AAAI Publications, 2010 AAAI Fall Symposium Series

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Hysteresis in Competitive Bicycle Pelotons
Hugh Trenchard

Last modified: 2010-11-03


A peloton is a group of cyclists whose individual and collective energy expenditures are reduced when cyclists ride behind others in zones of reduced air pressure; this effect is known in cycling as ‘drafting’. Through drafting cyclists couple their energy expenditures. Coupling of cyclists’ energy expenditures when drafting is the basic peloton property from which self-organized collective behaviours emerge. Here we examine peloton hysteresis, applying the definition used in the context of vehicle traffic in which a rapid deceleration to a high density state (jam) is followed by a lag in vehicle acceleration. Applying a flow analysis of volume (number of cyclists) over time, peloton hysteresis is examined in three forms: one is similar to vehicle traffic hysteresis in which rapid decelerations and increased flow (or density) are followed by extended acceleration periods and reduced flow. In cycling this is known as the accordion effect. A second kind of hysteresis results from rapid accelerations followed by periods of decreasing speeds and decreasing flow. This form of hysteresis is essentially inverse to traffic hysteresis and the accordion effect. We show this form of hysteresis using data from a mass-start bicycle points-race. A third kind of peloton hysteresis occurs when the drafting benefit is minimized on hills and weaker cyclists lose positions in the peloton, while flow/density is retained. A computer simulation shows this hysteresis among two sets of cyclist agents, each with different output capacity and models hysteresis as a peloton transitions from flat topography to a steep incline on which drafting is negligible.


peloton; hysteresis; complex adaptive system; self-organizing

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