Materials in Sport: Tour de France (28.07.2015)

Britain’s hopes for a third Tour victory in four years hang on the winner of the 2013 competition – Team Sky’s Chris Froome, pictured here in the 2012 race, in which Bradley Wiggins famously became the first British winner in Tour history. With gains to be made in every detail of the bike’s design, the engineering of materials can be the difference between a yellow jersey and a red face.

TYRES

Tubular tyres do away with the inner tube required for more common clincher tyres and are typically made from natural rubber compounds. Carbon fibre and now even graphene nanoplatelets are being introduced, increasing strength and reducing the risk of puncture.

SHOES

A carbon fibre sole creates a light, stiff and durable surface to minimise energy loss, and is locked in to the pedal by a cleat that captures the rider’s pedalling energy for the entire cyclic motion, increasing efficiency. The woven upper is contoured and dimpled, and formed of ultra-lightweight synthetic fibres – predominantly carbon fibre.

HARDWARE

The chain rings are CNC machined from aluminium or steel, and can be nickel-plated for wear resistance. Carbon is never off the bike engineer’s mind for long, and high-carbon steels are often used. The chain itself uses the same materials. The latest craze is for electronic gear shifting – a divisive innovation in the cycling community.

CLOTHING

It doesn’t leave much to the imagination, but the elastic polyurethane fibre known as Lycra offers essential performance benefits. It is moisture wicking, pulling sweat from the skin and out to the surface, where it easily evaporates. Bib shorts substitute a waistband for shoulder straps to prevent digging and are skin-tight, reducing drag. They have an inner supportive pad made from a variety of ultra-dense moisture wicking foams. The hem of the jersey is made of an elastomer such as silicone to prevent it from riding up, leaving the cyclist susceptible to sunburn.

HELMET

Averaging around 40km/h, with downhill highs exceeding 110km/h, helmets are compulsory. The protective layer is made of polystyrene foam, for its shock absorbing properties and light weight – the highest-spec helmets weigh less than 200g. This is co-formed with an outer polycarbonate shell, into which ventilation channels are formed to keep the rider cool despite the insulating foam. Moisture-wicking polyester fibre is used for the inner padding at several contact points.

SPOKES

Here, Froome is competing in a time trial, where the innovative three-spoke carbon fibre wheel, built for pure speed, is allowed. Dimples on the surface of his rear wheel allow it to cut through the air, like a golf ball. But most stages require a minimum of 12 spokes, and the demanding hill climbs involved in the Tour mean a high-strength material such as carbon steel alloys, titanium or stainless steel is used to distribute the pressure between the rim and hub in tension and compression.

BRAKES

Cork pads are a popular choice for brakes on carbon rims – a composite cork polymer prevents the brake pulsation produced by residue buildup on common rubber pads.

FRAME

Steel, aluminium and titanium have a place in the enthusiast and even professional bike frame markets. But for elite performance, nothing compares to carbon fibre. Carbon filaments are fed into a polymer resin bath to make sheets, which are layered over a mould at varying angles to create the required balance of stiffness and strength. Unidirectionally layered fibres offer high stiffness, perfect for the bottom bracket, where flex should be reduced to maximise the transfer of energy from the rider through the pedals. Fibres layered at 45° sacrifice some stiffness for strength, giving the front enough flex to absorb some of the impact from the road. The tubes are aero-optimised and tailored to the rider’s specifications.

Carbon fibre is highly resistant to fatigue, so stands up to repeated flexing. Relative to strength, it weighs around five times less than steel and three times less than aluminium. The downsides? The raw materials and labour-intensive manufacture are expensive – and the stiffer sections are especially brittle, so an accident can break a bone and the bank all at once.

RIMS

The deeper the rim, the more aerodynamic the wheel – but extra material adds to the weight, and the further from the wheel’s axle weight is, the more it affects the acceleration. The answer is a deep carbon fibre rim – the weight penalty is small enough to be offset by its aerodynamic benefit.

Источник:IOM3

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