Every bicyclist has to overcome wind resistance. Most recreational bicycles in which the rider sits up have very poor aerodynamics. While newer bicycles are being designed with better aerodynamics in mind, the human body is simply not well designed to slice through the air. Bicycle racers are aware of the problem of wind resistance and over the years have developed techniques for reducing it. Bicycle designers and inventors have experimented in developing alternative bicycle designs and HPVs (human- powered vehicles) with an emphasis on better aerodynamic performance.
Every cyclist who has ever pedaled into a stiff headwind knows about wind resistance. It’s exhausting! In order to move forward, the cyclist must push through the mass of air in front of her. This takes energy. Aerodynmaic efficiency–a streamlined shape that cuts through the air more smoothly–enables a cyclist to travel much faster, with less effort. But the faster the cyclist goes, the more wind resistance he experiences, and the more energy he must exert to overcome it. When racing cyclists aim to reach high speeds, they focus not only on greater power, which has its human limitations, but also on greater aerodynamic efficiency.
Frame builders and designers have been working on creating more aerodynamically efficient designs. Some recent designs have concentrated on shifting from round tubes to oval or tear-shaped tubes. There is a delicate balancing act between maintaining a good strength-to-weight ratio while improving aerodynamic efficiency. Improvements to wheels have made perhaps the biggest impact. A standard spoked wheel has been described as an “egg beater,” creating many small eddies as the tire rotates–creating drag. Disc wheels, while generally heavier than their spoked counterparts, produce less wind drag and turbulence when they spin.