About The Sled
The sled is the vehicle that the athletes use for their descent down the track. Though in the sport “sled” comes from the word comes from “Sleigh”, the vehicle itself is known as the sled. There is little to no difference between the work Bobsleigh or Bobsled.
Made to carry one, two of four people the sleds must be incredibly strong, durable, but also lightweight and fast. Whilst hurtling down the track at speeds of up to around 100mph the sled itself must be responsive to steering, as well as being ridged enough to keep its shape and remain fast. Modern sleds are made with mixtures of carbon fibre, and fibreglass shells over an internal metal chassis, in much the same way as a racing car, or boat would be.
How do you Drive a Bobsleigh
The inside of a bobsleigh is very sparse, carrying in it only the bare essentials. The nose holds the steering mechanism. This is a rudimentary system consisting of two vertical strings with handles known as “D-rings”. From here the driver is able to pull on one string or the other to direction the front runners in the same fashion. Asides from this and some very basic suspension and articulation, there is nothing else in a bobsleigh, side for the brakes at the back!
Is Bobsleigh Safe
Despite the incredible speeds and seemingly minimal protection, bobsleigh is not readily a life-threatening sport, however it is not for the faint-hearted either. No one has died in bobsleigh in recent history, which is of course good news for any athlete and their family. However, that is not to say that it couldn’t happen. When a bobsleigh crashes, the bodies in the sled are put at the mercy of gravity and the ice. Though it is next to impossible for a bobsleigh to leave the track, the act of crashing and going upside down can create significant injuries. It is not uncommon for athletes to suffer injured or broken shoulders from crashes, burns, and concussions from the impact. However, the most common way for a bobsleigh athlete to hurt themselves is sustaining a sporting injury on the push start.
For the most part bobsleigh is incredibly safe, and every measure is taken by each athlete, the governing body, and the tracks themselves to put athlete safety first. It is, for example, statistically far safer than just driving a car!
How Big is a Bobsleigh
Most bobsleighs are about 3 meters in length, as an average. The maximum length for a 2-man bobsleigh is 3100mm, and for a 4-man it is 3550mm. Most 4-man sleds will choose to be as long as possible to accommodate all four athletes, however commonly a 2-man sled will be smaller to allow for more control down the track. The distance between the front and rear axle of the sled is the main defining factor for its length, with a 2-man sled being 1690 +/- 30mm, and a 4-man being 2130 +/- 30mm. There are then further regulations on how far from this the nose can be, as well as the back of the frame (cowling).
How Much Does a Bobsleigh Weigh
Naturally, the more a bobsleigh weighs, the faster it will go downhill, therefore the rules on weight are strict, and weight is measured after every race for every team. There are two main figures, the weight for the sled itself, and the weight for the sled including its crew. Most teams will strive to have a minimum weight sled, with the athletes making the weight up to as close as possible to the maximum.
Contrary to the movie “Cool Runnings” there are no rules against adding weight to the sled, as long as the total weight does not exceed either the sleds maximum weight, or the maximum weight including the crew. So, for example, if a crew is underweight, they might choose to add a couple of kilograms to the sled to get them closer to the maximum.
Minimum weight for a bobsleigh:
Sled without the crew
- 2-person – 170kg
- 4-man – 210kg
Maximum weight for a bobsleigh:
Sled with crew
- 2-person – 390kg
- 4-man – 630kg
With these weights, a 4-man team with a minimum weight sled would want the athletes to weigh a total of 420kg, an average of 105kg per person!
The speeds that a bobsleigh can reach mean that aerodynamics are incredibly important. The sleds themselves are made to be like bullets cutting through the air. Unlike car racing where teams will add spoilers and design the cars to create downforce, the corners of a bobsleigh track provide the g-force needed, so downforce isn’t an issue. It’s all about speed!
The athletes inside a bobsleigh must also take care to make their bodies as aerodynamic as possible. A shoulder, or head, poking above the aero-dynamic profile of the sled can significantly slow down the entire sled. Just imagine sticking your head out of a car window at 90mph, and the amount of wind resistance that would make, the same is true of a bobsleigh athlete.
Therefore, the sleds are designed to fit the crew in as low as they can be, as well as allowing for the air to pass over the driver’s head. In an ideal situation, the only person a spectator would be able to see from the front would be the driver, in 2-man or 4-man.