Math should be almost second nature in many aspects of your life. You probably use math on a regular basis and don’t even realize it. Even when you ride a bicycle you are using math concepts. So, as the saying goes, “It’s as easy as riding a bike”. That is how easy math should be for you.
Before you groan and make a comment about ruining the enjoyment of riding a bike by bringing math into the picture, let’s look at where you are already using math when riding your bike. You may not realize it, but concepts of speed, pressure, ratio, circle circumference, weight and power are in constant use when riding a bike.
Let’s look at ratio. When you pedal a bicycle, you are driving a chain and sprocket setup that turns the rear wheel. The front sprocket is most likely a different size that the rear sprocket. This offset in size is a ratio. What the ratio difference does is allow you to pedal at a different speed than the rear wheel will turn. This change in speed also changes the amount of force applied. If you are pedaling twice as fast as the rear wheel turns, then your force from the rear wheel will be twice as much as the force on the pedals. The same is true in the other direction. If you are pedaling and the rear wheel is turning twice as fast as the rate you pedal, then you will have half of the force on the rear wheel compared to the front wheel.
This ratio difference is why mountain bikes have a low ratio gear for climbing, they want as much multiplication of the force on the pedals as possible to help them climb a steep grade. To get this multiplied force, they sacrifice speed.
You are also constantly adjusting for pressure. Of course you have the pressure in your tires, but you also have the pressure from wind resistance. Have you ever tried to go fast down a hill, or racing someone? Chances are you tucked your body in to help with your aerodynamics. By tucking your body in, you reduce the amount of area that is working against the wind, and reducing the amount of air pressure buildup in front of you.
Speaking of tires, have you ever had to pump up your tire? Did you use one of those piston type hand pumps that have a handle you move up and down? That’s basically an air cylinder that allows you to force air into a tire. That’s another science that uses a lot of math, pneumatics.
For more information on some of the concepts discussed in this post, try some of the online calculators below.