Why A Bicycle Cannot Stand On Its Own: 7 Scientific Facts
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Why a bicycle can not stand on its own; Have you ever asked yourself this question?
As a bike rider myself, I always used to wonder while parking why a bicycle can not stand on its own but has absolutely no problem standing upright while moving. Luckily, we finally know the reasons why a bicycle cannot stand on its own and the answers to all your questions regarding this.
Why a bicycle can not stand on its own is a question that the majority of bicycle enthusiasts ask. Well, there are quite a few reasons and science behind why a bicycle can not stand upright while it is stationary. Weight distribution, gravity, and tire pressure are some of the factors that play a major role in the position of the bicycle.
The weight distribution on the front and the rear of the bicycle is not even due to the presence of chains, pedals, gears, seats, and handlebars. When a bicycle is stationary, it falls over to the ground because of the lack of equilibrium. It requires a third point of contact, such as a kickstand, to remain in the upright position. While riding a bicycle, the momentum is what keeps it upright.
All of these things still sound a bit confusing, right? Don’t worry. In this article, we will have a detailed discussion about the reasons why a bicycle cannot stand on its own.
Two Wheels Need to Roll:
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Tricycles easily stand upright when stationary, so why cannot bicycles do the same? The reason why tricycles do not fall over is that the third wheel of the tricycle provides support. The extra wheel provides the balance that the tricycle needs, but bicycles do not have an extra wheel to provide support. Two wheels cannot provide enough support to stand upright when needed. However, the two wheels can support the bicycle to stand up when moving. Both the wheels of the bicycle need to roll at the same time to provide this support.
The same concept of two wheels in a bicycle applies to every round object similar to a tire. The object remains upright when moving but falls over when it slows down or stops. The combination of speed and pedaling, along with the successful rolling of the wheels, will keep the bicycle upright.
Once the speed or momentum of the bicycle decreases, it starts to wobble and eventually falls down. A rolling wheel produces enough momentum to resist the pull of gravity, and thus, the bike stays upright while it moves. A non-rolling wheel does not have enough momentum to resist the pull of gravity, and thus, it is impossible for the bicycle to remain standing without the third point of contact.
Where is The Weight?
If an object has an uneven weight distribution, then it is supposed to fall over. Even weight distribution gives stability and prevents the object from falling over. However, the weight distribution of a bicycle is not even. The rear side of the bicycle contains the rear wheel, gears, chains, and seat. All of these things add weight to the rear side of the bicycle. The front side of the bicycle only contains the front wheel and handlebar, which adds less weight compared to the weight on the rear side.
This uneven weight distribution provides an advantage to the riders as the majority of cyclists lean forward while riding a bicycle. The lack of a rider or momentum causes the bicycle to fall down as the weight distribution is uneven. The heavier rear end of the bicycle provides the riders with another advantage. Even though the heavier rear end makes the bicycle fall over without support, it prevents the riders from falling over the front when the front brakes are applied.
So, you must be wondering, what if a bicycle had an even distribution of weight? Even if a bicycle had even weight distribution, it would still fall over without the third point of contact. Why? Because of gravity and lack of momentum.
There is More Pressure to The Tires Than We Think:
Tire pressure is an important factor to consider while cycling as it has the ability to influence the type of ride you will have. Too little or too much air pressure in the tire can prove to be risky. Too little air pressure in the tires positions the tire rims closer to the road, making it an easy target to dents and damages. Similarly, too much air pressure is risky as well. It exposes the tire to the risk of popping when it hits a rock or any other object on the road.
The ideal tire pressure of a bicycle varies depending on the type of bicycle you are riding. Street or racing bicycles contain thinner wheels, so the required air pressure in the tire will be approximately 89 to 130 psi. Mountain bicycles have thicker wheels than street bicycles and thus, require an air pressure between 25 and 35 psi.
The fact that the tires are thicker or thinner does not matter, and tires filled to their ideal tire pressure will still not be able to stand on their own. A tire has a round shape, and this shape inevitably causes the tires to move. The handlebar of the bicycle shifts as the tires move, and the bicycle falls over due to the pull of gravity. The air pressure in the tire usually just prevents the tires from damage and makes sure that you have a smooth ride.
Why Does A Bicycle Remain Standing While Riding But Falls Down When Stopped?
As we have mentioned above, an unmoving or stationary bicycle will fall down to the ground due to the lack of equilibrium. An object can remain upright if the center of gravity of that object is above the point where it comes in contact with the surface. Gravity will pull the object down to the ground if the center of gravity is anywhere else. The object will remain on the ground as there are more points touching the ground, and it will be in equilibrium in that position.
The wheels of a bicycle are the two points where it touches the ground. The support area of a bicycle is the area between the two wheels, making it an uneven or unstable support area.
