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Monday, September 27, 2010

Aerodynamics in cycling and how to be faster with no additional effort

There are a number of factors which determine how fast you can ride.  The biggest, of course, is your power output, followed by your position, your riding equipment (bearing friction and tire resistance for example), and your weight.  Additionally the road grade, wind speed/direction, temperature and even elevation all play factors in determining your velocity on a bicycle.

Becoming as aerodynamic as possible is by far and away the best way to improve your cycling velocity with the least amount of effort.  The below chart (Figure 1) illustrates how a velocity is affected by a cyclist's power output and body position on the bike.  Hopefully we all know that the relationship between power and speed is not linear (straight line).  Rather, it takes progressively greater amounts of energy (watts) for each mile per hour gained. 

Figure 1:  Relationship between Power, Body Position, and Velocity

  Figure 2:  The Effect of Hand/Arm Position on Power and Velocity
Figure 2 illustrates the effects of aerodynamics due to body position.  Two important points: (1) again the graph lines are not linear (as mentioned above); and (2) the bike speeds start close together at lower speeds and progressively separate.   With each additional watt, the more aero-position (aerobars) becomes increasingly faster than the less aero-position (hoods).  

Does Equipment and Weight Matter?

Having aerodynamic equipment is typically far more important than having light equipment.  For example:  two kilograms of weight savings for me would only drop my 40K TT by 3.6 seconds on a flat course.  Yet just adding an aerodynamic fork vs using a standard fork can mean a decreased time of about 30 seconds or even more for an over-sized round fork - up to 50 seconds.

Weight does play an important role for climbing, and accelerating and for rotating parts such as wheels, shoes, pedals and cranks.  In a nutshell, lighter is better.  But keep in mind that once your equipment is up to speed its weight becomes significantly incredibly less important (including wheels).  Once you have broken the 10 mile per hour speed (16 kph) barrier (no wind) aerodynamics is again king for determining ultimate velocity.  At speed below 10 mph (16kph) aerodynamics are generally not in play. See Figure 3 (below) for an illustration of road grade, speed, position and aerodynamics. 
Figure 3:  road grade, position and aerodynamics v. speed
The funny thing about cycling and hills is that you can not recapture the loss of speed from climbing by going down the same  hill.  Let me give specifics to illustrate this:  I can ride 10 miles (16.1 km) on a flat road, in my drops, at an average speed of 26.18 mph (42.1 kph) in 22.92 minutes at 340 watts.  With the exact same effort and position, I would travel up a 5 mile (8 km) hill with a 6% grade at an average speed of 12.59 mph (20.26 kph) in 23.84 minutes.  Going downhill, I would average 41.94 mph (67.5kph) and complete the descent in just 7.15 minutes.  The combined incline and decline results would give an average speed of 19.36 mph (31.15 kph) and a travel time of 30.99 minutes.  In short, this hilly course (the same total distance as the flat course) would slow my average speed down by 6.82 mph (10.97 kph) and add 8.07 minutes total travel time compared to a flat course.  Incidentally,  if  I didn't pedal at all on the down hill section I would only lose another  0.76 mph (1.2 kph) average speed and add 1.25 minutes to the total travel time.  There is not a good performance return for pedaling down steep hills. 

Do Tires Matter?

Figures 4 and 5 (below) provide additional support, and are followed by  real treat for readers who are techno geeks like myself.  The figure 4 shows that narrower tires have greater rolling resistance, but yet are still faster because of aerodynamics!  Figure 5 shows that tubular tires have less rolling resistance than clinchers.  (So tubulars are lighter, faster, and corner better.... yes they cost more).
Figure 4:  Effect of Tire Width on Rolling Resistance
Figure 5:  Effect of Tire Width on Power Output
 Bike Calculator

And now the real treat (or at least I think it's the bomb) is a bike performance calculator.  It is massively cool for allowing you to see the effects of wind, weight, power, temperature, elevation, body position, and even tires on cycling performance.  After inputting a few values, this handy calculator will determine your velocity, time, calories, and weight loss.  From my real world experiences, I have found it to be amazingly reliable, but I should point out that it is only a model and is not without some degree of flaw.  But judge for yourself.  

