You are on page 1of 5

Bicycle Wheel Math

Consider a car moving at 30 mph. Now, consider one of the cars wheels:

How fast is each of the following points on the wheel moving: at the top, bottom, right, left, and center?
First, lets look at the center. The center movies in a straight line with the car, at the same speed of the
car, so the speed of the center is also 60 mph:

30 mph

Now, lets consider the point on the very top of the wheel. It is turning (because the wheel is turning)
and it also moving forward (because the car is moving forward). Since both of these actions move the
point to the right, we can simply add their speeds together. So, the overall speed of the point on the top
is 30+30 mph, or 60 mph.
60 mph

Now lets look at the bottom. It also both spinning and moving forward. However, it is spinning to the
left, and moving forward to the right. Since they are moving the point in opposite directions, we must
subtract their speeds, giving us 30-30 mph, or 0 mph.

0 mph
Next, consider the point on the right side of the tire. It is being spun upwards, and moving to the right.
So, we can add these vectors together to get its overall velocity. This is the same for the point on the
right, expect its spinning downwards.

Since both of the triangles shown above are isosceles right triangles with side lengths of 30 (because
they are moving at 30 mph) the actual speed at that point is 30 mph.
It is interesting to note that if you extend any velocity vector along the rim of the tire, it will intersect the
tire at the very top: (the blue lines show the extensions of the vectors)

Of course, this makes sense because any point makes a right triangle with the top and bottom:

sin

cos

So the two legs have to point to the top and bottom of the tire.

Find the area of the shaded region:

The analytic way of solving this is by making b and r into a right triangle, solving for the hypotenuse, and
subtracted the areas of the two circles:

b2+r2

Area of the shaded region=(b2-r2)-r2=b2


This answer makes sense, because essentially we are just pivoting b around the whole r circle, so we
are basically making a circle of radius b, because the movement up, down, and sideways does not affect
the area:

Suppose we have ramps of different slopes, all connected by a point at the top, and we release marbles
from the top onto all the different slopes. Where will the marbles be on each slope at some time t?
What shape do these points make?

Start
Some time t

This problem can be solved by using the kinematic equation y=.5at2, where a is acceleration and t is
time. Since all the marbles are under the influence of gravity, all of their accelerations are 9.8 m/s2. Also,
we arent really interested in y, were interested in the hypotenuse (r) of the triangle, so the expression
becomes r=.5acos()t2. Since a and t are both constants, this is really just the equation of a circle in polar
coordinates. So, the shape made by all the marbles is a circle!
Now try to solve the homework problems