The momentum of an unmoving bicycle is zero, which means that any movement or change in the forces surrounding the bicycle will result in a change in equilibrium. This shift in equilibrium position will cause the bicycle to fall over. For example, a gush of wind or any force that causes the ground to shake will easily disrupt the balance of the bicycle. And since the bicycle has only two points of contact, it will lose balance and fall to the ground, where it has more contact points to remain stable.
How Can We Make A Bicycle Stand Up on Its Own?
We often see bicycles parked on the side of the roads or in a parking lot. Surprisingly, those bicycles remain upright. But so far, we have learned that a bicycle cannot stand on its own. So, how is it possible?
As we know, the dynamics of a bicycle do not allow it to stand on its own for long. A bicycle also seeks equilibrium and finds it when it falls to the ground. While riding, a bicycle remains upright but only at certain speeds and falls down when it starts slowing the speed. So, the only way of making a bicycle stand up on its own is to take the help of a third point of contact, such as a kickstand.
A kickstand is the only and the most common way of keeping a bicycle upright when it is not moving. This is the reason why the majority of the bicycles come with a fixed kickstand. The kickstand provides a third point of contact to the bicycle and helps it to remain stable in the same way a third wheel keeps a tricycle stable.
You can keep your bicycle upright by turning it over if your bicycle does not have a kickstand. Allowing a bicycle to stand on its seat and handlebar rather than standing it on the while provides more stability. In this case, there are more points of contact between the bicycle and the ground; also, the surface is not round-shaped. There are other ways of keeping your bicycle standing if you do not have a kickstand. These are:
- Leaning two bicycles next to each other
- Leaning the handlebar against a wall, tree, or railing.
- Leaning the back of the bicycle against a tree, wall, or railing
If you are a thinker like I am and have always wondered why a bicycle cannot stand on its own. Then we hope that this guide has answered your question. The conclusion of this entire article is that the science surrounding a bicycle does not allow it to remain upright. The design of the bicycle, the tires, weight distribution, pull of gravity, etc., influences the position of the bicycle when it is not moving.
A bicycle cannot stand on its own for long as the two wheels of the bicycle cannot provide enough support. The wheels roll and shift the equilibrium position, which causes the bicycle to fall to the ground. However, it is best to keep a bicycle upright using a kickstand as regular and frequent falls of the bicycle to the ground can cause damage to it.
Frequnetly Asked Question Why A Bicycle Cannot Stand On Its Own!
Does A Bicycle Move on Its Own?
The answer to this question is both yes and no, and allow me to explain why. At first, let us talk about why the answer is no. A bicycle does not have the ability to move from one place to another on its own. It requires a rider who rides the bicycle and paddles it from one place to another.
The answer is also yes because when you keep a bicycle upright for a while without the third point of contact, the wheels roll on their own due to their round shape. This movement causes the equilibrium position to shift, and the pull of gravity causes the bicycle to fall to the ground in order to find equilibrium.
Are Bicycle Repair Stands Necessary?
It is essential to take care of your bicycle to ensure that it stays in its top shape. Maintaining a bicycle can prove to be a stressful task if you do not have the skills or access to the necessary tools. A bicycle repair stand is a tool used by experts and professionals, and it makes bicycle maintenance seem a lot easier than it is.
But is a bicycle repair stand actually necessary? No, you do not require a bicycle repair stand to do the basic maintenance of your bicycle, such as cleaning, replacing the brakes, changing the tires, lubing the chain, etc. However, you will require a bicycle repair stand if you need to make changes that concern the pedaling system of the bicycle.
What Makes A Bicycle Pedal Easier?
There are a lot of issues that slow down a bicycle and make pedaling hard for the rider. The only way of making a bicycle pedal easier is to identify the reason behind the hardening of the pedal and solve it.
The most common reasons why pedaling a bicycle becomes harder are:
- Unadjusted Brakes
- Hard tightened wheels
- Damaged cartridge bearing
- Dried or rusty chain
- Tightened bottom bracket
- Incorrect tires and low air pressure
- Out of tune wheels
- Hard tightened pedals
- Incorrect gears
- Rubbing mudguards
All of the issues listed above make a bicycle pedaling harder for the rider. Identify the issue behind the hard pedaling and solve it to make bicycle pedaling easier. Take the bicycle to a repair garage if you are unable to identify the problem yourself.
What Force Do The Brakes On A Bicycle Produce To Stop The Bicycle?
It does not matter how fast or how far you go on a bicycle. There is always a time when you need to apply the brakes on a bicycle. The brakes on a bicycle use friction to stop the bicycle. When the rider applies the brake, a pair of rubber brake blocks clamp onto the inner metal rims of the front and rear wheel of the bicycle. As the blocks rub against the wheels tightly, the wheels transform the kinetic energy to heat energy, which in turn slows the bicycle down and eventually stops it.
