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Balance bicycle for young children The bicycle has undergone continual adaptation and improvement since its inception. These innovations have continued with the advent of modern materials and computer-aided design, allowing for a proliferation of specialized bicycle types, improved bicycle safety , and riding comfort.
Types Bicycles can be categorized in many different ways: The more common types include utility bicycles , mountain bicycles , racing bicycles , touring bicycles , hybrid bicycles , cruiser bicycles , and BMX bikes.
Less common are tandems , low riders , tall bikes , fixed gear , folding models , amphibious bicycles , cargo bikes, recumbents and electric bicycles. Unicycles , tricycles and quadracycles are not strictly bicycles, as they have respectively one, three and four wheels, but are often referred to informally as "bikes" or "cycles".
Bicycle and motorcycle dynamics A bicycle stays upright while moving forward by being steered so as to keep its center of mass over the wheels. This lean is induced by a method known as countersteering , which can be performed by the rider turning the handlebars directly with the hands  or indirectly by leaning the bicycle. Bicycle performance The bicycle is extraordinarily efficient in both biological and mechanical terms.
The bicycle is the most efficient human-powered means of transportation in terms of energy a person must expend to travel a given distance. Air drag, which is proportional to the square of speed, requires dramatically higher power outputs as speeds increase. Drag can be reduced by seating the rider in a more aerodynamically streamlined position. Drag can also be reduced by covering the bicycle with an aerodynamic fairing. The fastest recorded unpaced speed on a flat surface is Bicycle frame Diagram of a bicycle.
The great majority of modern bicycles have a frame with upright seating that looks much like the first chain-driven bike. The front triangle consists of the head tube, top tube, down tube, and seat tube.
The head tube contains the headset , the set of bearings that allows the fork to turn smoothly for steering and balance.
1950 Huffman ‘Dayton’ Dial-Your-Ride | The Online Bicycle Museum
The top tube connects the head tube to the seat tube at the top, and the down tube connects the head tube to the bottom bracket. The rear triangle consists of the seat tube and paired chain stays and seat stays. The chain stays run parallel to the chain , connecting the bottom bracket to the rear dropout , where the axle for the rear wheel is held. The seat stays connect the top of the seat tube at or near the same point as the top tube to the rear fork ends.
A Triumph with a step-through frame. This design, referred to as a step-through frame or as an open frame, allows the rider to mount and dismount in a dignified way while wearing a skirt or dress. The ease of stepping through is also appreciated by those with limited flexibility or other joint problems.
Step-throughs were popular partly for practical reasons and partly for social mores of the day. Furthermore, it was considered "unladylike" for women to open their legs to mount and dismount - in more conservative times women who rode bicycles at all were vilified as immoral or immodest.
These practices were akin to the older practice of riding horse sidesaddle. Another style is the recumbent bicycle. These are inherently more aerodynamic than upright versions, as the rider may lean back onto a support and operate pedals that are on about the same level as the seat.
Since the late s alloy steels have been used for frame and fork tubes in higher quality machines. By the s aluminum welding techniques had improved to the point that aluminum tube could safely be used in place of steel.
Since then aluminum alloy frames and other components have become popular due to their light weight, and most mid-range bikes are now principally aluminum alloy of some kind. Virtually all professional racing bicycles now use carbon fibre frames, as they have the best strength to weight ratio. A typical modern carbon fiber frame can weighs less than 1 kilogram 2. Other exotic frame materials include titanium and advanced alloys. Bamboo , a natural composite material with high strength-to-weight ratio and stiffness  has been used for bicycles since Most bicycles use a chain to transmit power to the rear wheel.
A very small number of bicycles use a shaft drive to transmit power, or special belts.
Hydraulic bicycle transmissions have been built, but they are currently inefficient and complex. Most bikes have two or three chainrings, and from 5 to 11 sprockets on the back, with the number of theoretical gears calculated by multiplying front by back.
In reality, many gears overlap or require the chain to run diagonally, so the number of usable gears is fewer. An alternative to chaindrive is to use a synchronous belt. These are toothed and work much the same as a chain - popular with commuters and long distance cyclists they require little maintenance. Different gears and ranges of gears are appropriate for different people and styles of cycling. Multi-speed bicycles allow gear selection to suit the circumstances: In a lower gear every turn of the pedals leads to fewer rotations of the rear wheel.
This allows the energy required to move the same distance to be distributed over more pedal turns, reducing fatigue when riding uphill, with a heavy load, or against strong winds. A higher gear allows a cyclist to make fewer pedal turns to maintain a given speed, but with more effort per turn of the pedals.
With a chain drive transmission, a chainring attached to a crank drives the chain, which in turn rotates the rear wheel via the rear sprocket s cassette or freewheel. There are four gearing options: The most common options are either a rear hub or multiple chain rings combined with multiple sprockets other combinations of options are possible but less common.
Steering The handlebars turn the fork and the front wheel via the stem , which rotates within the headset. Three styles of handlebar are common. Upright handlebars, the norm in Europe and elsewhere until the s, curve gently back toward the rider, offering a natural grip and comfortable upright position.