Figure 6 (below) is an photo image of the calculator , and if you click on the title you will be linked to the site that hosts it.  I have also added it to my sidebar as a link titled "Bike Calculator" under "Links to people and things that I like".  
Figure 6:  Bike Calculator

Drafting Aerodynamics

The effects of aerodynamics is HUGE in road racing, time trials, criteriums, and even sprinting.  For example, drafting can reduce oxygen costs by 25 to 40 percent.  Figure 7 (below) offers a great illustration of the effects of aerodynamics and drafting:  a world class track team time trial riders can produce the following average wattages in a pace-line (traveling around 35 mph):  
First rider will produce around 607 watts (+/- 45), 
2nd rider 430 watts (+/- 39), 
3rd rider 389 watts (+/-32), 
4th rider 389 watts (+/-33).  

Notice that there is a decreasing advantage drafting in 3rd position over 2nd, but no further advantage after 3rd position.  (From this and other points within this post you can deduce that your front wheel is more important than your rear wheel concerning aerodynamics and performance, yet the rear wheel still matters!)

Figure 7:  Drafting Aerodynamics Illustrated
Ideal drafting greatly reduces a riders energy expenditure (as discussed above) and is a critical component of bicycle racing.

In order to increase your velocity while sprinting, it is extremely valuable to have a good aerodynamic form.  This means producing the smallest frontal area possible, along with a streamlined position.  So put your head low, back flat, and ideally keep your elbows in (if power can still be generated sufficiently).  Mark Cavendish and all the sprinters pictured in the photo in this link have perfect aerodynamic form while sprinting.  

To summarize, an aerodynamic wheel is more valuable than a lighter wheel for most racing applications.  Weight plays a larger role concerning velocity during acceleration and hill climbing (especially for rotating parts such as wheels, shoes, pedals and cranks).  On flat courses, after accelerating, the weight of a wheel (etc) is almost a non-factor when compared to the performance effects of a highly aerodynamic wheel. 

A rider would be wise to ride in an aerodynamic position at all times where the speed is above 10mph even when drafting in a field (riding in the drops vs sitting up with hands on the bars).  
Pedaling hard down descents is not very productive due to the increasing effects of wind resistance.  Average speed can be increased on a hilly courses by careful disbursement of increased effort on uphills and lessening to no effort on descents vs a constant effort over that same distance.

Consider the information provided here and ride accordingly.  Your senses can not perceive the energy savings or the speed increases from good cycling form, but all of the measures devices (speedometer, watt-meter, etc.) can and will.  It can make the difference between winning and losing.  

If I can think of any more useful points I will add them to this post over time.  Any suggestions are appreciated!   

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Mountain Bike Fail

Usually I post my video first and then put the write up after.  I think in this case a viewer would be slightly  better off reading this build-up first. 

The following video is actually not serious at all, but is meant to be humorous.  I admit it's not Jim Carey funny, but more like David Henderson funny.  Of course I'm not paid as much as Jim and this video may explain why.

At any-rate, it is important for my viewers to know that I am trying to be serious and that I am trying to stay focused to accomplish my goal of climbing a steepish rocky climb that's a bit difficult.

In my defense something distracted me.  Damn it! 

This is so embarrassing!

[ Special Note:  I have a "Music Player" gadget, 4th down to the right. You may run audio from it or the video as you see fit by pausing the music player or muting the embedded video. Enjoy!]

To learn about the best video camera in the world for videoing cycling (which is the cameras that I use for my videos) click here. 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Masters National Road Race Championship

[Special Note:  I have a "Music Player" gadget, 4th down to the right. You may run audio from it or the video as you see fit by pausing the music player or muting the embedded video. Enjoy!]

