Monday, April 07, 2008

Speed & Relative Velocity

"I like to go fast, and use my brakes as little as possible." - Frank McCormack (national cx champion 1996)

I think most cyclists feel the need for speed. I do. First, there's the physical effort to get there, and once you are there, it takes work to maintain that speed.

Oh, but the joy is worth it.

However, for me, time trials (TT) are not really my bag of tricks.

You would think otherwise, right? I mean, TT is about speed.

The thing is, I like speed relative to objects.

What the heck is Roman Holiday talking about?

TT are all about the open road (most of the time); no one is really around you. So, it's difficult to get that sensation of moving fast and plus, there's not much to occupy your mind except pedal hard and keep your head down.

I like flying through tight traffic, with other bikes all around me. You see, blowing by stationary objects puts speed into perspective. You feel like you're going faster. Also, your brain is processing tons of YES/NO decisions along the way, which all adds up to the "speed blur". The same is true for flying through the woods on a mt bike.

I guess its like skiing on a narrow, tree-lined trail as opposed to skiing a big open bowl. Don't you feel faster in the trees?

In physics, this is known as "Relative Velocity". I'm not sure if it was Newton or Einstein that first described this.

In a nutshell, the velocity of a body, like it's position, must be described with reference to the origin of a coordinate system. The origin is fixed.

So, the velocity (i.e., speed) of the bike is relative to the traffic, other bikes, buildings, etc.

Either way, enjoy the rush.

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