A Better Balanced Bicycle

27 October 2008
Presented by Diana O'Carroll.

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Where should you put your bags to best balance your bike?& Will groceries on the handlebars waste your pedal power, or will paniers on the back pull you backwards? We find out in this Question of the Week and also ask why time seems to go faster as you get older...

In this episode

Milk churns being carried on bicycles, Kolkata, India.

00:00 - A Better Balanced Bike?

Where is the best place to put the weight on you r bike? Is a front basket, or rear panier the way to get the best out of your legs?

A Better Balanced Bike?

We put this to Jos Darling, Mechanical Engineering, University of Bath:

That's a tricky one, really. The answer is pretty much however you want to do it. If you're looking at just the rolling resistance the way tires work is that the more weight on the tire the more rolling resistance. What I mean by rolling resistance is how difficult it is to push the wheel forward against the road. As long as you keep the pressure in the tires at a nice high value you'll find they roll very easily. Whether you put the weight on the front or on the back, given it's got to be shared by one or the other, it's not going to make that much odds. That's the simple answer. But of course, it's never quite that simple. If you look at the finer detail you've got more complicated things like aerodynamics. If you've got a basket on the front that's probably not going to help a whole lot. You might do better to put the luggage on the back where it's hidden behind the rider. The other thing that you might find is that if you've got all the weight over the front then the front gets a bit wobbly. So rather than cycling in a nice, straight line, you're going to be wiggling a bit and trying to balance the bike more carefully. In a way that's going to waste some of your energy like scrubbing off the speed if you're trying to go round the bend quickly.

In a sense you'd better try and share the weight between the front and the back. The answer is it's not going to make much difference at the end of the day. Unless Bunny is whizzing down hills at enormous hills at speed in Portland I suspect the aerodynamics aren't going to be a big issue. You needn't worry yourself about where you put the weight.

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