Preparing for a Race
The act of preparing the sled for a race is actually fairly straight forward, but it can be very time consuming. There are any manner of parts that can be checked, but the main processes that need to get done are to polish the sled, align the runner shoes, put in/remove the weight, and polish the runners.
Polishing the sled itself is very straight forwards and nowhere near as complex as polishing the runners which involves a huge amount of effort. It is as easy as getting some regular car or boat polish and making sure the sled is clean, and glossy for the race. This ensures that the sled is as aerodynamic as possible as well as making it look good for the cameras!
Aligning the runner shoes is a very specialist process, and is done to make sure that all four runners are lying in exactly the same direction. If one runner were to be even one degree out of alignment then this could dramatically slow down the sled in the race. There are many methods for aligning the runners and the runner shoes, from specialist alignment gauges, to rudimentary use of fishing wire as a plumb line. Regardless the result is the same, and that’s to have everything pointing in exactly the right direction.
Changing the weight of the sled is key. As mentioned in “How Much Does a Bobsleigh Weigh” there are strict rules as to how heavy the sled can be, and being as close to that limit as possible is imperative. Most teams will leave a couple of kilograms margin in case of snow in the sled, or an athlete being particularly heavy one day. However, for the large gaps in weight, this is where weights will be bolted down, or removed from the sled.
Bobsleigh Runner Preparation
Polishing the runners is a laborious and tedious task, but it must be done. The polishing is a process of using sand paper to make sure that there are no imperfections in the contact surface of the runner. Large imperfections can slow the sled down, so it is important to use rough sandpaper to get these out. Then incrementally smoother and smoother sandpaper is used to take the runners down to a near perfect shine. This is with the idea that if there are no marks in the runners, then they will run faster.
The aim of the preparation of the sled is that everything is completed by race day. This means that all of the athletes can prepare themselves mentally and physically, knowing all the work is done. The smaller tasks should also be taken care of by this time. This means doing things like making sure the alignment shims are taped together and labelled so they can go straight into the sled, the same with the rubber springs for the runners. Some athletes will choose to add grip to their handles, or change the padding on their seat to make sure that everything is as perfect as it can be for the big day.