Bicycle Science

We have spent a lifetime studying what makes a bicycle work.  Here are some highlights.

The mystery of the bicycle

When a bike and rider are zipping merrily along, the mystery is that they seem to stay upright with relative ease, but common sense surely tells us that if nothing tangible is holding the bike and rider up — it must be quite possible that they could fall down? That...Read More »

What Keeps a Moving Bicycle Upright

Other variations on the same question can be phrased as

•How Does a Bicycle Work?

•What scientific principles keep bikes upright?

•Why is it so easy to ride a bike once you have learned?

•Is there an invisible wall, as hinted by C. S. Lewis in Prelandra, (1944, p. 68) that prevents a bike...Read More »

The Semi-Naive Bike


The photo shows the Semi-Naive Bike with a conventional front tire in place (rather than the two small 12 1/2 inch counter-rotating tires), as well as the rear precession canceling tire removed. It is actually the same bike that we previously dubbed the “Naive Bike,” but we call it...Read More »

The Naive Bike


In the next quest to determine more about the role of bicycle design as well as front fork geometry, it was decided to construct a bicycle with what we’ll call a naïve front fork. The frame has been modified to move the steering head forward, and to have the...Read More »

Zero Gyroscopic Bike 2

Zero-Gyroscopic Bike II was built at the University of Illinois by three students in the mid-1980’s. Its purpose was to see if a Zero-Gyroscopic Bike could be designed that could be ridden with “no-hands.”
Once the rideability of Zero-Gyroscopic Bike I was established; that precession wasn’t a superior godhead,...Read More »

Zero Gyroscopic Bike 1

Zero-Gyroscopic Bike I -- A Fundamental Bicycle Experiment

Zero-Gyroscopic Bike I — A Fundamental Bicycle Experiment

Zero-Gyroscopic Bike I is a clever and yet simple experiment that dispels once and for all the centuries old conventional wisdom that a bike stays upright primarily due to the gyroscopic action of the two...Read More »

Precession and Gyroscope Issues

Precession is a scientific word that describes how a spinning wheel reacts if the axis is tipped or rotated in space. Given a tip in the axis of spin, the spinning wheel will exhibit precession meaning that the axis will tend to want to tip in a direction 90 degrees...Read More »

Rear Steer

This section is the direct continuation of the discussion in the previous section, “Gyroscopic.” We continue our scientific quest to investigate the bicycle.
In the process we will start by introducing a term called “Critical Velocity.” Once we have that definition in hand we will next look at the front...Read More »

Robot Bike

The UIUC Robotic Bike was build in collaboration with students at the University of Illinois. The bike evolved from an idea to a full-fledged prototype over the course of three consecutive semesters circa 1987 and 1988.

UIUC Robotic Bike. We believe that this bike, designed, built, and successfully tested in...Read More »

Torque Wrench Bike

Steady-State Turn Experiments, The Torque Wrench Bike

An interesting experiment at the University of Illinois focused on using an instrumented bike to ride in steady circular fashion. The objective was to clarify the matters of how much lean and in what direction is needed, as well as what magnitude of handlebar...Read More »

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