Cycling, also called bicycling or biking, is the use of bicycles for transport, recreation, or for sport. People engaged in cycling are cyclists or bicyclists. Apart from ordinary two-wheeled bicycles, cycling also includes riding unicycles, tricycles, quadracycles, and other similar human-powered vehicles (HPVs).
Cycling can be a very efficient and effective mode of transportation, ideal for short to moderate distances. Bicycles provide numerous benefits compared to motor vehicles, including exercise, an alternative to the use of fossil fuels, no air or noise pollution, much reduced traffic congestion, easier parking, greater stability, and access to both roads and paths. The advantages are at less financial cost to the user as well as society (less damage to roads, and less space required).
Criticisms and disadvantages of cycling include reduced protection in crashes, particularly with motor vehicles, longer travel time (except in densely populated areas), vulnerability to weather conditions, difficulty in transporting passengers, and the skill and fitness required to operate them.
About Track Cycling
Track cycling is a bicycle racing sport usually held on specially built banked tracks or velodromes (but many events are held at older velodromes where the track banking is relatively shallow) using track bicycles.
Track racing is also done on grass tracks marked out on flat sports-fields. Such events are particularly common during the summer in Scotland at Highland Games gatherings, but there are also regular summer events in England.
Track Cycling has been around since at least 1870. When cycling was in its infancy, wooden indoor tracks were laid which resemble those of modern velodromes, consisting of two straights and slightly banked turns.
One appeal of indoor track racing was that spectators could be easily controlled, and hence an entrance fee could be charged, making track racing a lucrative sport. Early track races attracted crowds of up to 2000 people. Indoor tracks also enabled year-round cycling for the first time. The main early centres for track racing in Britain were Birmingham, Sheffield, Liverpool, Manchester and London.
The most noticeable changes in over a century of track cycling have concerned the bikes themselves, engineered to be lighter and more aerodynamic to enable ever-faster times.
With the exception of the 1912 Olympics, track cycling has been featured in every Olympic Games. Women’s track cycling was first included in the Olympics in 1988.
Track Cycling Techniques
Aerodynamic drag is a significant factor in both road and track racing. Frames are often made of one piece of moulded-carbon fibre, for a lightweight and aerodynamic design. More traditional bikes might employ air-foil cross sectional shapes in the frame tubes. Ever greater attention is being paid to aerodynamics in component group design.
Given the importance of aerodynamics, the riders’ sitting position becomes extremely important. The riding position is similar to the road racing position, but is ultimately dependent on the frame geometry of the bicycle and the handlebars used. Handlebars on track bikes used for longer events such as the points race are similar to the drop bars found on road bicycles. However, in the sprint event the rider’s position is more extreme compared with a road rider. The bars are lower and the saddle is higher and more forward. Bars are often narrower with a deeper drop. Steel bars, as opposed to lighter alloys or carbon fibre, are still used by many sprinters for their higher rigidity and durability.
In timed events such as the pursuit and the time trial, riders often use aero-bars or ‘triathlon bars’ similar to those found on road time trial bicycles, allowing the rider to position the arms closer together in front of the body. This results in a more horizontal back and presents the minimum frontal area to reduce drag. Aero-bars can be separate bars that are attached to time trial or bull horn bars, or they can be part of a one-piece monocoque design. Use of aero-bars is permitted only in pursuit and time trial events.
Formats of track cycle races are also heavily influenced by aerodynamics. If one rider closely follows, they draft or slipstream another, because the leading rider pushes air around themselves; any rider closely following has to push out less air than the lead rider and thus can travel at the same speed while expending less effort. This fact has led to a variety of racing styles that allow clever riders or teams to exploit this tactical advantage, as well as formats that simply test strength, speed and endurance.
During the early 1990s in individual pursuit events, some riders, most notably Graeme Obree, adopted a straight-armed Superman-like position with their arms fully extended horizontally, but this position was subsequently outlawed by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), the sport’s ruling body. Recumbent bicycles can actually be ridden faster, but are similarly banned from UCI competition.
