Science Lesson: Luca Colombo’s Lake Ride

Posted: April 25, 2018 in Science Lesson
Tags: ,

Recently a friend tagged me in a link that featured this rad video:

Italian motorcyclist Luca Colombo rode across Italy’s third largest lake, Lago di Como, on a modded Suzuki RMZ 450.  The video has been blowing minds all over the internet, but anybody who has watched motocross movies has seen riders glide their way at least partly across a body of water.  It’s just a matter of physics and something we encounter on a rainy day.

The phenomenon is known as hydroplaning or aquaplaning (depending on which continent you’re on).  Most of us know it from that scary moment while driving when the car starts to slide on a wet road.  What’s happening is that the speed at which the car is traveling creates pressure under the tires.  At a certain point (NASA calculated an equation for this in 1963 but the speed is in knots), the pressure under the tires equalsand eventually exceeds—the weight of your car, lifting it off the road.  As there’s less friction between your car and the water, you end up feeling like you’re sliding.

The same thing happens when motorcyclists glide across a pond.  A bike’s light weight may make the feat seem easy, but narrow tires cause the weight to be distributed across a smaller area, making it more likely to sink.  Plus since a rider is intentionally hydroplaning, they also have to consider the transition from land to water.

hydroplane2
From HYDRO MX’s Facebook page

Luca had some help to keep his Suzuki afloat.  You can see ski-like blades attached to the wheels, which increase the area of distribution of weight.  The back tire also has treads designed to push him across the surface of the lake.

The end result is a battle of forces and a rider who has enough skill to control all of them.  The image below is based on Robbie Maddison’s Pipe Dream video.  Click here to see how he does it on one of the biggest waves.

hydroplane1
From Business Insider

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