Aerodynamics and Cycling: World hour record

A lot has changed in the world of professional cycling. Nowadays aerodynamic research has become one of the main topics for investigation of new bikes. Today almost every manufacturer has a separete aerodynamic line beside the main line. But because of the competition between bike manufacturers a lot of improvements have been realised during the years.
Most of the improvements were realized by the introduction of the world hour record. A simple record were the rider needs to cover as much distance as he can in one hour on a velodrome.
Eddy Merckx led the rankings for a long time with a distance of 49.441 km until Fransesco Moser broke his record in 1984.

His bike was much more sophesticated. The main improvements where the full wheels and the change of the riders position. After Fransesco the record was broken several times along with different designs according to the aerodynamics of the bike and the rider. It was a hot topic trying to beat the record and how far they could go to get the most efficient bike allong with the position of the rider. Things get out of hand, the bikes and positions were getting too extreme.
The UCI put a lot of restrictions on the aerodynamic design and the riders position. After a while the attempt of Eddy Merckx was even reinstated, because they found it the greatest attempt on the world hour record.

Because of these restrictions the rider needed to ride on a basic track bike without aerobars. This restriction was unattractive for modern riders. For this reason the UCI tried to revive the challenge of the world hour record by easing the rules of the record. The bike didn’t have to be a standard track bike, but could be a modern time trial bike. For this reason the time trial position with handlebars was approved. Since the easing of the record already four riders beated the record. The current recordist is Rohan Denis with a distance of 52.491 km. If you compare this result with the performance of Eddy Merckx it’s an improvement of 3 km/hour.

This is were the discussion starts. Should the new recordist be on the charts as the all time world hour recordholder? Can you compare the performance of modern riders with new technology with the performances of old day riders? Should the UCI have easied the rules of the record, isn’t it more beautiful if the record is based on men’s power and a simple bike? Does bike manufacturers play a too large role in the performance of the rider? Should we go back to the old days were it was more men against men?

For me it’s clear. I love the new rules for the hour record, but there should be two classes. One with the new modern rules and one as it was done in the old days. Do bike manufacturers play a too large role in the peloton? Maybe, Specialized is known as a well performed advanced bike manufucturer and for some reason it looks like most of the great champions of last year have been riding on a Specialized especially when we go to the aerodynamic bikes used in time trials. For the last 8 years the world champion time trial won with the aid of a Specialized time trial bike. Coincidence?

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  1. I’m definitely in on the two classes system, maybe even three? One where the most simple bikes are used for men-against-men, one where UCI puts a lot of restrictions on the bicycles and surroundings and one where manufacturers and riders can go completely crazy. In my opinion it is important to have a completely open form of engineering, thinking out of the box can really stimulate the beginning of unexpected ideas. If this is putted in to some sort of competition -world hour record is perfect-, manufacturers will feel the urge to try new things.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I totally agree. Starting from scratch and letting your imagination go could lead to, in our eyes, maybe ridiculous bikes. They won’t look like the bike as we know it but they will maybe lead to extreme performances!


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