If you’ve watched a MotoGP race, you’ll notice the riders are decked out in full racing suits, a helmet, and many other pieces of equipment. When the rider takes off their helmet, you may notice and wonder why MotoGP riders have tape on their nose.
MotoGP riders tape their nose or wear nose strips to open up their nasal passages for improved breathing while racing. They help to keep the nostrils open wider, allowing them to bring in more oxygen with every breath they take. This, in theory, should help them perform at their best.
Below, we’ll take a deeper dive into the idea of using nose strips to boost performance, and we’ll go through how effective they can be for MotoGP riders. We’ll also go into detail about just how physically demanding MotoGP can be.
Why Do MotoGP Riders Wear Nose Strips?
MotoGP riders wear nose strips in order to open their nasal passages wider to allow them to take deeper breaths through their noses and get more oxygen into their lungs. Not all riders wear nose strips, and some may use alternatives, and the practice is common outside of MotoGP as well.
Nose strips, nasal dilator strips, or nasal tape all correspond to the adhesive strips that you will often see some MotoGP riders wear on their noses when they take off their helmet after a race. No matter what you want to call them, these all serve the same function – to open up the rider’s nasal passages to allow them to take deeper breaths through their nose.
They put the strips on their nose in a way that lifts the skin slightly, opening up the nasal passage further, and preventing it from collapsing. The idea is that by making the nasal passages wider, riders can take in greater volumes of oxygen with every breath through their nose. It also makes them less reliant on breathing through their mouth, which can be difficult with a helmet on.
Test It Yourself
To understand the effect that is happening here, you can do a simple test yourself. Take a breath through your nose, and just notice how it feels. Then, gently grab the middle of your nose and pull the skin slightly upwards towards your eyes.
Once again take a breath through your nose and notice how it feels. You should feel a larger volume of air going in and out of your nose while you have it pinched. This is what the nasal strips are designed to do.
How Nasal Strips Work
The way this works is fairly simple, and it has to do with the pressure inside your nose and lungs. Your nostrils are pretty narrow, and when you’re doing a lot of exercise and heavy breathing, this already narrow area actually becomes even narrower. Nose strips essentially hold open your nostrils a bit wider, allowing you to get more air in with each breath.
Nose strips have also been designed to be used with horses, as the animals are unable to breathe through their mouths and can only breathe through their noses. However, in horses the primary goal of wearing these strips is actually to prevent bleeding in their lungs, rather than to improve performance. However, it’s an interesting adaptation of a fairly simple product.
Nose Strip Alternatives
An alternative to wearing nose strips or tape comes in the form of silicone nasal dilators, which don’t pull skin and instead push from the inside. MotoGP rider Pol Espargaró has been seen using these, and while they are a more intrusive option, they may be more effective for some people.
Nasal dilators also open the nasal passages wider than nose strips can, essentially allowing for even more air per breath. They are also not battling sweat during a very physical MotoGP race, which could result in nasal strips falling off. Nasal strips also cannot be reused, but a nasal dilator can.
As an example of how important breathing is for a MotoGP rider, multiple world champion Marc Márquez actually had surgery to improve his breathing. He had his deviated septum corrected in 2013, which made breathing through his nose more difficult.
Given that MotoGP riders are under immense physical pressure during a race, it makes sense that they would do anything they can to make breathing easier, and that’s why many of them wear nose strips.
Do Nose Strips Actually Make It Easier To Breathe?
There are not many studies that prove whether nose strips actually make it easier to breathe. A 2000 study found that external nose dilators do not enhance performance when they measured various performance metrics of athletes. However, a 2018 study found that they did reduce nasal resistance.
Some Studies Suggest They Don’t
The 2000 study showed that there was no enhancement in the performance of the athletes in the study when they measured metrics such as VO2 max, an important indicator of performance, both with and without nasal dilator strips.
A 1998 study presented to the American College of sports medicine showed that nasal strips had no effect on the breathing of the subjects during intense exercise, and that they did not substantially improve their performance.
Others Suggest They Do
However, a 2018 study found that nasal dilator strips lowered nasal resistance by an average of 0.5 cm H20/Lps from an average nasal resistance of 5.5 cm H20/Lps. This suggests they do have an effect, but that effect may not actually significantly improve performance.
However, the perceived benefits for MotoGP riders, and other athletes that tape their noses or use any other form of nasal dilator, are that they can allow for an increased supply of oxygen to their lungs and reduce mouth breathing. An increased supply of oxygen could boost performance, and reduced mouth breathing could make things more comfortable under a tight helmet.
However, regardless of whether a nasal dilator is worth it or not, if MotoGP riders feel they help and that they race better when they wear them, they will use them.
KEY POINTS• MotoGP riders wear nose strips to improve their breathing when racing
• The strips or other nasal dilators do this by opening the nostrils wider than normal
• Whether or not nasal strips actually improve breathing and performance is up for debate
Is MotoGP Physically Demanding?
MotoGP is physically demanding, with riders handling a 157 kg bike at speeds of up to 200 mph for about 45 minutes. They do this with more than 20 of the world’s most talented motorcycle racers beside them, and it is so physically demanding that they may lose 2 kg of water per race through sweat.
While many may look at motorsports like MotoGP and think it is simply riding a motorcycle round in circles, it is clearly much more physically demanding than that. Not only are the riders travelling at incredible speeds on some incredible machinery, but they are also constantly moving around on the bike.
More Than Just Riding Fast
They do this to optimize their weight transfer and grip into corners at very high speeds – much higher speeds than you can ever imagine travelling around corners on a road bike. They are doing this while wearing motorcycle leathers and fire suits in some of the hottest climates in the world.
They may be racing in temperatures of 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) or more, and high humidity levels can see them lose 1 to 3 kg of water through sweat during a race. This makes hydration extremely important for MotoGP riders, but also physical stamina and endurance. It is for this reason that MotoGP riders will train extensively when they’re not racing on track.
Are MotoGP Riders Athletes?
MotoGP riders are athletes, and most of them are constantly training physically in order to improve their performance on the track. Riding a 157 kg MotoGP bike around some of the fastest racing circuits on the planet for 45 minutes at a time requires extreme levels of physical endurance.
MotoGP riders will have their own personal trainers with whom they will go through rigorous training programs in between races and in the off-season. This is absolutely vital, as MotoGP racing is some of the most physical motorcycle racing in the world, and so in order to perform at their best they must constantly train their bodies and remain in peak physical condition.
KEY POINTS• MotoGP riders are definitely athletes
• The racing is very physically demanding
• MotoGP riders must train constantly to be able to perform at their best
MotoGP riders tape their nose or use other nasal dilators in order to open up their nasal passages wider to improve their breathing. By keeping the nostrils open wider, they can get more oxygen into their lungs with every breath, and many riders believe this helps them perform better.
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