Weighted Disc Wheel Training for Elite Level Track Cycling Sprinters
What is Track Cycling
Track cycling made its Olympic debut in 1896 (1). Since its inception the sport has captivated athletes and spectators alike with cyclists reaching speeds upwards of 75 kph (47 mph) on a fixed gear bicycle with no brakes. Track cycling races occur on a velodrome, a wooden or concrete oval with two banked turns and two flat stretches. Velodromes can vary in length from 138 meters (Forest City Velodrome, CA) to 502 meters (Port Pirie Velodrome, Au and Chelsea Velodrome, Au). However, a standard sized Olympic velodrome is 250 meters long.
The Union Cycliste Internationale sanctions 22 track cycling races, 18 rely heavily on the use of a rider’s sprint to achieve a successful result. Power and pedaling rate are the primary components of speed (2). Since maximum torque has an inverse linear relationship with crank velocity and a direct relationship to thigh muscle volume, it would be most beneficial for a track cycling sprinter to have strong legs with a high pedaling rate (3, 4, 5). Studies show that the optimal pedaling rate for a sprinter is 100 to 130 revolutions per minute (rpm), for a time trialist/pursuiter is 90-100 rpm, and for an endurance rider 70-90 rpm (2, 3, 7, 8, 9).
Weighted Disc Wheel Composition
The introduction of a weighted rear disc wheel adds a new training tool to a track sprinter’s arsenal (10). There is no weighted disc wheel currently on the market for cyclists to purchase. Thus, riders have succumbed to building their own. A weighted disc wheel is built using any flat surfaced disc and affixing self-adhesive truck weights to its exterior (see figure). The weights are arranged in concentric rings working outward from the hub (11). All of the weights within a given ring must be equidistant from the hub. Due to the radius of the wheel, no more than six rings can be housed on a 700cc disc. Careful attention must be paid to affix the weights to both sides of the disc.
The adhesive weights can be purchased in a variety of weight increments (12). Weights can be purchased online for as little as $10 for a package of 48-¼ oz weights. Riders prefer the ¼ oz weights because the thin shape (1/2 cm thick) clears the frame when the wheel rotates. The more weight the rider adds and the closer the weight is to the hub the more resistance will be increased and inertia will be decreased, requiring more power to accelerate the bicycle.
Training Methods with a Weighted Disc Wheel
Training using a weighted rear disc wheel allows the cyclist to improve power and pedaling rate simultaneously. A weighted disc is designed to be used in conjunction with workouts incorporating starts or accelerations. The weighted disc wheel is a better alternative to wearing a weighted vest or using a gear larger than normal. Weighted vests shift a rider’s center of mass forward, forcing them to alter form to keep their rear wheel in contact with the track. Using a gear larger than normal retards the athlete’s pedaling rate. Whereas, weighted disc training allows a rider to practice in their race gear so they can maintain their form, pedaling rate, and still gain power.
Colleen Gulick is an undergraduate bioengineering major and athlete at the University of Maryland, where she is a member of the honors program and field hockey team, as well as a three-time junior national cycling champion. You can reach Gullick at firstname.lastname@example.org. She spends spends her summers working at the Valley Preferred Cycling Velodrome in Trexlertown, Pa.
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