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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Sports Biomechanics Lab coming to a close on bicycle research project

Researchers at UC Davis have been studying and experimenting with the human-bike relationship through two different bike models in the hope of designing a more efficient bike.

Two years ago the Sports Biomechanics Lab was given a two-year grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for its proposed bicycle research. The grant was received in October of 2009 with a no-cost extension to continue the research until October of this year. The lab is focusing its research on human control of a bike.

“There’s been bicycle research in the department on and off for the past few years,” said mechanical and aerospace engineering professor Dr. Ronald Hess, who is one of two professors overseeing the project. “It turned out to be a neat project.”

In the vehicular realm, bicycles can be considered very unique modes of transportation. Bicycles, unlike cars or airplanes, only make up 20 percent of the mass in the human-vehicle relationship. Another distinctive facet of the vehicle is that a human has to use nearly all of their sensory capabilities while riding. Visual, vestibular and proprioceptive sensory systems are all required for riding. The vestibular system helps in the control of balance and the proprioceptive system is one’s sense of relative position of body parts. According to Hess, this can be likened to knowing what your hand is doing even when it’s behind your back.

For the research project, graduate students, with help from the professors, created two bikes: a refined bike for human use and a robotic bicycle. The bike that was created for human use was completed first.

“The experiments were actually really fun,” Hess said.

The human-compatible bike was tested first on a horse treadmill and then in the pavilion at the Activities and Recreation Center.

Both bikes were designed by first creating an idealized model.

“The rider is fixed to the frame,” said mechanical and aerospace engineering professor Dr. Mont Hubbard. “We tried to restrict him to this idealized model that we had.”

A computer attached to the bike helped gather information on what the rider was doing while riding.

The second bike that is nearly finished is completely robotic and was intended to help better understand a regular bike with a rider.

“The robot bicycle lets us have a bicycle that we know everything about,” Hubbard said. “It’s a way to refine and test a model from the bike alone without the human in the loop.”

An onboard computer calculates what the steering torque should be.

Both professors that worked on the project admired their graduate students’ work concerning the research and construction that was involved in the project.

“My favorite part of the project was interacting with so many different people,” said mechanical and aerospace engineering graduate student Jason Moore.

Mechanical and aerospace engineering graduate students Luke Peterson and Gilbert Gede also worked alongside Moore on the project.

Hess and Hubbard said that understanding the human-bike relationship better could lead to the production of specialized bikes that are tailored to specific individuals.

MAX GARRITY RUSSER can be reached at campus@theaggie.org.

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