Monday, April 18, 2011

Is the "Gyroscopic Effect" a Myth?

In this Gizmodo article, Jack Loftus points to research that studied the real reasons why a bicycle in motion will, in general, stay upright. The journal Science published the results of experiments which used a "gyro-negating contraption" to determine whether or not a bicycle deprived of the gyroscopic effect created by its spinning wheels will fall over at speed.

Caution: This experiment done using SCIENCE!

The result? Even without the benefit of the gyroscopic effect, a rolling bicycle will tend to keep the rubber side down. The reason? "It's all about how a bicycle leaning automatically causes steering, which can bring the wheels back under a falling bike," reports Andy Ruina, one of the paper's authors. He goes on to say that the front-end geometry of the bike, including trail and center-of-mass position, is critical in determining whether a bicycle will be stable or not. If the front end is designed correctly, a bicycle will try hard to stay upright. Otherwise it will be unstable and unsafe at any speed.

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