The above video of  the USA Cycling Masters Road National Championship Men 40-44 was shot at Louisville Kentucky on August 6, 2010.

Before I can properly discuss this race I have to review last year's National Championship. Several people were affected by it (including myself) and  I believe that the results had significance on this year's race.

Last year Roger Aspholm and I were in the leading break-a-way (leading by something like 20 seconds) on the final lap of the National Championship race.  I jumped first with 400 yards to go up a moderate incline and into the finishing chute of the course.  Eventually Roger inched up alongside me, until we were neck and neck charging to the finish line.  We both threw our bikes at the line and I instantly knew that he had beaten me by a couple inches.    It was so damn close!  I missed a National Championship title by the closest of margins!  Flashing through my mind were all of the countless hours of training, the expenses of equipment, traveling, and entry fees, along with the sacrifices, the suffering, and the hopes and dreams for this one moment,  only to be beaten by a nip at the line!  I let it out in a roar as I came to a halt.

But then, things went from bad to worse!

My friend Fred came up to me and said, "You better go protest."
"Protest?" I said, "I just got beat.  There's nothing to protest."
"You guys did an extra lap." Fred says, "They've got it all screwed up."

It turned out that we had indeed done an extra lap.  There were several reasons why.  1. The finish was on an attached chute or arm of the course (not on the main course).  The course was never closed for the finish.  In fact the pace motorcycle had led Roger and I around for another lap!  Race officials said that the course was left open to allow lapped riders (on a 5 mile course) to continue racing. 2. The lap counter was at zero on lap two and one. 3. Roger asked the pace motorcycle/official what lap we were on.  The official indicated one more to go (he was also confused, it was bell lap). 3. On the bell lap, there was no bell for Roger and me.  Apparently the bell ringer thought Roger and I were not the lead riders, but instead were lapped riders (there were many).  4. The bell ringer did ring the bell for chasing riders behind us (several people told me this).

So on what was the actual finishing lap Roger and I were clearly in the lead by a significant margin.  As we missed the finishing chute, spectators began yelling at us to turn back, but we had already made our turn and their shouting just sounded like cheering.  (this next part is from spectators/friends accounts) The next group of three also started to make the wrong turn, but they were able to understand the crowd's pleas and they turned around and started racing to the finish line, but they were caught by another chase group and passed in the sprint.

My understanding is that what would have been 5th place became 1st place.  Roger and I were officially placed at 53rd 54th.  They denied our protest and said that, "it is the riders responsibility to know the course." And that was that.

I took it a bit easier than Roger, mainly because I felt I was only cheated out of second place.  For Roger it was the National Title.  He swore he would never do another Masters National race again.  He wasn't too happy about the whole thing.

The next day was totally different.  I experienced something that I totally didn't expect.  In fact, even now, I'm still impressed by it.  I don't think I have ever heard of something like it in competitive sports. 

Daniel Casper was officially awarded the second place medal in our Masters National Road Race.   He came up to me and said, "This is yours", and handed me the silver medal from the previous days National Championship race.  I was amazed and I told him how much I appreciated it (and I really did).  In my book Daniel Casper is the true definition of a Champion:  first among competitors in honor and integrity.
So that's the background story leading up to this year's race that is featured in the above video.  Some things did change and some didn't.  The race officials went all out this year.  The course was completely closed off and did not have a special finishing chute.  The lap counter was high tech and digital.  The announcers were highly professional.  The officials even required riders to wear electronic chips to keep track of the riders in the race.   I was told (but I can't confirm) that last year's chief official was not invited to return.

So what didn't change?  The course was the same, and the race roster was nearly the same, including one Roger Aspholm.  He swore he wouldn't come back!  When I saw his name of the list of registered riders, I thought, "Damn it, he's going to be hard to beat!" 

Damn straight, he won again! (Sorry for the video spoiler).  I did the best I could, but I was pretty spent after a bridge-up to the lead break-a-way.  I never really recovered.

