Bikes – An Accessible and Versatile Context

James de Winter and Alan Denton join us to tell us the many ways in which a simple bicycle can be used to provide an accessible context for Physics. Moment, pressure, forces, sound, power and more can all be looked at through the lens of a bike.


  • A Fifth Fundamental Force? @ 00:47
  • Bikes for teaching physics @
    • Why use a bike? @ 05:56
    • How to draw a bike @ 06:43
    • Free Body Diagrams @
    • Forces on a bike @ 08:11
    • Free Body Diagrams @ 8:40
    • Mechanical Advantage @ 14:00
    • Pressure @ 17:18
    • Sound@ 23:10
    • All the other things you can do @ 25:00
  • Post interview chat @ 31:00
How to sketch a bike


First Thomas and Robin chew over the suggestion that there may be a fifth fundamental force of nature, or it may just be uncertainty. This leads on to the similarities with “faster than light neutrinos“. It’s a story that illustrates ‘how science works’ so a nice one to share with top sets or A-level students.

Alan and James find delight in the bike as a tool for teaching physics. Levers, pressure, friction, sound and much more can be taught using the good old bicycle! We’ve been chatting a lot about context recently and surely a bike has more resonance with kids than, say a Saturn V rocket or a car engine?

If you’re interested in the beautiful book James mentions, you can find it here: Cycling Science by Max Glaskin. If you do all your marking, Santa might put you on the ‘nice’ list and slip one in your stocking.

I’ll bet you can think of even more ways to use a bike to get ideas across (bike chain as a model of moving charge in a circuit?), so give your technician a real challenge and see if they can find storage space in their prep room for a bike.

Join in!

Please share ideas or successes – or indeed questions – on our Facebook Page: .  You can also message us via our website contact form at, Twitter @physicstp, email using  the address given in the podcast (if we remember) or by leaving a voice memo using WhatsApp or Telegram to the phone number in our Twitter profile, +44 7898 814716 (don’t call the number, nobody will answer, just hold down the microphone icon and speak your message or upload an mp3 or ogg). Don’t forget to tell us your name because we may use your audio in a future episode.

The music we use remains One legged equilibrist polka by Circus Homunculus. Occasionally we also use Cantina Rag by Jackson F. Smith.

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