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The science behind wheeled sports
The science behind wheeled sports

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3.3 The effect of new materials on cycling

In Section 2.3, we asked you to use the internet to find images of bicycles that reflect the technological development of the equipment used in track cycling. The next activity asks you to continue your research into bike design by finding information about the use of carbon fibre in track cycling.

Activity 5 Development of bike design

Timing: (The estimated time needed to complete this activity is 30 minutes.)

When was carbon fibre first used in cycling at the Olympic Games? Search for relevant websites that will help answer this question by following the step-by-step procedure below.

  1. Think of at least five keywords that you could use to search for information about this topic.
  2. Choose at least three keywords from your list, and use them to search the internet for useful websites.
  3. View the list of websites suggested by your search engine. Choose two of the websites that look most useful.
  4. Visit both of these websites, spending a maximum of five minutes viewing each site. (Note that the aim of this activity is to find useful websites, not to use the information there. You don't have to read all of the material on each website but just enough to judge whether it might help you answer the question.)
  5. Record the addresses of these two websites in your study diary and write down, as bullet points, comments about their usefulness for your search.


Carbon fibre began to be used in bicycle components in the early 1980s, first appearing at the 1984 Games. Fully carbon-fibre frames first appeared a few years later. (The short film at the start of this section describes the fabrication of such a frame.)

It is not very straightforward to find this information, and you may not have found it with just a brief search, but did you discover any useful websites? Did your choice of keywords help your search?

As you were asked to find something about the history of cycling, 'history' would have been a good choice for a keyword. Other useful keywords include 'carbon fibre', 'Olympics' and 'track cycling', while 'cycle design' and 'cycle frame' might also have helped.

Your search engine may have found a Wikipedia page on the history of either cycling or carbon fibre. This sort of page would contain useful information but, as we noted earlier in the course, you need to verify information from encyclopedic websites of this kind. These web pages are useful as the starting point of an information search but they should not be used on their own.

You might have also found the websites of sporting organisations such as British Cycling or the International Olympic Committee. These sites may mention technological developments such as the introduction of carbon fibre but they might not have detailed histories of its use in the sport.