School Project

This is the super rough plan of my experiment for science. I know the results should be obvious but its more about learning how to conduct an experiment not making an amazing discovery, my teacher said he would give points for originality.
Advice on anything will be deeply appreciated. Be warned I am a novice at riding.

Does riding the drops on a bike use less energy than riding on the tops?
Hypothesis: That riding the drops will put the rider in a more aerodynamic position
Equipment: Heart rate monitor, Bike computer, track bike, helmet, stopwatch.
Method: Ride 4 laps of the velodrome at 30 kmh an hour using the drop handlebars and record my heart rate when I cross the line, next wait till my heart rate returns to what it was when I arrived at the velodrome and do another 4 laps with my hands on the tops of the handlebars at 30 kmh, record my heart rate and then repeat. Do this once a week and record all the results, then average them and calculate the difference between the heart rates recorded when the different positions on the bike were used and conclude on which uses more energy and if it is a significant amount.

I think there will be like one million variables which you haven’t thought of.


There will be a crap load of variables you will just have to ignore. Just list everything you don’t have 100% control over, temp, tyre pressure, wind changes etc.

The hardest variable to control will be speed - I’d say take the average speed over the 4 laps in each position.

You will have to work out what your maximum heart rate is before hand also. If you hit max for both sets the data won’t show anything.

What you are kind of testing for is when you hit the ‘wind wall’. You could spin this around to something like - Does riding on the drops increase maximum speed?

To test do 4 laps flat out on tops. Rest, repeat on drops. Next day reverse, drop first, tops second.

Less variables to screw around with.

i’d say max speed would be a better indication than heart rate tbh; as you can easily control what you call ‘flat out’
record your time, avg speed, max speed and heart rate as well though for supporting data.

IMO if you record the amount of time each lap takes at a particular cadence in each position and then average it, you will have results that are much easier to draw a conclusion with…

Plus you’ll be able to do some cool maths because you know the length of each lap and the speed you were travelling.

This is assuming you’re testing aerodynamics, of course…

EDIT: I am sofa king retarded…

Do you have access to a powermeter? You could do an experiment testing the aerodynamics of each position at a certain cadence and using the wattage as your DV

… you will get the same time for each position because same cadence = same speed. Hence the OP wants to measure heart rate to determine the effort required to maintain that speed, across the 2 positions.

-1 You will easily attain a higher speed in the drops for reasons far beyond aerodynamics. And if flat out is truly flat out, you’ll only be able to do it once per ride. It is very easy to control your speed.

To test do 4 laps flat out on tops. Rest, repeat on drops. Next day reverse, drop first, tops second.

+1 Although I doubt four laps is enough to get to a stable aerobic heart rate.

Just list everything you don’t have 100% control over

+1 (but I think you have sufficient control over tyre pressure).

You will have to work out what your maximum heart rate is before hand also. If you hit max for both sets the data won’t show anything.


Another point you might want to consider is that riding on the drops inhibits your lung capacity.

All up though I think your experiment will be enough for a good school project: be sure to post your results!

i believe this book
is the definitive on many of these matters, see if you can find a copy.

[li]prepare as much as you can, but have cutoffs for each step so you’re not rushed at the end. that includes deciding when to stop taking advice in here![/li][li]take lots of photos, or get someone to take lots of photos. making it look like you gave a shit is half the battle.[/li][li]write everything down, even the stuff you think you’ll remember, you can leave it out if you have too much data, but you can’t leave it in if you don’t have enough. if you get what I mean.[/li][li]as the other propellorheads were saying, the riding position seems to be a pretty minor factor, and hard to measure, compared to other more easily measurable things on a bike. a better question for the forums might be, ‘what would be a good cycling related experiment to conduct for physics/science/biology?’[/li][li]you haven’t mentioned the subject it’s for, how wide is the ‘scope’? what about a food/energy one … coke vs red bull vs red cordial vs water vs nothing :evil: or … riding in different gears?[/li][/ul]

Going back to your first idea, you were asking about aerodynamics, leaving out that it’s a difficult position to cycle from, as per SanEsteban’s comments, why ride at all? You could measure this in a wind tunnel type scenario - you’ll need a token cigarette smoker to produce a line of smoke, and about 8 fans to generate the wind, 4 blowing, 4 sucking :slight_smile:

Then apply for a grant from the AIS!

Great idea in theory but as mentioned too many variables.