After the race I saw Roger and I said, "How did you do?" (I really didn't know yet)
He looked at me and smiled, "I won."
I congratulated him.  I was really happy for him and said, "Well, that ought to help make up for last year."
"A little." He smiled again.  
To which I said, "I'll do well tomorrow.  I always race better on the second day."

Damn straight!
To learn about the best video camera in the world for videoing cycling (which is the cameras that I use for my videos) click here.

Friday, September 3, 2010


Buy GoPro HERO Camera at

The chest mount

vented helmet mount, quick release

vented helmet mount

head strap mount

seatpost mount

under stem off of spacer using bar mount

my front mount with homemade stabilization braces 

tripod mount

The best camera for videoing your world from a bicycle is without a doubt the HD Hero camera from GoProCamera.  Of course proof is in the pudding, or video as they say.  Check my humbly submitted video samples at the bottom of this post and scan the information below and decide for yourself.  Note:  my videos where recorded with the Hero HD camera and since that time the GoPro has released the Hero2 and now the Hero3.  While my video quality is quite good - as you can see for yourself - the current Hero3's (soon to be your multipurpose video camera) video quality is significantly better.

This camera is hands free (or hands on if you prefer) and extremely versatile.  It can be used far beyond just  videoing and photographing cycling, ranging all the way from scuba-diving to skydiving, standard photography, time lapse photography and beyond.   On this post you will find a detailed list of the HD Hero's stats and abilities, and several images showing  a range of different mounting methods that I use for this camera (there are many more, especially if you are clever).  I also have sample videos  that I have produced from this camera using different mounts as references for videoing from a bicycle, and a couple videos showing this camera's ability to do live and wireless feeds, and the latest video display device that just came available.

Just click any of the GoPro links to buy the world's most versatile high definition multipurpose camera from the parent company GoPro® HD Helmet HERO™ Camera.

At the very minimum I recommend watching the last video on this post.  It's absolutely amazing!  It's produced by the GoPro folks and it shows a bunch of different examples of what the camera can be used for.   

Update: GoProCamera has just released a new Hero3 camera that includes a built in Wi-Fi that enables remote control via remote or live video preview and remote control on smartphones and tablets running the free GoPro app high speed high definition recording (1440p48/1080p60/720p120 fps), 30% smaller, 25% lighter, 2x more powerful than previous models (Hero & Hero2).  Also the new cameras include Built-in Wi-Fi which enables remote control via Wi-Fi Remote or live video preview and remote control on smartphones and tablets running the free GoPro app.

Below is a video produced by the folks at GoProCamera describing some of the features in their latest release of their Hero3 camera:

A recent update:  GoProCamera has developed and released an attachable/removable LCD video screen with a built in speaker for live viewing,  and instant playback of videos (with sound) and photos. (see below).

Another update:  GoProCamera has developed and released a battery pac device which doubles the recording time on their rechargeable lithium batteries.  (see below)

Another update:  GoPro Camera has added a 3D Hero System.  It's the worlds smallest 3D High Definition Camera!  (see below) 

Another update:  GoPro Camera has just added a Wi-Fi bacPac and Remote.  This will allow wireless live streaming videos and photos for viewing on the internet or smartphone.  And a long range remote control of up to 50 separate cameras.

I understand that most folks want an awesome cheap camera.  Here's the thing...... GoProCamera's are just that.  In the last decade a high definition video camera cost literally a couple thousand dollars (or more) and were quite large,  and couldn't touch the abilities of the GoPro.  The technology vs cost factors are now at a premium for buyers.  Inflation will not allow these (or any other camera for that matter) to become any cheaper.  So if you are waiting for cheaper you will NEVER buy any camera because they will only rise in price.  If you are looking for better, look no further because there honestly isn't anything better than a  GoProCamera.  The old saying, "You get what you pay for",  holds true with GoProCameras.

