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Everything About The Bicycle Mechanism

Updated on February 13, 2010

The Modern Bicycle

Understanding the simple mechanism behind the bicycle helps us to use it in an efficient way and modify it in the way which best suits us.
Understanding the simple mechanism behind the bicycle helps us to use it in an efficient way and modify it in the way which best suits us.

Bicycles work on a rather simple mechanism. There is no major electrical or mechanical principle hidden behind it. It uses two simple techniques.

  • Applying friction in brakes to stop the bicycle
  • The gear mechanism make the bicycle go faster.

Let us see in detail about various bicycle parts before we go deeply into these principles. The main part of a bicycle is its center frame which is the base for all other parts.

Apart from the frame the major parts are two wheels, a handlebar, pedals, brakes, gears, chains and a seat. Of course additional equipments like front and back lights, bells, carriages and baskets are added as extra fittings. But a bicycle can very well run without them also.

Once the frame is manufactured two wheels are fitted to it first. To make the wheels move further the gear and chain mechanism is used.

Gears and Brakes:
Two gears rotate in opposite direction enabling the wheel to rotate faster and many times once it is pedaled. If gear steering mechanism is not there, our bicycle wheel will rotate only once when we pedal it. So we need be pedaling constantly and also the size of the front wheel has to be very big to cover at least a little distance in a considerable time.

Earlier bicycles were created without the gear mechanism and looked like this. They were extremely hard to drive.

James Starley was the first master mind to apply the gear mechanism in bicycles. Then there is the brake connected via cable to both these wheels. If the rotation of the wheels had to be stopped these brakes are pulled and automatically a friction is created stopping the wheels immediately. Browett and Harrison experimented a lot with this technology and finally patented it in their names in 1876.

Ball bearings:
The same concept used in brakes to stop the bicycle is used in ball bearings to make the bicycle run faster by reducing friction.

Ball bearing are found in bicycles in the fork tube, pedal, freewheels and front and back hubs of the wheels. Ball bearings make the handle bar turn smoothly, help us pedal easily and also helps smooth movement of wheels.

Ball bearings invented by Jules suriray are the small yellow balls shown in the figure. Whenever there is turn or movement the small balls rotate to adjust with it avoiding the direct contact of metals reducing friction. Ball bearings should be regularly cleaned and greased.

These are the two simple mechanisms applied in bicycle which makes it the most common, durable, household machine.

Nowadays lot of other technologies is used in bicycles. To name one we can mention the hydraulic and mechanical brakes, and various types of suspension methods. There is news stating the next generation bicycles are going to use thermostatic and electrical principles to make it more efficient. However the future for bicycle seems bright when we compare the old penny-farthing cycle to all these advancements.


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