Track Cycling Competitions
Held every four years as part of the Summer Olympics, there are currently 10 events in the Olympic Games, less than appear in the World Championships. At the 2008 Summer Olympics, seven of these events were for men while only three were for women. For the 2012 Summer Olympics, there will be five events for both men and women.
The UCI Track Cycling World Championships are held every year, usually in March or April at the end of the winter track season. There are currently 19 events in the World Championships, 10 for men and 9 for women. Qualification places are determined by different countries performance during the World Cup Classic series held through the season.
The World Cup Classics series consists of four or five meetings, held in different countries throughout the world during the winter track cycling season. These meeting include 17 of the 19 events that take place in a World Championship over three days. Events won and points scored by the riders throughout this series count towards qualification places individually and for their nation in the World Championships at the end of the season. The overall leader in each event wears the white points leaders jersey at each race, with the overall winner at the end of the season keeping the jersey and wearing it at the World Championships. Riders compete for either national teams or trade teams.
As World Championship qualification is at stake, the events attract a top field of riders. However, it is common for top riders not to compete at all the events of the series, with teams often using the events to field younger riders or attempt different line-ups at some events. Top riders can still win the series, or obtain good a placing for qualification points for their country, without competing at every event.
Several countries run a series of national level events held as part of series’ throughout each of those countries and sometimes across country borders. Examples of these are the Revolution track series held in both the UK and Australia, and the ATRA NCS series in the United States.
About Mountain Biking
Mountain biking is a sport which consists of riding bicycles off-road, often over rough terrain, using specially adapted mountain bikes. Mountain bikes share similarities with other bikes, but incorporate features designed to enhance durability and performance in rough terrain.
Mountain biking can generally be broken down into multiple categories: cross country (XC), trail riding, all mountain,downhill, freeride, dirt jumping and trials. The vast majority of mountain biking falls into the recreational XC, and Trail Riding categories.
This individual sport requires endurance, core strength and balance, bike handling skills, and self-reliance. XC type mountain biking generally requires a different range of skills and a higher level of fitness than other types of mountain biking. Advanced riders pursue steep technical descents and, in the case of freeriding, downhilling, and dirt jumping, aerial manoeuvres off of specially constructed jumps and ramps.
Mountain biking can be performed almost anywhere from a back yard to a gravel road, but the majority of mountain bikers ride off-road trails, whether country back roads, fire roads, or single track (narrow trails that wind through forests, mountains, deserts, or fields). There are aspects of mountain biking that are more similar to trail running than regular bicycling. Because riders are often far from civilisation, there is a strong ethic of self-reliance in the sport. Riders learn to repair their broken bikes or flat tires to avoid being stranded miles from help.
Many riders will carry a backpack, including a water bladder, containing all the essential tools and equipment for trail-side repairs, and many riders also carry emergency supplies in the case of injury miles from outside help. Club rides and other forms of group rides are common, especially on longer treks. A combination sport named mountain bike orienteering adds the skill of map navigation to mountain biking.
The Origins of Mountain Biking
The history of the mountain bike and mountain biking is nearly as long and varied as that of the bicycle itself. Originally known as Klunkerz, these bicycles have been ridden off-road since their invention. In 1988, the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame was founded to chronicle the history of the mountain bike and mountain biking, and to recognise the individuals and groups that have contributed significantly to this sport.
An early example of riding bicycles off-road is when road racing cyclists used cyclo-cross as a means of keeping fit during the winter. Cyclo-cross eventually becoming a sport in its own right in the 1940s, with the first world championship in 1950. The French Velo Cross Club Parisien (VCCP) comprised about twenty-one young cyclists from the outskirts of Paris, who between 1951 and 1956 developed a sport that was remarkably similar to present-day mountain biking.
The Roughstuff Fellowship was established in 1955 by off-road cyclists in the UK. In Oregon, one Chemeketan club member, D. Gwynn, built a rough terrain trail bicycle in 1966. He named it a “mountain bicycle” for its intended place of use. This may be the first use of that name.