I’m sure you will be assessed on whether your test is ‘fair’ or not. A fair test should have only one variable (the variable being tested) and everything else should be controlled (remain the same).

If you are being assessed on Experimental design I would choose something else. As a general rule an well designed experiment should be able to be repeated and yield the same/similar results.

Good luck!

ps. Dont use any pronouns in your lab report.

i think some of you are trying to apply university level experimental methodology to a 15yr olds high school lab report. :roll:

i think its a good experiment… yes theres some uncontrollable elements but SanEst’s comments ring the truest for me. by doing it on the same day, mixing up the apporach and monitoring a reasonable variable (HR) you will hopefully get some variance.

might be smart to do an actual ‘practice run’ to see if you feel like there isa difference before you commit to the experiment :wink:

check with your teacher before you go for it, they are ones marking it and chances are youll get a couple of tips for how to improve your approach (and marks) if you ask nicely.

I say go for it - its far more interesting than any science experiment I did at school (which seemed to involve innovative ways to blow stuff up as much as anything else…).

Good luck with it.


I say go for it too.

however, here’s some other possible ‘experiments’ and questions to consider.

How many spoke cards do you need to collect before your wheel becomes aerodynamic?

Actually – please make me one of those line graphs that show the optimum value between “tire durability” verses “tire price’
(as in, are you better off chewing through countless cheep $20 tires or is it worth spending $50 bucks on a gator or whatever)

That won’t do anything for your grades, but I’m sure it’ll be much appreciated here…

“leaving out that it’s a difficult position to cycle from, as per SanEsteban’s comments,”

i dont get this at all. riding in the drops decreases your lung capacity!?! what drops are you riding?
controlling your speed on fixed gear is a hard thing to do!?! another statement i dont understand.

this is a great experiment… changing the order of which you do first each day is a good idea. report very windy days, or dont ride them. also, a note on self perceived strength or fitness each test day would be a good thing to report.
I agree with photos and stuff. effort on easy things goes a long way. I’m looking forward to the results! Jan Heine has done aerodynamic tests in a backyard sort of way before, so a google search of his name might give some ideas.

for other ideas, i heated a calorimeter-full of water with 100db of constant sound for a physics experiment once. it worked. convert sound energy to heat energy… but be careful to allow for reflection.

Yes. Going to the drops decreases your hip angle.

Ever noticed how TT riders try to get right forward on their saddles? Noticed that TT saddles have an especially padded nose? Noticed that UCI has rules regarding seat position in relation to the BB? All because riders are trying to increase their hip angle.

Two benefits of larger hip angle: greater power output, lesser hinderance to lung capacity => less metabolic cost

This is well documented and means that, ceterus paribus, riding in the drops will result in a higher heart rate.

Unless the speed can be held at exactly 30km/hr it becomes a variable. You want as few variables as you can.

wow, this is such a huge amount of input.
Nikcee is right, its just a 15 year olds fun science project, I am going to write the plan soon and show me teacher for approval, he seemed fine and excited by the idea at the start.
The changes to be made are alternating what I start on either the drops or tops.
I will have to make adjustments after the first test, I will take photos of everything.
I think I will stick with what I am doing instead of max speed.
Are there any other changes which could be made, I did read all the replys but some just talked and didn’t state things which I could actually apply to the experiment.

Thanks all

borrow Alex4.0’s knog computer to help ensure you have a relatively consistent speed. i’d offer mine but its zip-tied to my roadie and im not turning up to each test. :wink:

which makes me think of an alternative experiment. you could do something similar to this but test the benefits of drafting. ride a couple of laps drafting a friend, ride a couple leading. use your HR as a gauge again…


This is a great idea… you will definately and easily be able to notice a lower HR when drafting.

Can you get your hands on a HR monitor with a computer link up? If you can attain the stardard deviation of your HR in the 2 positions (up vs. down, or leading vs. drafting) you could do some basic tests around statistical significance.

A+ here we come.

you’d be better off with a powertap than an HR monitor.

and you’d be better off in a wind tunnel than on the velodrome.

I’d be better off with a lot of things but I don’t have them so I’m going to use what I have.

Is my bike computer not suitable for this experiment? it shows speed and distance and is pretty cheap. I would love to do drafting but no one is gonna come with me and do it regularly, its all good. The HR monitor will just be a basic one, I am borrowing it from the PE department cause I can’t afford one.