Physics of a Mountain Bike Essay example

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Physics of a Mountain Bike

This paper will discuss some of the physics involved in bicycles. Specifically, mountain bikes with suspension. A bicycle is a very energy efficient vehicle. Its wheels allow its rider to make full use of inertia and gravitational potential energy. The basic design of a bicycle has been around for over 100 years and compared to other things, has changed very little. Some of the topics that will be covered are: frames, wheels, suspension forks, suspension frames, brakes and how all these things affect speed, momentum and stability.

Some of the key parts of any bicycle are the frame, forks and wheels. The most common type of bicycle frame is known as the double diamond. It is called this because if you look at the frame, it is diamond shaped with 2 smaller triangles forming the front and rear. This designed has endured because it is easy to build, strong and efficient. The tubing that a frame is made with is usually round but can be many different shapes even on the same bike. The reason for this shaping is to increase the rigidity or improve the ride quality. For instance, the sloping tube that goes from the front of the bike to the pedal junction of the frame is sometimes ovalized along the horizontal axis at the pedal junction to make the frame flex less side to side. Frames have been made from many materials including wood, steel, aluminum, titanium and carbon fiber just to name a few. Each of the materials have a strength to weight ratio, tensile strength and cost of production that must be taken into account before deciding which will work best. For example, when a frame made of beryllium was introduced, the strength to weight ratio was very high. The weight was extremely low but the cost wa...

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...etty. The faster you go, the smoother it gets and the greater the force required to stop. Mass times velocity is not fun when applied to a crash. Mike Farrentino in an article in Bike magazine says, “The faster you go, the longer the crash, the greater the force of the impact. Seconds seem like hours, and the clatter and gasp and thud of cart wheeling bike and body parts is not a sound easily forgotten. …In spite of this, whatever any of us say, we all want to go fast….Momentum is the secret key to the universe. It is the rush of joy. It is the heavy hand of gravity. It is the grin of a child, feet off the pedals, bombing downhill on a tricycle.”


Bike magazine: volume 10, number 2 March 2003

Bloomfield, Louis A : How things work, the physics of everyday life, 1997 Kirkpatrick & Wheeler: Physics, a world view, third edition, 1998

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