Archive for April, 2015

Higher education on two wheels


If you’ve not heard of the Faculty of Science and Engineering at the University of Chester, you have now. It’s new, fast-moving and extremely welcoming.

What’s it got to do with cycling science? Well, the powers that be at the Faculty have their fingers on the pulse and recognise that cycling is blossoming.

So they invited me to lead a cycling science ride at the weekend, an initiative generously supported by CWAC/iTravel.Under the railway bridge

That’s why a group of people could be found in a back lane near the River Dee, discussing the functions, materials and dimensions of that most under-rated component, the spoke.

Tangential, radial, three-cross, four-cross, bladed, steel, aluminium, carbon – all the little niceties were discussed vigorously.

One of the cyclists realised for the first time that the front wheel he’d been using for more than a year has lovely radial spokes – and why his rear wheel doesn’t.

To cap it all, another rider, an information systems expert of course, had a tuning app on her smartphone so we could demonstrate to any doubters that it’s the tension in the wire spoke that keeps the wheel together.

Fact: knowledge keeps the legs warm

Fact: knowledge keeps the legs warm

The weight of a general practitioner, who volunteered innocently, bearing down on the axle was then shown to be enough to reduce the frequency of the lowermost spoke by half a tone.

Elsewhere on the ride, along Chester’s glorious Greenway, the effects of rolling resistance were demonstrated by putting some air in the tyres on which an esteemed chemical engineer usually rides almost totally flat.

Human balance, steering, the self-stable dynamics of a bicycle, aerodynamics and how to hover simply by pedalling hard (and building an enormous lightweight helicopter) were all covered.

So, if you’re looking to study science or engineering, you could do worse than to consider Chester University. Not only do they know HOW a bicycle works, they also know WHY.

Photos: Garfield Southall

Cycling Science & the Himalayas


Cycling Science & the Himalayas.

via Cycling Science & the Himalayas.

Roll up, roll up: Nutrition, Colnago, Aerodynamics & Himalayas


I’ve got my work cut out this month, preparing for several gigs at Edinburgh International Science Festival and Chester University.

None of them will be quite the same as each other or the same as what’s gone before.

Ashleigh Fraser, Scottish National Junior Women's Road Race Champion 2014, reveals the winning diet

Ashleigh Fraser, Scottish National Junior Women’s Road Race Champion 2014, reveals the winning diet

Among the line-up in Edinburgh at 5.30pm on Sunday 12th April will be Scottish national junior women’s road race champion Ashleigh Fraser.

She’s going to explain the science of nutrition – what to eat to be an elite cyclist. It’ll tell me where I went wrong because I suspect my teenage diet of apple pies and Cheesey Wotsits weren’t much good.

And Professor Andrea Sella will be going further than Ernesto Colnago ever dared. If Eddie Merckx had come to a Cycling Science presentation before his 1972 attempt on the world hour record, he would’ve done even better. Andrea’s demonstration is a real eye-opener and UCI rule-makers should start taking notice so they can close another loophole…

I’m refining the aerodynamics demonstrations and showing some mildly embarrassing home movie from last century, together with some futuristic stuff. A tenuous link between Edinburgh Castle and the science of cycling will also be fully exploited without apology or shame.

The gigs for Chester are going to be full on and part of the University’s excellent efforts to boost cycling in the city. I used to live nearby and spend my weekends there so it’s great to be going back

Cycling Poster Chester Uni 2015 v2The first day, Friday 24th April, will be for students from year 7 to university level. I’ll be giving a cycling science presentation, with a few demonstrations thrown in, and then leading two short cycling science rides around the Thornton campus.

On the second day, Saturday 25th April, the University and others will be running several events in the city centre. I’ll lead a FREE public ride about cycling and science from the university’s city campus in the afternoon. Come along and take part in the experiments and demonstrations to learn about WHY cycling actually works.

In the evening I’ll be giving a presentation about what was probably the first mountain Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbHbike crossing of the Greater Himalaya. I can’t believe I actually did it so do come along and learn about the ridiculous risks I took as a fool-hardy and unprepared younger self.

The Chester events are FREE. Book your tickets for the Saturday afternoon ride here. For the Himalayan adventure presentation, book your free tickets here.