Bobsleigh:
The sled

The sled: the basics

Everything about a bobsleigh is designed to be quick. Manufacturers are always looking for the best materials and technologies to make their sled more aerodynamic and faster than their competitors. All that technology means sleds aren’t cheap - if you wanted to buy one, it’ll cost you between £25,000 and £70,000.

  • Bobsleighs come in either two or four-person models, although five and six-man versions were used in competition prior to the 1930s
  • Modern day sleighs combine light metals, steel runners, and an aerodynamic composite body made from fibreglass or carbon fibre, or a mixture of both
  • The sleds are designed to be as light as possible to allow dynamic positioning of mass through the turns of the course
  • There is a metal chassis inside that allows you to attach handles, footpegs, brakes and the steering mechanism in the front which guide the sled in the direction the pilot/driver wants it to go
  • A world class bobsleigh will of had many hours of research and development put in to it and can cost anywhere between £25,000-£70,000

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Steering system

  • The steering system consists of two metal rings that actuate a pulley system located in the forward cowling that turns the front runners. For example, to turn left, the pilot would pull the left ring
  • Only subtle steering adjustments are necessary to guide the sled - at speeds of up to 90 miles per hour (130 km/h), anything larger would result in a crash
  • The pilot does most of the steering, and the brakeman stops the sled after crossing the finish by pulling the sled's brake lever

Runners

  • These are the four pieces of steel that are attached to the bottom of the sled to enable it to run along the ice
  • The runners on both four and two-person sleds are set at 0.67 metres (2.2 ft) gauge.
  • There has also been a huge amount of research and development put into this equipment, with a set of runners costing anything between £4,000 and £10,000

4 Man Jacko Col

Weight and size

Until the first weight-limit rule was introduced in 1952, bobsleigh crews tended to be very heavy to ensure the greatest possible speed. Now, there are limitations to the weight and size of the sled and the crews that push them.

Two-person sleds

  • Both the men and women’s two-person bobsled must have a minimum weight of 170kg without the crew aboard
  • The maximum weight including crew is 390kg (860 lb) for the two-man and 340kg (750 lb) for the two-woman sled. The maximum weight can be reached with the addition of metal weights if desired
  • Competitions sleighs must be a maximum 2.70 metres (8.9 ft) long

Four-man sled

  • The men’s four-man sled must be a minimum of 210 kg without the crew aboard.
  • The maximum weight including crew is 630kg (1,390 lb).
  • Competition sleighs must be a maximum of 3.80 metres (12.5 ft) long