GoPro's only real competitor is the HD Contour camera and GoPro honestly blows them out of the water.  First of all the GoPro is more affordable because they include a waterproof case.  With the Contour you have to pay extra.   The video quality is the same because they both use the exact same technology however The GoPro is far superior  because of their clever design for mounting systems and their expansion bus for accessories.  Specifically the expansion port allows the attachment of a LCD video monitor for playback with sound.  It turns the camera into a powerful everyday camera. 

Currently only the best version of the camera is available (there has been several increasingly improved versions):  The Hero 3, that comes in three flavors:

  • White Edition for $199.99,   5MP camera, 3 fps burst, video:  1080p30 / 960p30 / 720fps, Wi-Fi Built-in, Wi-Fi Remote + App compatible
  • Black Edition for #399.99, 12MP camera, 30 fps burst, video:  1080p60 / 720p120 / 1440p48 fps, Wi-Fi Built-in, Wi-Fi Remote included, GoPro App Compatible, Pro Low-Light Performance
  • Silver Edition for $299.99,  11MP camera, 10 fps burst, video:  1080p30 / 960p30 / 720fps, Wi-Fi Built-in, Wi-Fi Remote + App compatible

The Wi-Fi enabled HERO3: Black Edition is the most advanced GoPro, ever. No expense was spared during its development, resulting in a GoPro that is 30% smaller, 25% lighter and 2x more powerful than previous models. Wearable and gear mountable, waterproof to 197' (60m), capable of capturing ultra-wide 1440p 48fps, 1080p 60 fps and 720p 120 fps video and 12MP photos at a rate of 30 photos per second, the HERO3: Black Edition is the world's most versatile camera. Built-in Wi-Fi, GoPro App compatibility and the included Wi-Fi Remote (normally a separate $79.99 accessory) make the HERO3: Black Edition all the more versatile, still.

Record  up to 1.5 hours (with the Black Edition; 3 hours with the White Edition) on a single charge and up to 9 hours total on a 32GB SD card (not included). Add the optional battery BacPac and double the battery life (cost: $49.99).

Battery Life for Hero3 video camera at different settings

The Black Edition's camera can also shoot automatic 12, 7, and 5MP photos at .5/1/2/5/10/30 and 60 second intervals during your activity, hands free.  Press the shutter button once at the start of your activity and record up to 3 hours (with battery BacPac) of poster-print quality photos of you and your friends, living it up.

Included are mounts for attaching the camera to three helmets and two pieces of gear or vehicles, as well as a head strap allowing you to wear the camera like a headlamp.  You can also pull this strap over helmets for easy camera sharing between friends.  One of the above mentioned helmet mounts is a lace-through strap-mount designed for vented helmets.

The HD Helmet HERO is compatible with all other GoPro Hero camera mounting accessories, so it's very easy to expand the functionality of your camera to also suction cup to vehicles, clamp to bike handlebars and seat posts, mount to surfboards, and even be worn on the wrist or chest.

Waterproof to 197'/60m and protected from rocks and other hazards thanks to its removable polycarbonate housing.  Replacement housings and lens kits are available, making repairs or refurbishing your HD HERO camera affordable and convenient.  It's a GoPro... go for it. (TM)

Camera comparison between the Hero3 White Edition, Silver Edition, and Black Edition

Camera comparison between the Hero3 White Edition, Silver Edition, and Black Edition

Camera comparison between the Hero3 White Edition, Silver Edition, and Black Edition

Camera comparison between the Hero3 White Edition, Silver Edition, and Black Edition

Camera comparison between the Hero3 White Edition, Silver Edition, and Black Edition

What's Included (Black Editon):
* 1 HD HERO Camera (12 megapixels)
* 1 Rechargeable Lithium-Ion Battery
* 1 Waterproof Quick-Release Housing (197'/60m)
* 1 Curved, 3M (TM) Adhesive Mounts
* 1 Flat, 3M Adhesive Mounts
* 1 Three-Way Pivoting Side Arm Assembly
* 1 Quick-Release Buckles\
* 1 USB Cable
* Assorted Mounts and Hardware
* Warranty:  One Year

