Bobsled designs started with little more than a few ideas and materials to make an entertaining means of transportation for sliding on ice with other sled enthusiasts. However, bobsled designs have responded to rule changes set out by the Bobsleigh & Skeleton Federation (IBSF). They ensure that designs are fair and safe for competition. The weight, materials and design of bobsleds have changed considerably over the years.
Early bobsleds were adapted from wooden delivery sleds. The early steering system led to the development of the word ‘bobsled’. The system included two skeleton sleds attached together with a board and a steering mechanism at the front. The brake system led to better stopping and increased speed around curves.
Bobsled materials gradually changed from wood to fibreglass and light metal. The current IBSF regulations allow a bobsled with a length of 3.8 metres for a crew of 4, and a length of 2.7 metres for a crew of 2. The weight of the crew must not exceed 630 kilograms for a 4 man crew, 390 kilograms for a 2 man crew and 340 kilograms for a two women crew. The maximum weight of the crew must be considered in the design of a bobsled to ensure the lightest and most aerodynamic design possible.
Bobsleds included a steering wheel until the 1960s. However, drivers now use a steering mechanism with two pieces of rope joined to a steering bolt for turning the front frame of the bobsled. The brake is positioned between the brakeman’s knees and is not used until crossing the finish line.
The modern design of a bobsled must consider aerodynamics, materials, weight and safety considerations set out by the International Bobsleigh & Skeleton Federation (IBSF). The design of bobsleds will continue to respond to changes deemed acceptable by regulators, fans and competitors.