Last Sunday afternoon something happened in my life that I will never forget. That event was my oldest daughter roding her bicycle down our driveway on her own! No training wheels, no Dad holding on to the back of her seat, completely on her own! It was awesome! She did it a few more times this week and we got it on video.
The process of helping my daughter learn to ride her bike reminded me that there is a lot happening at once to make a bike go forward while keeping your balance, particularly keeping your balance while turning. It’s one of those things that you kind of just have to experience to understand. That said, once you’ve mastered it you might be curious about the physics of riding bicycles.
Minute Physics offers two videos about the physics of bicycles. In How Do Bikes Stay Up? we learn how bikes stay upright, how design and weight influences balance, and why bicycles are difficult to balance in reverse.
The Counterintuitive Physics of Turning a Bike explains how we turn bicycles.
Applications for Education
Both videos provide physics lessons based around an activity with which most students are familiar. Before letting students watch the videos ask them to try to explain how bikes stay up and turn. The first of the two videos could also provide inspiration for an outdoor physics lesson.