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Is it possible on a short enough circuit with enough riders to create a peloton that extends all the way round the circuit. Even in a single line?

Lets assume the riders have a professional level of bike handling?

Would it have the benefit that it would seem to be? Reduced wind resistance for everyone.

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Sure, why not? But it would be rather contrived. You'd have to have an exact number of riders. –  Carey Gregory May 2 '13 at 14:03
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Certainly could be done. A little hard to coordinate, getting started -- probably start with fewer riders and add more as things settle in. And there's a danger that self-reenforcing harmonics would occur in the speed-up/slow-down response of the riders, leading to collisions. –  Daniel R Hicks May 2 '13 at 14:33
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@DanielRHicks +1 You should put it into an answer, the harmonics part is the key reason why that would not work (unless the riders work in a circus and have coreographic skills). –  heltonbiker May 2 '13 at 14:52
    
@heltonbiker - You probably need to have a prime number of cyclists. –  Daniel R Hicks May 2 '13 at 17:59
    
Three riders would be enough if you use a Globe of Death instead of a regular track... –  heltonbiker May 2 '13 at 18:03
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1 Answer 1

up vote 13 down vote accepted

If your question is, "can wind resistance be reduced for everyone on a small circuit," then the answer is "yes, this is a well-known effect, and if the circuit is small enough even one rider is enough."

It is well-known that riders on indoor velodromes create their own "draft" by circling the track. This effect is large when the number of riders is large (for example, in a points race) but is even measurable when there is only one rider on the track (for example, for the hour record). Even a straw can stir up a bath tub, and even a single rider can set up a circulating current in a velodrome. In a typical velodrome the "draft" varies between the straights and the curves, and from the infield up to the top of the banked curve.

The amount of "draft" or aerodynamic benefit varies, as noted, with the number of riders but also their speed. For a single rider on a 250m indoor velodrome at individual pursuit-like speeds the reduction in "effective" drag area due to this effect can be close to .005 m^2.

Field measurements of aerodynamic drag based on velodrome tests must be corrected for this effect. That is, real-time measurements of drag will decrease for the first few minutes while the rider "stirs the bath tub" until it reaches an equilibrium value. You can also see this in the power-to-speed relationship for hour record attempts (which are always done on a track -- power-to-speed decreases over the first several minutes) and in team pursuit events.

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That's a whole new perspective, and there is science in it! +1 –  heltonbiker May 2 '13 at 18:05
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