Getting to the Bottom of Bicycle Rolling Resistance


During a typical bicycle race the cyclist is partially, and often significantly, slowed by rolling resistance: the energy lost in rolling loaded pneumatic tires over the road surface. The standard way to characterize rolling resistance is by quantifying the force needed to roll a single wheel over a given surface, but the bicycle and rider are a complex system. Vibration of parts in this system other than the tire also incur energy losses. The bicycle racing world debates over what tire types, tire pressure, and other details play roll in slowing the cyclist, e.g. Silca's take. There are hypotheses that very high tire pressures may not be beneficial if the high pressure tires cause energy losing vibrations to occur elsewhere in the bicycle-rider system. We'd like to get to the bottom of this and understand the total system rolling resistance beyond the view of individual tires/wheels.

There are several possible directions to explore. Some examples are:

  1. Develop on-road experiments that estimate system rolling resistance to a high accuracy and estimate rolling resistance for different road surfaces and rider behavior.
  2. Develop a simulation model that includes damped vibrations of both the tires, rider, and bicyclist. Use this simulation to test different tires, tire pressures, and rider behavior.
  3. Given a validated model from # 2, find the optimal tire, wheel, and pressure choice for the duration of a given road race.

How To Apply

If you would like to apply for this project, please send an approximately half page letter explaining your motivations and interest in the lab and project, CV or resume, a list of courses you've taken, the name of your MSc track, and any other relevant information to