The Ellipcycle prototype model
Thought bike wheels needed to be round? If you're a female cyclist: think again.
Under the title 'Project Ellipcycle', researchers from Norway's respected Norwegian Organisation for Weights & Yields have made the breakthrough discovery that - unlike for male cyclists - women's hips and pelvises actually benefit from the unique rotational forces of elliptical, non-circular wheels.
This in turn allows them to create greater forward momentum, meaning that in a competitive situation they can add 'up to 3kph' to their top speed.
Oval chainrings have become popular in recent years
Comparisons have been drawn with oval chain rings, which came to prominence some years ago amongst pro cyclists and which are now commonly used by amateur club riders.
I have noticed a sensation of greater power and stability
In the case of wheels, however, it is seemingly the specific biomechanics of the female frame that lend themselves to the advantages of non-circular wheels.
Speaking earlier this week, lead researcher Prof. Yüv Binadt said: "Our 5-year programme found that the hip flexors in female cyclists move and stretch in such a way that forward motion translates more easily where elliptical dynamics are part of the equation".
She continued: "As a recreational cyclist, I've been using prototype elliptical wheels myself through the winter, commuting around our Oslo campus. I have noticed a definite sensation of greater power and stability, even on icy roads".
Although the project remains at the prototype stage for now, already a number of pro female teams have engaged Prof. Binadt's team to work with them. They have been additionally encouraged by test results that show how ride stability is actively improved yet comfort levels are largely unaffected by the shape of the preliminary non-circular wheel models. This means that their use over longer distances should be feasible.
Bike manufacturers are also said to be delighted because existing frames will work with the new generation of wheels. Caliper brakes, however, will no longer work and will need to be replaced by disc brakes on all elliptical wheeled bikes.
We will be watching how they take off with great interest. If they make you go faster, we expect their popularity to spread fast!