Phenomena

Riding Across Water

Humans may not be fast enough to run across water, but we’ve found other ways to conquer the waves. It’s even possible (though definitely not recommended) to ride across stretches of water on a dirt bike. To do so, you have to keep the bike (hydro)planing, and to understand what that means, let’s take a moment to talk about boats.

At low speeds, boats stay afloat based on buoyancy, a force that depends on how much water they displace. But when moving at high speeds, modern speedboats lift mostly out of the water and skim the surface instead. At this point, it’s hydrodynamic lift that keeps the boat above the surface and we say that the boat is planing. Calculating that hydrodynamic lift is fairly complicated and depends on many factors – for those who are interested, check out some of David Savitsky’s papers – but, generally speaking, going faster gives you more lift.

This brings us back to the dirt bike. There’s nothing particularly hydrodynamic about a dirt bike. It’s not shaped to provide hydrodynamic lift, but it does come with a high power-to-weight ratio. It’s this ability to create pure speed, and a rider’s keen sense for holding the bike at the right angle, that enables pros to cross open water. Needless to say, this is the kind of stunt that could end really badly, so don’t try it yourself. (Image credits: C. Alessandrelli, source; EnduroTripster, source; via Digg; submitted by 1307phaezr)

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