The Physics of a Bicycle

The physics of the bicycle is one of the amazing topics one would ever wish to study. The bicycle has been used for many years for transportation purposes and also sporting activities and its simplicity makes it a fun machine which can be used by anyone even the children. Their perpendicular simplicity and cost-effectiveness make them easy and enjoyable to ride. The bicycle is scientifically termed as a machine as it converts energy from one form (body energy) to another (the kinetic energy) (Glaskin, 2012).


Bicycling is a kind of hard work especially if the cycling is being done on a hilly place since much energy is required to pedal a distance. When a cyclist is riding uphill he or she works against the gravitational force and if cycling very fast, the cyclist works against the air resistance force which pushes against the body. The road may sometimes have bumps which are to be ridden over meaning a lot of energy and more force are required since they reduce the speed by reducing the kinetic energy (Glaskin, 2012).  When one is cycling, the different parts of the bicycle function together to enhance the motion. Only a flat surface or a steep ground requires less amount of energy to cycle. This paper discusses three major bike parts which include the wheels, the brakes, and the pump.


The Wheels

The wheels consist of circular frames which rotate on the axle.  They are the most critical parts of a bicycle which work as a simple machine if one is to observe how the axle and the wheel do turn around since it increases the force and speed depending on how it is turned. They enable the rider to roll over the ground surface efficiently and speedily and are basically about 2 inches in diameter. This great height enables them to multiply their speed when turned at the axles and this explains why the racing bicycles have so great wheels than the others of about 27.5 inches (Hadland & Lessing, 2014). The wheels are made of a thin rim, a strong hub, and vastly tensioned spokes. The wheels are spooked rather than solid metal ones which make them lightweight and strong hence reducing drag when riding. The way the spokes are linked between the rim and the hub is quite important because they are heaved close-fitting as they intersect from the rim to the hub. When a rider sits on a bike, their weight pushes the hubs down hence stretching some hubs a bit less and others a bit more. The spokes prevent the wheels from slipping and the weight put on them is spread unequally since the ones near the vertical bear more weight than the rest. The other spokes share the much weight by moving near the vertical as the wheel rotates. The repeated tension and stress of many cycles and many wheel rotations causes stretching and relaxing of the spokes in an alteration manner which may make one of them fail as a result of metal fatigue.

The Brakes

The brakes are used to slow the motion or stop it. When cycling, there reaches a time when one would want to stop and this is enabled by the use of the brakes. The brakes use friction force which is a rubbing force occurring between two kinds of stuff sliding past each other as they touch. When the brake levers are pressed, the blocks compresses on the metal inner rim of the back and front wheels and as they rub forcefully against the wheels they turn the kinetic energy being used to heat (Penn, 2011). This heat has the slowing down effect on the cyclist hence bringing them to a safe stop.

The Pump

The bicycle pump is a kind of positive-displacement air pumps used to inflate the bicycle tires through compressing air into the tires by moving the handle up and down in a progressive manner. The pump has a tube which allows air to be pushed down to the tire when compressed. As the handle is being pulled up, the valve inevitably shuts off in order to prevent air from escaping from the tire and allow the new air to be pushed into the cylinder such that the process is done repeatedly (Penn, 2011).  Once the correct amount of pressure is pumped in, the valve is removed and the cap placed to prevent air from escaping.


             Physics is a significant subject in everyday life and activities regardless of whether we are cognizant of it or not and the sport of bicycling is no exception. Bicycling is one of the best sporting practice which turns the body energy into kinetic energy. The cycling process works on the basis of the friction which is a resistive force acting in the opposite direction of a moving body. The bicycle is made up of various parts which coordinate together to offer an efficient motion. Some of them are the wheels which support the bike on the ground, the brakes which help to regulate the speed or make a stop and the pump which inflates the tires.

References  Top of Form

Glaskin, M. (2012). Cycling science: How rider and machine work together. Chicago: The

            University of Chicago Press.

Bottom of Form

Top of Form

Hadland, T., & Lessing, H.-E. (2014). Bicycle design: An illustrated history.

Bottom of Form

Penn, R. (2011). It’s all about the bike: The pursuit of happiness on two wheels. New York:

              Bloomsbury. Press.

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