Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Hour

Just to reinforce the ‘Irony’ theme, this morning I was listening to NPR on the way to work. If you’ve ever listened to “Morning Edition”, you know that frequently they will play a brief portion of a song between news stories. One of those songs this morning was a string quartet playing their cover of KISS’s “I Wanna Rock and Roll All Night (and Party Every Day)”. Well, I think the title is actually “Rock and Roll All Nite”, but regardless, string quartets do not, as a general rule, rock.

Tonight I went to a program hosted by my bike club (Southern Cycling Operations, or SCO). Dr. Bassett, who is a professor over at the University of Tennessee’s Sports Physiology (or something like that) department, gave a talk on the hour record in cycling. He started out by going over the history of the hour record, pointing out that there was a real change in the approach to the record in 1983. That was the year that Francisco Moser broke Eddy Merckx’s 1972 record. The difference was that Moser was the first to use aero equipment.

Following Moser, everybody used specialized gear in an attempt to develop an aerodynamic advantage. The strangest looking of these was Graeme Obree’s “Praying Mantis” style riding position. He built his bike himself using scrounged parts, but he did break the record. And then the UCI (the main international governing body for all things cycling) banned the “Obree Position”. Undaunted, Graeme came up with a new style and riding position (the “Superman Position”, so called because of the outstretched arms) and again set the record. Chris Boardman also used the same position to break Graeme’s record, but then the UCI decided to ban that one too. So much for encouraging the innovative spirit, eh?

Sometime around the turn of the 21st Century, the UCI stated that the official hour record would apply only to those who rode equipped as Eddy had been equipped. Out with the aero gear entirely, though they did decide to recognize a second “Best Human Performance” record which does allow for the weird gear, but the hour record is the one with all the romance (and potential lucrative endorsement deals) attached.

So, Dr. Bassett and his colleague Dr. Kyle did a study to evaluate just how each of the ‘Moser and after’ record attempts stood up to Eddy’s. They evaluated the drag of the clothing used (high-tech skinsuits versus Eddy’s cotton jersey and wool shorts). They looked at the drag from aero positions versus Eddy’s ‘riding in the drops’ position. To be fair, they also considered the altitude differences as to how they would affect performance (and Eddy did have that small advantage). They also looked at peak wattage outputs and applied all of the above correction and correlation factors.

What they found out was that Eddy would have been beaten for the record, for not for a longer time and not by nearly as much. Eddy rules anyway.

This was the perfect presentation for a cyclist-engineer geek like me.

Trivia Time
Rules here. Email to bgoab at mindspring dot com like always. Okay class, you may turn your papers over and begin.

  1. Name at least three of the four original members of KISS.
  2. The newspaper cartoon “Snuffy Smith” started out with a different name and a different lead character (it slowly changed over time). Who was that original title character?
  3. (fill in the blank) Gropius, Jeanneret, and Mies van der Rohe are often considered to be the fathers of modern _______________.
  4. (One from Mrs. Guy) Who narrated “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”?
  5. (Also from Mrs. Guy) What platform at King’s Cross does the Hogwart’s Express depart from?

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