Friday, August 25, 2017

Dr. Chester Kyle : Pioneer in Human Powered Vehicle Aerodynamics

Chester Kyle, PhD is a pioneer in cycling science and the aerodynamics of human powered locomotion. Now retired, he served as an adjunct professor of mechanical engineering at the U of California at Long Beach for several years. He also served a stint at Nike designing aerodynamic clothing. 

When you read the breadth and scope of his work, you really will be surprised how much of aerodynamic design and technology that has infiltrated cycling, whether real or gimmick, had been already explored by him and his students. From drivetrain efficiency to the aerodynamic drag of a shaved vs unshaved cadaver, there was practically little he didn't explore and write on.

Several ideas introduced by him and his peers at the US Olympic committee and human powered vehicle circles went onto win international cycling championships and setting speed records. At the height of his career, the UCI was hot on the chase of these "ideas", banning several of the improvements broguht to the UCI sanctioned cycling races. As Dr. Kyle likes to joke, 'the minute they saw them [plop], they became illegal'.

Dr. Kyle's investigations into technical aspects of cycling through simple experiments driven by a sense of economics and curiosity for the science should serve as an example for any investigator today. The most important aspect of these investigations was that he helped produce a body of empirical data that let other researchers and designers go about their business.

On 13th May 2010, he was invited to a seminar for the students of MAE297.  The following is the video from that lecture. An amazing little talk, and made no worse by Dr. Kyle's upbeat attitude and quirky sense of humor. 

Credits :
Film by the UC Davis Engineering distance learning program, 2010.

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