What Force Keeps A Bicycle Up?
A bicycle is surprisingly stable for a two-wheeled vehicle while moving. We often wonder how a bicycle stays up while moving but can never stay upright while stationary. The gyroscope effect keeps a bicycle up while it is moving. How? When a bicycle moves, it reaches a certain speed where the bicycle produces enough momentum to resist the pull of gravity. That momentum keeps the bicycle up while moving.
However, the speed of the bicycle decreases at one point. The momentum of the bicycle decreases when the bicycle starts to slow down. The momentum is then not enough to resist the pull of gravity which causes the bicycle to lose balance and eventually fall down.
Why Do The Moving Wheels Of A Bicycle Not Fall?
The reason behind why the moving wheels of a bicycle do not fall flat to the ground is the same as the reason why a bicycle stays up while moving. The reason is the gyroscope effect.
The gyroscope effect explains that the moving wheel of a bicycle produces momentum that is sufficient to resist the pull of gravity on the bicycle. A spinning object is very stable and can resist a change of direction. Therefore, the moving wheels of a bicycle continue to spin in one direction and do not fall over.
Is It Worth Getting A Bike Repair Stand?
A bike repair stand is not an absolute necessity in case of basic maintenance like changing tires, lubing the chain, etc. However, it is necessary to find a way of adjusting the bicycle with the wheels above the ground in case the rider starts to do the crucial maintenance. Such as adjusting the derailleurs or the cables of the bicycle.
In such cases, a bike repair stand comes in handy and saves a lot of time. Repairing a bicycle is even easier if you have a portable bike repair stand. You can even easily fix your bicycle on the side of the road if needed. A bike repair stand also helps your body.
Fixing a bicycle by crouching or by laying on the ground has an effect on the body after a certain time of fixing bicycles. With a bike repair stand, you do not have to crouch or be on your knees while cleaning and fixing the bike. A bike repair stand saves a lot of money and time, so it is definitely worth getting one.
Why Do Nice Bikes Not Have Kickstands?
The main reason why a bicycle needs a kickstand is to keep it upright while it is not moving. Mountain or road bikes do not come with kickstands for quite a few reasons. These reasons are:
- Kickstands increase the weight of the bicycle:
Road bikers want their bicycles to be as light as possible. A kickstand weighs around 0.5 to 1.5lbs which significantly affects the weight of the bicycle. This is why road bikes do not have kickstands on them.
- Kickstands increase the cost of the bicycle:
Although it is not the case of each and every bicycle or bicycle manufacturers, many manufacturers avoid installing a kickstand to save cost. Generally, a kickstand costs about $3. Even though this is not a large amount of money, it helps the manufacturers to save money on production costs.
- Kickstands are not always stable:
One of the risks of having a kickstand on your bicycle is the bicycle being toppled over. Kickstands are not the most stable of balancing a bike. A slight bump to the bicycle can cause the bike to fall over. Kickstands cannot keep bikes completely balanced due to their location being at the rear end of a bicycle. Many people do not like to put their trust in kickstands as falling over or crashing down can cause damage to the bicycle.
Are Kickstands Bad For Bikes?
Kickstands are not bad for bikes, but they are not really helpful as well. Kickstands help a bicycle to stay upright when it is stationary. But the majority of the bikes in today’s date do not use kickstands. Why? Kickstands are not the most stable or trustworthy way of supporting a bicycle.
In racing bikes, the use of kickstands is forbidden as they can be used as a pointy weapon. Road bikes must be as light as possible, and kickstands just add unnecessary weight to the bicycle. Mountain bikes do not prefer the use of kickstands as well, as they can easily cause an accident.
Kickstands are not always stable, and they can cause accidents on mountain bikes when it comes down a trail. A sudden bump in the speed of the bike due to a kickstand can cause the bike to topple over and cause injuries to the rider.
How To Keep A Bicycle Upright Without A Kickstand?
At this point, we all know why a bicycle cannot stand on its own. Bicycles need a third point of contact to stay upright when it is not moving, and usually, a kickstand provides this third point of contact. But many bikes do not have a kickstand, so how can we keep a bicycle upright without a kickstand?
To keep a bicycle upright without depending on a kickstand, you can lean the handlebar of a bicycle against a wall or tree. You can also lean the rear end of the bicycle against a wall, tree, or railing. Another way of ensuring that your bicycle will remain upright is to lean it against another bicycle.
Steven is a professional cyclist and his passion is cycling. He has been cycling for the last 6 years and he loves using bikes while outing as well. Based on his experiences with the different types of bikes; he is sharing his opinions about various bikes so that a beginner can start right away. Find him on Twitter @thecyclistguy Happy Biking.