The Bicycle

Bicycle Efficiency

The bicycle is the most efficient transport mechanism on the planet.  In 1973 Scientific American shared a study showing this amazing result.  The biggest muscles in the human body coupled to two wheels makes this means of transport at the top of the efficient chart or at the bottom in energy expended.  As shown in the chart in the “bicycle efficiency” article, the efficiency is 0.15 calories/gram/kilometer.  This would be like a car getting well over 100 miles per gallon, while getting the daily needed exercise.

Steve Jobs was so taken by this study on bicycle efficiency.  he likened it to how computers allow us to expand the mind like a bike increases our efficiency of transport.  But for me, the computer is not to expand the mind, but a means to be more efficient in the work of the Lord, which brings the greatest of joy in time and in eternity.
The bicycle is a fascinating piece of machinery, and I have seen amazing improvements in the technology in my life time.  The theory of how a bike is self-stabilizing has only recently been understood.  It is much more complicated than one thinks, and some unusual designs have shown this to be the case.  More is yet to be seen as technologists explore options.

Two guys in a tandem recumbent covered with a shell to cut air resistance traveled from San Diego to LA at an average speed of 60 mph.  Wind resistance is the biggest dragging effect since it increases as the velocity cubed.  In other words, if you are traveling twice as fast, you have eight times the air resistance.

Todd Reichert holds the world record for a human on a aerodynamically covered specially designed recumbent bicycle on a flat highway near Iron Mountain, NV.  He became the fastest human powered vehicle at 89 mph. (143 km/h, Sept. 2016)  By removing the air resistance, the highest speed ever achieved on a bicycle is by Denise Mueller-Korenek.  She rode a custom bike at an average of 183.932 miles per hour – shattering a world record that had stood since 1995. behind a wind-shield fitted to a dragster car at Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah, USA on 16 September 2018.

Bike Riding – Good Physical and Mental Health

I love biking, and ride my awesome mountain bike my family gave me last year for my 81st birthday (25 Sept. 2017).  It helps my legs and joints stay strong.  It strengthens my cardiovascular system.  It gives me excellent near-far eye exercise so that I can continue not needing glasses – along with staying off of sugar.  It allows me to enjoy God’s creations in a wonderful way, and my dog, Girdi, loves it, as we ride up the Big Springs, and she takes her daily bath with a big smile on her face; being a black lab she couldn’t be happier.  But the best part for me is the quiet time I have with the Lord in the mountains – to learn, listen, and express gratitude for His infinite atonement and uncountable blessings in my life.

In addition to all the benefits of bike riding, some latter day prophecies indicate bicycles will be very useful.  It was fascinating to see three million bikes in a city of eight million people in 1981 in Beijing, China, while I was  in China for a three week lecture tour, and with no locks on them.

Our youngest son, Nathan, who is a fantastic bicyclist, has a tea shirt showing the evolution of man with the last picture being a man on a bicycle.  We do an annual birthday ride to celebrate my birthday each 25th of September.  I had a great ride with my son, Nathan, and grandson, Kyme Lambson this year for my 82nd B-day.

Newton’s second law of motion comes into play for bicycle efficiency.  F = ma giving the law of work — force times distance.  Pedaling about 80 times per minute has been shown to be optimum.  The work down on a bike is the force on the pedal times the distance it moves.  Going faster than 80 rpm uses too much energy in moving the legs up and down.  I go about 6 miles each day up in the mountains and down to the post office about 545 vertical feet and it takes me about an hour.  I have found the health benefits from this are enormous to body, mind, and soul.

Riding as I do, it is not infrequent that I take a fall.  Number one, I know how to fall.  Number two, I have strong bones, which come by continually exercising and by supplementing with vitamin K-2 to avoid osteoporosis.  At the same time, I don’t take risks; just love challenges.  Is it any surprise that I have a rode bike, a recumbent, and three mountain bikes – one of which I fatigued the aluminum frame from riding too many miles and had to find an aluminum welder to fix it. Happy bike riding and enjoy, but be careful.  I talk to the Lord a lot as I ride.

David W. Allan

PS    The most efficient pedaling rate is about 80 rpm.  Work or energy expended is force times distance.  At higher rpm, it takes too much energy to just move your legs.  At less rpm, your force is not being used as efficiently to the move the pedals around.