Cycling: Making You Faster In Motorsports

 Cycling: Making You Faster In Motorsports

By Khiem Dinh

Khiem Dinh is an engineer for Honeywell Turbo Technologies at the time of this writing.  All statements and opinions expressed by Khiem Dinh are solely those of Khiem Dinh and not reflective of Honeywell Turbo Technologies.

 

Automotive enthusiasts are always looking for that edge, that something to make them go faster.  They throw money at lightweight parts and anything made of carbon fiber to get their cars lighter.  However, a whole lot of Americans would do well to just look straight in the mirror.  Two-thirds of Americans are either overweight or obese with the average American packing on 23 pounds above their ideal weight.  How much carbon fiber do you have to throw at your car to trim 23 pounds?  I bet it’s a lot cheaper to trim it off your body and healthier too.  Cycling is a great way to lose weight, improve your physical and mental endurance, and get faster.  Here's our quick guide on the motorsport related reasons to be in shape and some basics on cycling.

I would say the vast majority of top level motorsports drivers are involved in some type of endurance sport.  MotoGP riders Nicky Hayden and Ben Spies are both avid cyclists.  Motorcycle racer Steve Rapp rides his bicycle around my neighborhood.  Tyler Mcquarrie wrote up about training on his bike.  Many of the F1 drivers are cyclists with Mark Webber being known for cycling.  Jenson Button does triathlons.  Why do all these motorsports guys do endurance activities?  Because being in peak physical shape improves their abilities on track.

Ben Spies got so into cycling, he started up his own cycling team called Elbowz Racing (photo from GPOne.com).  Spies is a Cat 2 level rider himself.

I believe it was Michael Schumacher who really kick-started the need to improve physical fitness in motorsports.  He would finish an F1 race looking as fresh as a cucumber while his opponents looked fatigued.  Being in peak physical condition gives a number of advantages.  First, you won't be overweight.  A lighter driver means the team can more strategically place ballast on the car to optimize weight distribution.  If you look at F1 and MotoGP guys, they are all pretty lean.  Secondly, you won't physically fatigue.  Trying wresting around a 240+hp MotoGP bike around a track for 45 minutes and see how tired you get.  Having done a few motorcycle track days myself, it takes a lot of effort to fling the bike around at speed; the faster you go, the more physical effort it takes.  Watch a motocross race and see how physically demanding it is man-handling their bikes through the dirt. 

Project Husky owner Dan Barnes reports that riding this out on the trails is just as tiring as a ride on his mountain bike.

You know how you get tired doing just a quick eight minute go-kart race at your local track?  Craig Stanton put me to shame in a kart and he is in way better shape than me too.  Now try an F1 car pulling 5Gs in the corners for an hour and a half in the heat and humidity of Malaysia.  When you get physically fatigued, you also get mentally fatigued with both affecting your ability to drive well.  Professional drivers can place their vehicles and hit their marks within inches lap after lap at extremely high speeds which requires complete mental focus. 

So why choose cycling?  I prefer it for a number of reasons over running and swimming (both of those are important too and should be cross-trained in).  I use to run track back in the day, but as I've gotten older, the body isn't as receptive to the higher-impact nature of running.  I think swimming is the ultimate full-body workout while also being virtually non-impact; but I just get bored doing it as I do with running.  However, with cycling, I've always loved being on a bicycle ever since I was four because it fulfilled my need for speed.

I grew up spending most of my time in high school and college on a mountain bike, but even mountain bike racers use a road bike for endurance training.  Bicycle technology is pretty nuts and you can build a $15k road bike weighing well under 14lbs if you wanted.  Carbon fiber is the most common frame material on high-end bikes nowadays.  

Last year in 2012, I picked up a 2011 model year GT GTR Sport road bike which has a full carbon fiber frame.  It wasn't exactly chump change, but I got it about 40% off as it was one model year old.  You can buy one model year old bikes often at 40%-45% off of MSRP.  This applies to bicycle components too!  I took this picture at the end of a ride; hence, the two empty water bottles.  I use a saddle bag to carry stuff and I just mounted the Replay XD1080 HD camera on the handlebar.

 

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