# How Does Physics Influence Cycling Performance?

• nelson_gslc
In summary, the conversation discusses a student's physics assignment on explaining the forces and physics of cycling. The student is seeking help on the concepts to include in their paper, such as gear ratios, gyroscopic effects, and other topics related to equipment, speed, drag, and momentum. One suggestion is to focus on the "gyroscope" effect and its role in bicycle stability, while another is to discuss the gear ratios and the principles of simple machines. The conversation also mentions Dr. DEH Jones' experiment disproving the role of gyroscope effects in bicycle stability.
nelson_gslc
Hey guys,
I'm a student at high school in Australia. I currently have a physics assignment that states i have to explain the forces and physics of an object. I have chosen cycling. I know the basic s=d/t and a little bit on airflow and using the "teardrop" shape in helmets and frames, but otherwise I'm a bit stuck on what concepts to explain and use in my paper. I can explain stuff about the equipment (clothes, helmet, frames, cleat-shoes) or the speed, drag, momentum, terminal velocity etc (like formulas, they could be really helpful!). I also do not understand gyroscopic effects? Any help on anything to do with cycling and physics would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks all the way from oz.
Nels.

One thing you should focus on is the "gyroscope" effect. Have you seen the experiment where a person stands on a turntable holding a rapidly spinning bicycle when by the axis? If the person tilts the wheel to the left, what happens? If you are riding a bicycle and tilt to the left, which way does the front wheel turn? How does that help you stay upright?

An easier discussion would would be of the gear ratios of the bicycle. If you look up the topic "simple machines" and the specific machine known as a "wheel and axel" you will discover enough to fill many pages on the physics involved. The concepts involved are relatively simple too.

Key words are "force, distance, work, efficiency, mechanical advantage"

You can certainly forget gyroscope effects with respect to bicycle stability. Dr DEH Jones ('Daedelus' of Nature magazine) showed years ago that gyroscope effects do not explain bicycle stability. It is fairly obvious really: it is easy to balance a bicycle even when the wheels are hardly rotating. Jones' experiments were more elaborate.

## 1. How can I calculate the power output of a cyclist?

The power output of a cyclist can be calculated by multiplying the force applied to the pedals by the cadence (pedal revolutions per minute) and dividing by a constant value of 60. This will give you the power output in watts.

## 2. What is the relationship between gear ratio and speed in cycling?

The gear ratio is the ratio between the number of teeth on the front chainring and the number of teeth on the rear cog. The higher the gear ratio, the faster the bike will go, but it will also require more force to pedal. A lower gear ratio will result in a slower speed, but it will be easier to pedal.

## 3. How does air resistance affect cycling performance?

Air resistance, also known as drag, is a major factor in cycling performance. The faster a cyclist is traveling, the more drag they will experience. This can significantly impact their speed and energy expenditure. Cyclists can reduce air resistance by using aerodynamic equipment and positioning their body to minimize drag.

## 4. What is the difference between rolling resistance and air resistance in cycling?

Rolling resistance is the resistance a cyclist experiences from the tires rolling on the ground. This can be affected by the tire pressure, type of tire, and road surface. Air resistance, as mentioned before, is the resistance caused by air pushing against the cyclist as they move. Both of these factors can affect cycling performance and require different strategies to minimize their impact.

## 5. How can I improve my cycling efficiency?

To improve cycling efficiency, there are several strategies you can try. These include maintaining a consistent cadence, using proper form and technique, reducing air and rolling resistance, and optimizing gear selection. Additionally, regular training and proper nutrition can also help improve cycling efficiency.

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