Olympic bobsled designing, building, racing. An exact science.
“You can often measure a person by the size of his dream.”
Olympic Bobsled construction. There’s more to it than meets the eye. Zero-error built the one pictured here.
Watching bobsleds race down the icy twisting bobsled runs during the olympic games will not give you any information about their construction.
The strict rules of bobsledding direct that everyone is working with the same space age technology, but the task of transforming it into a fiberglass dart with the steering and suspension of a BMW .
One of the companies charged with designing a new bobsled estimated it would cost $25,000. to build. The final product cost $150,000. and all for a sport where there is no cash prize.
An Olympic bobsled may be built for a two person or a four person team. All sleds have the same basic components.
Each bobsled has:
A steel frame
A fiberglass body, closed in front and open in the back
A movable set of front runners
A fixed set of rear runners
A Collapsible push bars for the driver and crewmen
Fixed push-bars for the brakeman
A serrated metal brake on a lever used once the bobsled passes the finish line
The International Federation of Bobsledding sets the rules for the materials and dimensions including the total weight of the bobsleds. The teams work closely with the builders to design the best sled possible.
Each type of bobsled must weigh the same at the start line. For instance here are the weights for each type:
Two-man: minimum 384 pounds (170 kilograms) when empty, maximum 860 pounds (390 kilograms) with crew and equipment.
Two-woman: minimum 284 pounds (170 kilograms) when empty, maximum 750 pounds (340 kilograms) with crew and equipment
Four-man: minimum 463 pounds (210 kilograms) when empty, maximum 1,389 pounds (630 kilograms) with crew and equipment
Heavier bobsled may attain higher speeds so the teams may add extra weight in the form of ballast to meet the weight requirement.
The rules allow for decals and sponsor logos in view. The fiberglass or Kevlar bodies cannot be transparent and must be strong enough to withstand impact with walls or curbs.
The runners must be blunt. They're polished until very smooth, minimizing the friction between them and the ice. Because narrow runners reduce friction and are faster, the FIBT has rules covering runner width. Plating, coating or lubricant added to the runners is illegal, and so is heating them. Race officials electronically measure the temperature of the runners before the race, comparing it to a reference runner that has been exposed to air for at least an hour. A temperature difference of more than four degrees between the bob's runner and the reference runner results in disqualification.
Prior to 1960, steering wheels were used but modern Olympic bobsled builders use steering rings to steer the runners. They are attached to a pulley system connected to the front runners of the olympic bobsled. The maximum the runners can move is 3 inches to either side. The brake stays static until the sled passes the finish line. The lever is located between the drivers legs.
Many things must be taken into consideration that effect the bobsled speed and handling. The sled has to take advantage of the forces that help it accelerate, and it has to bring to a minimum the forces that cause it to go slower.
Drag is a major design factor. Air passing over the body slows the Olympic bobsled down. The designers use wind tunnels to chose the edges that cause the most drag and build the sled to minimize it.
Friction is the second consideration. The runners are the contact points with the ice. Since they are very narrow, not much friction will be created. The builders must polish the runners perfectly. The FIBT requirements are very strict. The runners must also work properly on ice that has been scarred up by other racers as the day goes on.
Momentum is the one major factor that may dictate the winners of a race. Building tolerances have been refined to the optimum degree but the strength and agility of the racing team combined with coordination and good sled steering and strategy will in the end, dictate who wins the title of the best Olympic bobsled team.
So lets take a look at the start area. It is 50 meters long. The team has that distance to get the sled from a starting standstill to a speed of approximately 40 km per hour.
Static fiction is that fiction between an object that is motionless and the ice surface it sits on, is greater than sliding friction. The team will be seen to be rocking the sled back and forth before they begin the push this reduces the static friction.
The team pushes the Olympic bobsled faster and faster until they near the start line where they must climb in, bring in their push rods and lower their heads to reduce drag. The start is so very important.
Now gravity and momentum take over accelerating the bobsled down the track. The driver must choose a path carefully using the banking on the curves just right. The higher up the curve he drives the longer the distance he travels. The lower he steers the less he may use centrifugal force.
Tobogganing. Totally different from Bobsledding and a lot more fun.
The final results of the race dictate who and which team of designers, builders, team players got it right. Their ability to use the training and technology to their best advantage to get their Olympic bobsled across the finish line in the shortest time will win.
For all of the events check out these Olympic sports events.
Speed skating Power and agility on skates.
Figure Skating Beauty and grace on ice.
Alpine skiing. Racing the clock.
Bobsledding. Breakneck speed on solid ice.
Nordic skiing. Exciting races on skinny skis.
Biathlon Nordic skiing and rifle shooting combination.
Curling. The ancient game just gets better.
Hockey High flying teamwork in action.
Luge. How fast will the sled go.
Ski Jumping.Soaring through the air like a bird.
Freestyle Skiing. daring acrobats on skis.
Tobogganing What a fantastic fun thing to do.
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