Physics

Are Expensive Bicycle Wheels Worth the Money? Let’s Check the Physics

In this video, you see a cyclist testing new aerodynamic wheels from Zipp. Swapping your wheels may seem like a small change, but can make a big difference. From his tests, the rider discovers:

  • With conventional wheels, he can ride 20 minutes at an average speed of 41.12 kph with an average power of 379 watts.
  • With the Zipp 808 NSW aero wheels he rides 51 minutes at an average speed of 41.13 kph and average power of 344 watts.

Before looking at power and energy, I should go over two small details.

First, how do you measure power? Cyclists can measure power by installing a small computer, called a power meter, that measures the input torque at the pedals or crankshaft and records the rotation angle at timed intervals. If you know the torque and angle, you can calculate the input energy. Dividing this energy by time gives you

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KSU Physics Education Bike Project

KSU Physics Education Bike Project

Scientific and Cultural Aspects of the Bicycle:

An International Pedagogical Project


 


This project is a multi-national effort to collaborate on the adaptation
and creation of pedagogical materials.  The bicycle, a highly developed
yet simple device, is the focus of this effort.  Students and faculty
are using materials developed in a variety of countries and creating new
materials using contemporary multimedia.  This effort began almost
15 years ago when Robert Fuller and Dean Zollman created the videodisc
Energy
Transformations featuring the Bicycle
at about the same time that the
PLON Project in The Netherlands developed the teaching module Traffic
and the British Open University developed a course on Materials and Structures
which featured the bicycle.  These efforts were independent of each
other.  Since that time we have worked to combine instructional materials
from these and other countries.
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