Evaluation of aerodynamic and rolling resistances in mountain-bike field conditions

J Sports Sci. 2013;31(14):1606-13. doi: 10.1080/02640414.2013.792945. Epub 2013 May 28.


Aerodynamic and rolling resistances are the two major resistances that affect road cyclists on level ground. Because of reduced speeds and markedly different tyre-ground interactions, rolling resistance could be more influential in mountain biking than road cycling. The aims of this study were to quantify 1) aerodynamic resistance of mountain-bike cyclists in the seated position and 2) rolling resistances of two types of mountain-bike tyre (smooth and knobby) in three field surfaces (road, sand and grass) with two pressure inflations (200 and 400 kPa). Mountain-bike cyclists have an effective frontal area (product of projected frontal area and drag coefficient) of 0.357 ± 0.023 m², with the mean aerodynamic resistance representing 8-35% of the total resistance to cyclists' motion depending on the magnitude of the rolling resistance. The smooth tyre had 21 ± 15% less rolling resistance than the knobby tyre. Field surface and inflation pressure also affected rolling resistance. These results indicate that aerodynamic resistance influences mountain-biking performance, even with lower speeds than road cycling. Rolling resistance is increased in mountain biking by factors such as tyre type, surface condition and inflation pressure that may also alter performance.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Athletic Performance*
  • Bicycling*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Physical Phenomena*
  • Sports Equipment
  • Surface Properties
  • Young Adult