Aerodynamic benefits for a cyclist by drafting behind a motorcycle

Bert Blocken (Corresponding author), Fabio Malizia, Thijs van Druenen, Stefanie Gillmeier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Motorcycles are present in cycling races for reasons including television broadcasting. During parts of the race, these motorcycles ride in front of individual or groups of cyclists. Concerns have been expressed in the professional cycling community that these motorcycles can provide aerodynamic benefits in terms of drag reduction for the cyclists drafting behind them. However, to the best of our knowledge, no information about the extent of these benefits is present in the scientific literature. Therefore, this paper analyses the potential drag reduction for a cyclist by drafting behind a motorcycle. Wind tunnel measurements and numerical simulations with computational fluid dynamics were performed. It was shown that drafting at separation distances d = 2.64, 10, 30 and 50 m can reduce the drag of the cyclist down to 52, 77, 88 and 93% of that of an isolated cyclist, respectively. A cyclist power model is used to convert these drag reductions into potential time gains. For a non-drafting cyclist at a speed of 54 km/h on level road in calm weather, the time gains by drafting at d = 2.64, 10, 30 and 50 m are 12.7, 5.4, 2.7 and 1.6 s per km, respectively. These time differences can influence the outcome of cycling races. The current rules of the International Cycling Union do not prevent these aerodynamic benefits from occurring in races.

Original languageEnglish
Article number19
Number of pages11
JournalSports Engineering
Volume23
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2020

Keywords

  • Aerodynamic cyclist drag
  • Computational fluid dynamics
  • Cycling aerodynamics
  • motorbike
  • Wind tunnel

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