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How Would You Design a Bicycle?

| June 13, 2014 | 3 Comments
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To respond to the Do Now, you can comment below or tweet your response. Be sure to begin your tweet with @KQEDEdspace and end it with #DoNowBike

For more info on how to use Twitter, click here.


Do Now

How did you learn how to ride a bicycle or what was the hardest part of learning? What would you change about how today’s bicycles are designed?

Introduction

Learning to ride a bicycle is a strong memory from many of our childhoods. Bicycles have been around since the 1800s, although their design has changed from the earliest models. The Draisienne is one of the earliest two-wheeled machines. Made out of wood, it had two wheels of the same size mounted in a frame and handle bars to steer. There were no pedals, so people pushed themselves along with their feet.

The next model to come along was the Velocipede or Boneshaker in the 1860s. It was similar to the Draisienne, however it had pedals added to the front wheel. The wheels were still made of wood, and later metal. This bicycle earned its name “Boneshaker” from the movement riders received when pedaling over the cobblestone roads present during that time.

The High Wheel bicycle had popularity in the 1880s. With one huge rubber tire in front and a smaller one in back, they were easy to ride and fast, but dangerous. Because of the large front wheel and the rider sitting high up, anything to stop the motion of the front tire, including brakes, often caused the back of the bicycle to flip up and over.

Bicycles more like we are used to today–the Safety bicycles–were developed in the 1890s. With two same-sized inflated rubber tires, pedals in between the two wheels and a chain drive, these bicycles were easy to ride and much more comfortable. They became all the rage. Today there are 1 billion bicycles worldwide. Scientists are now studying the process of how we balance while riding a bicycle with the hopes of designing an even more efficient model.

Resource

KQED QUEST segment The Science of Riding a Bicycle
Riding a bicycle might be easy. But the forces that allow humans to balance atop a bicycle are complex. QUEST visits Davis – a city that loves its bicycles – to take a ride on a research bicycle and explore a collection of antique bicycles. Scientists say studying the complicated physics of bicycling can lead to the design of safer, and more efficient bikes.


To respond to the Do Now, you can comment below or tweet your response. Be sure to begin your tweet with @KQEDedspace and end it with #DoNowBike

For more info on how to use Twitter, click here.

We encourage students to reply to other people’s tweets to foster more of a conversation. Also, if students tweet their personal opinions, ask them to support their ideas with links to interesting/credible articles online (adding a nice research component) or retweet other people’s ideas that they agree/disagree/find amusing. We also value student-produced media linked to their tweets. You can visit our video tutorials that showcase how to use several web-based production tools. Of course, do as you can… and any contribution is most welcomed.


More Resources

Instructables resource How to Build Up a Bike
This is a guide to building up a bike from parts. It should help you get the parts and tools you need to get you pedalling along in no time. It assumes that you have tinkered with your bike, but are not an expert. Hope it helps!

QUEST video How to Build a (Research) Bicycle
View a captioned slideshow about how the research bicycle was built that is featured in the QUEST story The Science of Riding a Bicycle.

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Category: 6 -12 Science, Do Now, Do Now: Science

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About the Author ()

Andrea is the Science Education Manager for KQED. She joined KQED in 2007 to coordinate education and outreach for the public television series Jean-Michel Cousteau: Ocean Adventures. Between working on Ocean Adventures and joining the QUEST team, she developed the educational resources for the 4-hour documentary Saving the Bay. Andrea graduated from UC Berkeley with a B.A. in Environmental Science and earned her M.A. in Teaching and Multiple Subject Teaching Credential from the University of San Francisco. Before arriving at KQED, she taught, developed, and managed marine science and environmental education programs in Aspen, Catalina Island and the Bay Area.