In England in 1968, Geoff Apps, a motorbike trials rider, began experimenting with off-road bicycle designs. By 1979 he had developed a custom built lightweight bicycle which was uniquely suited to the wet and muddy off-road conditions found in the south-east of England. They were designed around 2 inch x 650b Nokian snow tyres – though a 700c version was also produced. These were sold under the Cleland Cycles brand until late 1984. Bikes based on the Cleland design were also sold by English Cycles and Highpath Engineering until the early 1990s.
Mountain Biking Risks
The risk of injury is inherent in the sport of mountain biking, especially in the more extreme disciplines such as downhill biking. Injuries range from relatively minor wounds, such as cuts and abrasions from falls on gravel to serious injuries such as striking the head or spine on a boulder or tree.
Protective equipment can protect against minor injuries, and reduce the extent or seriousness of major impacts, but it cannot protect a rider against the most serious impacts or accidents. To truly reduce the risk of injury, a rider needs to take steps to make injuries less likely, such as picking trails that they can handle given their experience level, ensuring that they are fit enough to deal with the trail they have chosen, and keeping their bike in top mechanical shape. If a mountain biker wishes to explore more dangerous trails or disciplines (types of mountain biking) such as downhill riding, they will need to learn new skills, such as jumping and avoiding obstacles.
Fitness is another issue; if a rider is not in good enough shape to ride a certain class of trail, they will become fatigued, which puts them at a higher risk of having an accident.
Lastly, maintenance of one’s bike needs to be done more frequently for mountain biking than for casual commuter biking in the city. Mountain biking places much higher demands on every part of the bike. Jumps and impacts can crack the frame or damage the derailer’s or the tire rims, and steep, fast descents can quickly wear out brake pads. Thus, whereas a casual in-the-city rider may only check over and maintain their bike every few months, a mountain biker should check and properly maintain the bike before every ride.
Mountain Biking Equipment
Mountain bikes differ from other bikes primarily in that they incorporate features aimed at increasing durability and improving performance in rough terrain. Most modern mountain bikes have front fork or dual suspension, 26 inch and also 29 or 27.5(650b) inch diameter tires, usually from 1.7 to 2.5 inches in width, and a wider, flat or upwardly-rising handlebar that allows a more upright riding position, giving the rider more control. They have a smaller, reinforced frame, usually made of wide tubing.
Tires usually have a pronounced lugged tread, and are mounted on rims which are stronger than those used on most non-mountain bicycles. Compared to other bikes, mountain bikes also tend to more frequently use disc brakes. They also tend to have lower ratio gears to facilitate climbing steep hills and traversing obstacles. Pedals vary from simple platform pedals, where the rider simply places the shoes on top of the pedals, to clipless, where the rider uses a specially equipped shoe with a sole that engages mechanically into the pedal. Pedals with toe cages (clips) are rarely used any more as they take longer to get out of than clipless or platform if one takes a fall on the rough terrain.
Gloves differ from road touring gloves, are made of heavier construction, and often have covered thumbs or all fingers covered for hand protection. They are sometimes made with padding for the knuckles.
Glasses with little or no difference from those used in other cycling sports, help protect against debris while on the trail. Filtered lenses, whether yellow for cloudy days or shaded for sunny days, protect the eyes from strain. Downhill and freeride mountain bikers often use goggles similar to motorcross or snowboard goggles in unison with their full-face helmets.
Shoes generally have gripping soles similar to those of hiking boots for scrambling over un-ridable obstacles, unlike the smooth-bottomed shoes used in road cycling. The shank of mountain bike shoes is generally more flexible than road cycling shoes. Shoes compatible with clipless pedal systems are also frequently used.
Clothing is chosen for comfort during physical exertion in the back-country, and its ability to withstand falls. Road touring clothes are often inappropriate due to their delicate fabrics and construction.
