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Bicycle Science, Technology & Design


Albert Einstein, the famous physicist loved riding his bicycle. Perhaps it was a feeling of freedom while riding that resonated most. Or maybe Einstein appreciated the bicycle's simple elegance and efficiency from a physics perspective.

Following Einstein's lead, physicist David Newman of the University of Alaska, has investigated the bicycle and found it the most efficient form of transportation available on earth.
The energy needed for bike travel at a given speed is less than any other mode of travel. Bikes are more efficient even than walking or mass transportation.
Perhaps this extreme efficiency also accounts for the bicycle's popularity in many parts of the world. Wikipedia estimates nearly 1 billion bikes exist world wide, twice the number of automobiles. In many parts of the world, the bicycle is the main mode of assisted transportation.

Likely the bicycle's appeal is enhanced by it's technological versatility and cost efficiency. With recent advancements due to mountain bike design, bicycles can now travel across a wider range of terrain than nearly any other mode of transportation and at lower cost.

Ultimately the bicycle transcends our Western understanding of technology and offers us a new path. For many Colorado Rough Riders, this alternative understanding of technology is a most intriguing aspect of cycling.

Philosopher Martin Heidegger and others suggests modern technology consumes resources and destroys the earth while providing humans with power on demand. But humans themselves, like the earth become slaved to technology. Certainly the automobile and modern power machinery enslave us in ways we don't like, even if we don't understand fully why.

Bicycling is different. It's like clean climbing technology. In the past, we old mountaineers would bang pitons into cracks as protection while leading a pitch up a cliff. Now we use "cams" and "nuts" which don't scar the rock when placed. Although they provide great protection. Cams and nuts can be reused for years since they easily release (usually). In other words, the environment is no longer consumed when using clean climbing technology.

Responsible bicycle travel also minimizes scaring or consumption of the environment. Although we rely on pre-existing trails and roads, a bicycle's impact can be quite minimal. Just as important, self powered travel is renewable. Very different than burning scarce resources that must be extracted from the earth. With cycling, the earth is no longer a mere resource of consumption.

Because bicycles offer an alternative, earth friendly, life renewing approach to mixed terrain travel, the Colorado Rough Riders actively promotes advances in bicycle science and technology. We encourage everyone to dive deeper into the mysteries of the bicycle. Who knows, you may discover a way to make bike travel even more efficient and versatile. At a minimum you will likely make your own bike and life a little better.

Learn More about Bicycle Science, Technology & Design:
Bicycling Science (2004), David Gordon Wilson
Covers a variety of subjects from aerodynamics, human physiology, power transmission, steering and stability, materials and more.

The Bicycle Wheel (1993), Jobst Brandt
One of the must have books for wheel builders. Covers the forces acting on bicycle wheels and the building of wheels that best resist those forces.

Designing and building your own Frameset (1979), Richard P. Talbot
Covers the physics and design issues of framebuilding.

Lugged Bicycle Frame Construction, A Manual for the First Time Builder (2009), Marc-Andre R Chimonas. A manual for inexpensively building your own bicycle frame.



Web Resources

Exploratorium
Science of Cycling
Physics of Bicycles
Physics of Cycling
Bicycle Wheel Physics