Decreasing Aerodynamic Drag

In any cycling discipline where speed is important for winning, aerodynamic drag has a major impact.

Air is considered a liquid, which has viscosity. When we pass through it, we create drag from the friction between ourselves and the air flowing around us. We also create pressure drag much like a wake from a boat called eddying currents.

The combined frictional and pressure drags give the total air resistance of an object. The goal with our bodies and bikes is to bring pressure drag and frictional drag down to a minimum.

Pressure Drag

For reducing pressure drag, consider:

  • Keeping a bottle in the cage, as it's more aero than without
  • Shoe covers
  • Shaving your legs
  • Filling the front tire gap at the rim
  • A snug-fitting Lycra top
  • A more aero helmet
  • Gloves with Lycra backs
  • A deep-section front rim
  • Bladed spokes on the front wheel
  • Sitting on someone's wheel for as long as possible since they've created a frictional and pressure hole for you to sit in. You've also filled in their eddying current, making them faster

Frictional Drag

Ever wondered why golf balls have dimples? As air slides over the object passing through it, the air closest to the object is moving slowly while farther away it's moving faster. When these two meet it creates friction. Golf ball dimples act like a trip wire and create less friction. If a golf ball were smooth, it would travel only 100 yards compared to 250 yards.

To reduce frictional drag, splurge for disc wheels or a skinsuit like Lance's!


Scotland's Mark Young is a licensed Club Level 2 RTT Coach for Scottish Cycling. He is also a diary contributor and coach for athletes funded by www.braveheartcyclingfund.com. Contact Mark by e-mail at mdyoung55@me.com.

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