Track cycling is a fascinating sport that captures the attention of millions of people around the world. As you watch the cyclists speed around the track, you may notice something peculiar – they always go anti-clockwise. We’re going to explore the reasons behind this seemingly arbitrary rule in track cycling and uncover the physics and history behind it.
Why Do Track Cyclists Go Anti Clockwise? (6 Reasons)
When track cyclists go anti-clockwise, they benefit from the centrifugal force that aids suction in their counter-clockwise movement.
Right-handedness is linked to the location of the heart, and the centrifugal force can assist this organ’s function when applied in an anti-clockwise direction.
It’s also worth noting that the Coriolis force affects the direction of cyclone rotations and can further support the preference for counter-clockwise movement in sports such as track cycling.
#1- Earth’s Rotation
The centrifugal force resulting from Earth’s rotation gives a cyclist cycling counter-clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere an edge. This benefit is the increased speed.
This force, which acts on their bodies from left to right, provides a helping hand in maintaining their speed and momentum as they round each curve.
#2- Right-Handedness Linked to Heart Location
Another theory as to why track cyclists and runners go anti-clockwise is that it’s linked to the location of the heart, which is situated on the left side of the chest.
This positioning of the heart encourages counter-clockwise movement which allows the superior vena cava to efficiently deliver deoxygenated blood to the right side of the heart through suction.
The force of gravity and the body’s center of gravity make running clockwise difficult and could potentially cause problems for the heart.
As a result, anti-clockwise movement is considered safer and allows for better blood flow.
Additionally, studies have shown that right-handedness is more common due to the heart’s position, as well as other factors such as brain lateralization.
#3- Coriolis Force Affects Cyclone Rotation Direction
The reason why hurricanes always rotate in a particular direction is due to the Coriolis Effect.
This phenomenon is caused by the way objects move in straight lines in a rotating reference frame.
As a result, cyclones in the Northern Hemisphere tend to rotate counterclockwise, while those in the Southern Hemisphere spin clockwise.
The Coriolis force deflects air currents to the right in the Northern Hemisphere, creating a counterclockwise motion around low pressure systems.
This force also plays a role in track cycling, where the direction of rotation is determined by Earth’s rotation.
Understanding the Coriolis Effect can help us appreciate the natural forces at play in various activities and events, from sports to weather.
#4- Anti-clockwise Direction Preferred for Aesthetics
From an aesthetic point of view, anticlockwise movement creates a distinct visual effect that is pleasing to the eye.
Spectators who watch cyclists race in this direction perceive movement as more fluid and graceful.
That’s why track and field athletes, as well as cyclists, are mandated to move in an anti-clockwise direction according to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and other sporting organizations.
#5- IOC Set Anti-clockwise Rule Due to Complaints
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) set the anti-clockwise rule for track cycling and running due to complaints received from athletes who had to compete in clockwise circuits.
The rule was established to create a level playing field for all competitors and ensure fairness in the sport.
#6- Other Practical Reasons
From a practical standpoint, anti-clockwise direction allows for easier overtaking and minimizes potential collisions between cyclists. This is especially important in competitive racing settings where every second counts.
Moreover, most people are right-handed and prefer to make turns to the left, which is why the anti-clockwise direction feels more natural.
Track Cycling Shares Similarities with Oval Car Racing
Oval track car racing is another sport where anti-clockwise racing is the norm, and it’s all due to driver position.
Drivers sit on the left side of the car, and so when turning left (which is more common in oval racing), drivers can better see the inside of the track and make more informed decisions.
Additionally, the consistent direction of racing helps to reduce variables and allows for more accurate comparisons between drivers.