New Research Reveals Why A Bicycle Stays Stable

  
For over a century scientists have been puzzling over the physics of the trusty bicycle, and new findings from an international team of researchers have thrown new light on this age-old question. 
 
The team, made up researchers from the Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) in the Netherlands and Cornell University in the United States, focused on finding out why a bicycle remains stable above a certain speed. 
 
When you add speed to a bicycle it becomes stable on its own and you could push it sideways without it falling over.'We have known for years that the generally accepted explanation for the stability of the bicycle was too simple,' says researcher Dr Arend Schwab of the 3mE faculty at TU Delft. 'Gyroscopic effects and trail do help, but are not essential for stability.'
 
Dr Schwab and his team used a mathematical model with around 25 physical parameters which they had developed for a previous study. This model can predict very accurately whether, and at what speeds, a particular design of bicycle would be stable. 
 
Having proved their theory through a series of experiments, Dr Schwab explains the theoretical implications of the study. 'We have demonstrated that the mass distribution is also important for stability, especially the location of the centre of mass of the bicycle's steering mechanism.'
 
In other words, for a bicycle to be stable, the steering mechanism has to be unstable; if the bike falls, the steering should fall even more quickly. These findings also have implications for bicycle manufacturers. Although the design of the bicycle has changed little since the end of the nineteenth century, these new findings could help develop new modifications for different types of folding bicycles and cargo bicycles. 
 
More information is available in the TU Delft:Link zur TU Delft