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Engineering cycling gold

Hands-on at the exhibit

  • Find out how different parts of an Olympic track bicycle work and how they are specially designed for speed
  • Learn how we measure friction losses on a bicycle with precision using a brass model of our precision pendulum test rig
  • Look at some chain motion results using a camera that takes a quarter of million frames per second and slows down motion by 10,000 times.

Find out more

A lot of technology goes into helping world class cyclists – the Chris Hoys of our cycling world - be the best they can be. Engineering scientists are working hard to produce the fastest racing bicycles in the world which can be raced at up to 80 km per hour, so the cyclists can get their place on the medal podium! Races can be won or lost in one thousandth of a second, so having a bicycle fully optimised for speed in every area is crucial for success.

Our research is working out how to help a racing team to achieve their fastest times and break world records. We have developed an Olympic bicycle transmission – and it has taken five test rigs, three years, two researchers and a world-class laboratory! Our special test rigs identify the best combination of components and the best assembly set-up that gives the best efficiency and hence enables a racing team to achieve their fastest times. They show exactly how much power loss there is due to friction and vibration, and find out the efficiency and smoothness of the chain drive used on Olympic bikes. Two of our rigs were the first test rigs in the world to use a clockwork pendulum principle inspired by mechanical clocks, alongside precision lasers and high speed cameras, to measure friction losses. They can measure transmission efficiency to up to 0.02% accuracy, which is the most accurate measurement of chain efficiency in the world.

Making cycling more efficient encourages more people to get out of their cars and get on their bikes. And beyond the world of cycling, our research has far reaching implications - many applications, from motorcycles and cars through to manufacturing plants, use chain drive systems. By making these systems more efficient, less energy will be consumed, reducing energy waste and helping our environment.

Find out more about our research.

Presented by: University of Bristol and Renold.