.L.) CRC Press, pp. 289–315.Google Scholar
  33. Prampero di, P.E., Cortili, G., Mognoni, P. & Saibene, F. (1979) Equation of motion of a cyclist.Journal of Applied Physiology,47 (1), 201–206.Google Scholar
  34. Pugh, L.G.C.E. (1974) The relation of oxygen intake and speed in competition cycling and comparative observations on the bicycle ergometer.Journal of Physiology,241 (1), 795–808.Google Scholar
  35. Richardson, R.S. & Johnson, S.C. (1994) Effect of aerodynamic handlebars on oxygen consumption while cycling at a constant speed.Ergonomics,37 (5), 859–863.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Sunter, R.J. & Sayers, A.T. (2002) Aerodynamics of mountain bike tyres. In:4th International Conference of the Engineering of Sport (eds. Ujihashi, S. & Haake, S.J.) Blackwell Science, Kyoto, Japan, pp. 63–73.Google Scholar
  37. Swain, D.P., Coast, J.R., Clifford, P.S., Milliken, M.C. & Stray-Gundersen, J. (1987) Influence of body size and oxygen consumption during bicycling.Journal of Applied Physiology,62 (2), 668–672.Google Scholar
  38. Tew, G.S. & Sayers, A.T. (1999) Aerodynamics of yawed racing cycle wheels.Journal of Wind Engineering & Industrial Aerodynamics,82 (1), 209–222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Thompson, L. (1998) Engineering the world’s fastest bicycle. In:2nd International Conference on the Engineering of Sport (ed. Haake, S.J.) Blackwell Science, Sheffield, UK, pp. 99–109.Google Scholar
  40. van Ingen Schenau, G.J. (1988) Cycle power: a predictive model.Endeavour,12 (1), 44–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Whitt, F.R. & Wilson, D.G. (1982)Bicycling Science, The Massachusetts Institute of Technology.Google Scholar
  42. Zdravkovich, M.M. (1992) Aerodynamics of bicycle wheel and frame.Journal of Wind Engineering & Industrial Aerodynamics,40 (1), 55–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Zdravkovich, M.M., Ashcroft, M.W., Chisholm, S.J. & Hicks, N. (1996) Effect of cyclist’s posture and vacinity of another cyclist on aerodynamic drag. In:1st International Conference on the Engineering of Sport (ed. Haake, S.J.) A.A. Balkema, Sheffield, UK, pp. 21–28.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© isea 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Sports Engineering Research Group, Department of Mechanical EngineeringUniversity of SheffieldUK
  2. 2.Department of Mechanical EngineeringUniversity of SheffieldSheffieldUK

Personalised recommendations