Camera Optics (HD Hero3 Black edition):
*2x Better low-light performance
* ultra sharp f/2.8 6-element aspherical glass lens
*170 degree FOV (including 1080p)
*90 degree FOV

Audio (Standard HD Hero)
* Microphone:  Built-in, mono with AGC (automatic gain control)
* Audio Format: 48 kHz, AAC audio compression
* Supports optional 3.5mm stereo mic adapter

Camera Connectors & Cables
* PC Connection: USB 2.0 (data connection and battery charging)
* HDTV Out: HD NTSC & PAL (component cable incl.)
* Audio Out: Combo 2.5mm jack with stereo audio and composite video out
* PC Compatibility: Windows Vista, Windows 7; Mac OS X 10.5 and later

Power & Battery
* Battery Type:  Rechargable 1100 mAh lithium-ion
* Battery Life:  see battery life charts above
* Charging:  via USB to computer or optional power adapter
* Charge Time:  80% capacity after 1 hour with optional power adapter; or 2 hours with a computer's   USB port

Waterproof Camera Housing
* Depth Rating: Up to 197 feet / 60 meters
* Construction:  Polycarbonate and stainless steel
* Hardware:  Stainless steel

Size & Weight
Dimensions (H x W x D): 1.6" x 2.4" x 1.2" (42mm x 60mm x 30mm)
*  Weight: 3.3 oz (94g) including battery / 5.9 oz (167g) including housing

This blog site is dedicated to road bicycle racing, tips, training/racing information and of course lots of videoing of racing.   I am completely blown away at how cool this camera is.  The video quality is awesome, the camera is small and  mounts in a ton of ways.  I still can't believe how smooth the video picture is during rough filming. This camera is simply amazing.  (check my videos for proof).

Below are samples of mounting methods for the HD Hero Camera that I have personally used.

There are literally too many mounting methods to list here, but I did show my favorites that I use.

The above video shows how this camera is excellent to record a bike trip.

This is a video I shot using the both the seatpost mount and the under the stem mount that is pictured above.  The video settings was 960p (1280x960 pixels) on each camera.

This video I shot with the chest mount (also at 960p), oh, and a seatpost mount also at 960

I have a blog post that describes how to use Adobe Premiere Elements 8 software for editing. I spent many an hour learning  this software.  If you are new to video editing, my post can save you lots of time and frustration.   Keep in mind, there are many, many other different video editing software products out there.  This is just the one that I use and am most familiar with.   

The above video is a good demonstration of the helmet mount while mountain biking.   It is also notable that the temperature was only 6 degrees above zero Fahrenheit, and on snowy and icy trails.   This was my first video with the HD Hero camera (I have since produced 80 or so more).  My biggest lesson was to make sure that the camera is securely fastened. Later in the video the camera angle drops after and sudden and powerful jolt. (not exactly a masterpiece, but it still turned out pretty good)

To purchase your HD HERO Camera, just click the "Get Yours" button on this page.  This takes you to the mother ship.  Click on "HD Helmet HERO" helmet camera image (bottom left of the screen) then "ADD to Cart".  You can easily pay with MasterCard,  Visa, American Express or Paypal.  Shipping is usually within 24 hours.  Own your own amazing, adaptable, waterproof, bombproof, high tech, high definition camera.

GoPro App Tutorial

Lastly, below is a video produced by the GoProCamera guys that shows a multitude of other sports that this video camera can easily be adapted to.

Buy GoPro HERO Camera at
Now The HD Hero camera has a handy video monitor with audio that can be attached or removed by your command.  It makes this already incredible camera even more incredible. 

I have to throw in this video too because it's soooo much fun to watch and pure GoPro.


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