The Bicycle as a System

The Bicycle as a System


Have you ever wondered how bicycles work? You can use the resources on this student esheet to help you explore the nature of systems by examining the systems that make a bicycle work. Use those resources to help you answer the questions on the Bicycle as a System student sheet.


Begin by going to Bicycle Heroes. As you read this article, answer these questions on your Bicycle as a System student sheet. You'll discuss them in class:

  • How do the early bicycles differ from bicycles made today?
  • What accounted for the popularity of bicycles when they were first invented in the late 1800s?
  • What accounts for the popularity of bicycles today?
  • Identify the various parts of the bicycle.
  • What does each part do? Describe some of the properties of these parts.
  • What is the purpose of a bicycle system?

You should work with your group to explore the parts of a bicycle and how bicycle systems work. You should go to the Science of Cycling and select one subsystem of a bike. You should review your section and describe the subsystem and the parts that make a bicycle work. Use the information you find to answer these questions on your student sheet:

  • Describe the subsystem that your group researched. What is its function within the bicycle system?
  • Complete the table on your student sheet to indicate how the subsystem affects the bicycle’s speed, safety, comfort, and durability.
  • Complete the second table to identify the following:

    • Name the parts of the bicycle’s subsystem. If you don’t know the name of a part, make up a name.
    • Tell what function each part has and how it contributes to the subsystem.
    • For the bicycle subsystem to work, what input must it receive?
    • What, if any output does the subsystem produce?
  • Could any part of this bicycle be made of a different material and still help the bicycle carry out its function?
  • Can any one part of the bicycle carry out the job of the whole bicycle? Explain your answer.
  • Can you take a part from another bicycle and use it to replace a part in this bicycle and still have the bicycle carry out its function?
  • Could some parts of the bicycle be arranged differently so that the system will still carry out its function? Explain your answer.
  • Does the bicycle require symmetry among any of its parts? If so, describe the symmetry.
  • What will happen to the bicycle if one part, such as a spoke, breaks? What if all the spokes on a wheel break?
  • Is it useful to think of a bicycle as a system? Justify your answer.

This esheet is a part of the The Bicycle as a System lesson.

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