Aerodynamics - can cycling teach athletics a thing or two?

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Geoff.D
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Aerodynamics - can cycling teach athletics a thing or two?

Postby Geoff.D » 26 Aug 2015, 3:39pm

I've been watching the world athletics championships and have been struck by the number of athletes who have manes of long flowing hair. Nearly always this is constrained into a "bunch", but nonetheless it jumps from side to side as they run. Even less streamlined are the hairstyles with long "dreadlock style" bunches (pardon me for clumsy descriptions), which may even have hairpieces interwoven.

These athletes are running at 24+ mph. At such a speed in cycling we notice aerodynamic drag quite considerably. In fact we notice at much lower speeds, whether competing or simply riding into a headwind. Team Sky has based much of it's success on the mantra "marginal gains". So why do these top class athletes race (with what seems to be a wind brake on their head) when the difference between gold and silver can (and is) measured to within a hundredth of a second?

I remember Kathy Freeman running in a skinsuit. Swimmers shave their bodies to improve the hydrodynamics. Swimwear material has been manufactured to reduce drag (to the extent that it became banned). Track cyclists wear cone shaped helmets, and have done for over a hundred years. Even "dropped" bars are an aid to overcoming aerodynamic drag.

I do understand the need for individual identity and personal expression, and your hair style is part of this. I would support this, But it does seem to me that the athletes are at odds with the wider sporting world of "marginal gains", especially when the margins are so small.

kwackers
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Re: Aerodynamics - can cycling teach athletics a thing or tw

Postby kwackers » 26 Aug 2015, 3:44pm

I'd imagine the gain is 'barely' measurable (see what I did there?)

The main difference is the time scales, at those speeds athletic events last seconds as opposed to hours for cycling.

Tangled Metal
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Re: Aerodynamics - can cycling teach athletics a thing or tw

Postby Tangled Metal » 26 Aug 2015, 4:14pm

+1 above.

I guess a marginal gain on a marginal length of time is next to nothing. I mean 9.8seconds with say a 0.01% saving is less than a thousandth of a second and not measured. You don't usually see distance runners with the flowing manes, at least not the men.

You could say there are two aspects of athletics that may play into the hair thing as well. There is the sporting performance and then there is the public recognition side of it for sponsorship and money making. It is harder to gain the big money stuff if you are a shaven headed female than a stylishly long haired female with their own "look". The sporting side of things is negligible impact for short events and probably as good as nothing on the longer ones too.

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squeaker
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Re: Aerodynamics - can cycling teach athletics a thing or tw

Postby squeaker » 26 Aug 2015, 4:19pm

kwackers wrote:I'd imagine the gain is 'barely' measurable (see what I did there?)

The main difference is the time scales, at those speeds athletic events last seconds as opposed to hours for cycling.

Bolt beat Gatlin by 0.01s (9.79 vs 9.80): I'd call that marginal :roll:
"42"

Tangled Metal
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Re: Aerodynamics - can cycling teach athletics a thing or tw

Postby Tangled Metal » 26 Aug 2015, 4:35pm

0.1% difference is marginal but what is the effect of hair on that and TBH Bolt and Gatlin both have very little hair.

If you look a the women';s race a hundredth of a second equates to about 0.93% difference but at least I think they have more hair to flap around. I don't know if this is a big effect but I would hazard a best guess that is is not significant. Marginal gains perhaps only come into play with longer times as said in the first reply to the OP.

reohn2
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Re: Aerodynamics - can cycling teach athletics a thing or tw

Postby reohn2 » 26 Aug 2015, 8:37pm

squeaker wrote:
kwackers wrote:I'd imagine the gain is 'barely' measurable (see what I did there?)

The main difference is the time scales, at those speeds athletic events last seconds as opposed to hours for cycling.

Bolt beat Gatlin by 0.01s (9.79 vs 9.80): I'd call that marginal :roll:


But I'm glad he did,nothing to do with aerodynamics,as you were.
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McVouty
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Re: Aerodynamics - can cycling teach athletics a thing or tw

Postby McVouty » 26 Aug 2015, 9:59pm

In practice female distance runners usually do tie up their hair but many sprinters don't bother. I agree that marketing plays a part in sprinters' display, but they wouldn't keep their hair loose if it did slow them down appreciably. For distance runners (800m and up) keeping hair out of eyes rather than aerodynamics is probably the major consideration. The skinsuits which had a brief vogue in the 1990s (marketing again, I suspect) were abandoned on comfort grounds; running generates a fair amount of heat, and sprinters need to keep concentration especially on the start line. Another reason may be that they couldn't be very aerodynamic without restricting the wearers' movement, at least using the fabrics available at the time.

Ugly
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Re: Aerodynamics - can cycling teach athletics a thing or tw

Postby Ugly » 28 Aug 2015, 4:09pm

for less wind resistance try

recumbent running...

now that's my idea of athletics