Hydration systems are important for mountain bikers in the back-country, ranging from simple water bottles to water bags with drinking tubes in lightweight backpacks. A GPS navigation device is sometimes added to the handlebars and is used to display and monitor progress on trails downloaded from the internet or pre-made mapping systems, record trails on the fly, and keep track of trip times and other data. The GPS system is often a handheld GPS device with colour screen and rugged, waterproof design.
Bike tools and extra bike tubes are important, as mountain bikers frequently find themselves miles from help, with flat tires or other mechanical problems that must be handled by the rider.
High-power lights based on LED technology, especially for mountain biking at night.
About Road Racing
Road racing is a bicycle racing sport held on roads, using racing bicycles. The term “road racing” is usually applied to events where competing riders start simultaneously (unless riding a handicap event) with the winner being the first to the line at the end of the course (individual and team time trials are another form of cycle racing on roads).
Road bicycle racing began as an organised sport in 1868. The first world championship was in 1893 and cycling has been part of the Olympic Games since the modern sequence started in Athens in 1896.
Road racing in its modern form originated in the late 19th century. The sport was popular in the western European countries of France, Spain, Belgium, and Italy. Some of Europe’s earliest road bicycle races remain among the sport’s biggest events.
These early races include Liège–Bastogne–Liège (established 1892), Paris–Roubaix (1896), the Tour de France (1903), theMilan – San Remo and Giro di Lombardia (1905), the Giro d’Italia (1909) and the Ronde van Vlaanderen (1913). They provided a template for other races around the world. While the sport has spread throughout the world, these historic races remain the most prestigious for a cyclist to win
Types of Road Racing
Race distances vary from a few kilometres to more than 200 km. Courses may run from place to place or comprise one or more laps of a circuit; some courses combine both, i.e., taking the riders from a starting place and then finishing with several laps of a circuit (usually to ensure a good spectacle for spectators at the finish). Races over short circuits, often in town or city centres, are known as criteriums. Some races, known as handicaps, are designed to match riders of different abilities and/or ages; groups of slower riders start first, with the fastest riders starting last and so having to race harder and faster to catch other competitors.
Stage races consist of several races, or stages, ridden consecutively. The competitor with the lowest cumulative time to complete all stages is declared the overall, or general classification (GC), winner. Stage races may also have other classifications and awards, such as individual stage winners, the points classification winner, and the “King of the Mountains” (or mountains classification) winner.
A stage race can also be a series of road races and individual time trials (some events include team time trials). The stage winner is the first person to cross the finish line that day or the time trial rider (or team) with the lowest time on the course. The overall winner of a stage race is the rider who takes the lowest aggregate time to complete all stages (accordingly, a rider does not have to win all or any of the individual stages to win overall).
Ultra-marathon races are very long single stage events, usually lasting several days. Among the best-known ultra marathons is the Race Across America (RAAM), a coast-to-coast non-stop, single-stage race in which riders cover approximately 3,000 miles in about a week. The race is sanctioned by the Ultra Marathon Cycling Association (UMCA).
Road Racing Teams
While the principle remains that the winner is the first to cross the line, many riders are grouped together in teams, usually with commercial sponsors. On professional and semi-professional teams, team names are typically synonymous with the primary sponsors.
The size of the team varies, from three in an amateur event for club riders to a dozen in professional races. Team riders decide between themselves, before and during the race, who has the best chance of winning. The choice will depend on hills, the chances that the whole field will finish together in a sprint, and other factors. The rest of the team will devote itself to promoting its leader’s chances, taking turns in the wind for him, refusing to chase with the peloton when he or she escapes, and so on.
In professional races, team coordination is often performed by radio communication between the riders and the team director, who travels in a team car behind the race and monitors the overall situation. The influence of radios on race tactics is a topic of discussion amongst the cycling community, with some arguing that the introduction of radios in the 1990s has devalued the tactical knowledge of individual riders and has led to less exciting racing. In September 2009, the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), the governing body of pro cycling, voted to phase in a ban on the use of team radios in men’s elite road racing.