Drop handlebars "drop" as they curve forward and down, offering the cyclist best braking power from a more aerodynamic "crouched" position, as well as more upright positions in which the hands grip the brake lever mounts, the forward curves, or the upper flat sections for increasingly upright postures. Seating A Selle San Marco saddle designed for women Saddles also vary with rider preference, from the cushioned ones favored by short-distance riders to narrower saddles which allow more room for leg swings.
Comfort depends on riding position. With comfort bikes and hybrids, cyclists sit high over the seat, their weight directed down onto the saddle, such that a wider and more cushioned saddle is preferable. For racing bikes where the rider is bent over, weight is more evenly distributed between the handlebars and saddle, the hips are flexed, and a narrower and harder saddle is more efficient.
Suspension seat posts and seat springs provide comfort by absorbing shock but can add to the overall weight of the bicycle. A recumbent bicycle has a reclined chair-like seat that some riders find more comfortable than a saddle, especially riders who suffer from certain types of seat, back, neck, shoulder, or wrist pain.
Recumbent bicycles may have either under-seat or over-seat steering. Bicycle brake Linear-pull brake, also known by the Shimano trademark: V-Brake, on rear wheel of a mountain bike Bicycle brakes may be rim brakes, in which friction pads are compressed against the wheel rims; hub brakes, where the mechanism is contained within the wheel hub, or disc brakes, where pads act on a rotor attached to the hub. Most road bicycles use rim brakes, but some use disk brakes.
A rear hub brake may be either hand-operated or pedal-actuated, as in the back pedal coaster brakes which were popular in North America until the s. Track bicycles do not have brakes, because all riders ride in the same direction around a track which does not necessitate sharp deceleration.
Track riders are still able to slow down because all track bicycles are fixed-gear, meaning that there is no freewheel. Without a freewheel, coasting is impossible, so when the rear wheel is moving, the cranks are moving. To slow down, the rider applies resistance to the pedals, acting as a braking system which can be as effective as a conventional rear wheel brake, but not as effective as a front wheel brake.
Bicycle suspension Bicycle suspension refers to the system or systems used to suspend the rider and all or part of the bicycle. This serves two purposes: Bicycle suspensions are used primarily on mountain bicycles, but are also common on hybrid bicycles, as they can help deal with problematic vibration from poor surfaces. Suspension is especially important on recumbent bicycles, since while an upright bicycle rider can stand on the pedals to achieve some of the benefits of suspension, a recumbent rider cannot.
Basic mountain bicycles and hybrids usually have front suspension only, whilst more sophisticated ones also have rear suspension. Road bicycles tend to have no suspension. A rigid fork mountain bicycle Wheels and tires Main articles: Bicycle wheel and Bicycle tire The wheel axle fits into fork ends in the frame and fork.
A pair of wheels may be called a wheelset, especially in the context of ready-built "off the shelf", performance-oriented wheels. Tires vary enormously depending on their intended purpose. Road bicycles use tires 18 to 25 millimeters wide, most often completely smooth, or slick , and inflated to high pressure in order to roll fast on smooth surfaces. Some components, which are often optional accessories on sports bicycles, are standard features on utility bicycles to enhance their usefulness, comfort, safety and visibility.
Mudguards , or fenders , protect the cyclist and moving parts from spray when riding through wet areas and chainguards protect clothes from oil on the chain while preventing clothing from being caught between the chain and crankset teeth. Kick stands keep bicycles upright when parked, and bike locks deter theft.
Front-mounted baskets , front or rear luggage carriers or racks, and panniers mounted above either or both wheels can be used to carry equipment or cargo.
Pegs can be fastened to one, or both of the wheel hubs to either help the rider perform certain tricks, or allow a place for extra riders to stand, or rest. Training wheels are sometimes used when learning to ride. Toe-clips and toestraps and clipless pedals help keep the foot locked in the proper pedal position and enable cyclists to pull and push the pedals.
Technical accessories include cyclocomputers for measuring speed, distance, heart rate, GPS data etc. Other accessories include lights , reflectors, mirrors, racks, trailers, bags, water bottles and cages , and bell. It is more common to see bicycles with bottle generators, dynamos, lights, fenders, racks and bells in Europe. Bicyclists also have specialized form fitting and high visibility clothing. Bicycle helmets can reduce injury in the event of a collision or accident, and a suitable helmet is legally required of riders in many jurisdictions.
Helmets may be classified as an accessory  or as an item of clothing.
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They are frequently used to warm up before races or indoors when riding conditions are unfavorable. Standards A number of formal and industry standards exist for bicycle components to help make spare parts exchangeable and to maintain a minimum product safety. The International Organization for Standardization ISO has a special technical committee for cycles, TC, that has the scope of "Standardization in the field of cycles, their components and accessories with particular reference to terminology, testing methods and requirements for performance and safety, and interchangeability".
European cycle standards tend to describe minimum safety requirements, while ISO standards have historically harmonized parts geometry.