Researchers of the Delft University of Technology (TU Delft), working with colleagues from Cornell University and Nottingham University, have created a computer model that could help designers to develop better bikes.
'Bicycle manufacturers have always had to refine their designs purely through experimentation. In our model, they can enter into the computer all of the various factors that influence the stability and handling of their bicycle. The model then calculates how the bicycle will react at specific speeds,' explained Dr Arend Schwab of the Faculty of Mechanical, Maritime and Materials Engineering (3mE) at Delft.
Because the model has the ability to indicate whether a design will deliver a jittery bicycle, or indeed a stable one for seniors, the bicycle industry is highly interested in the findings.
The head of product development at the Dutch bicycle manufacturing company Batavus, Rob van Regenmortel, is following the research very closely.
'With the new model, we soon hope to be able to design bicycles that are much better oriented toward specific target groups,' he said.
Van Regenmortel hopes to collaborate with the researchers on a follow-up project. The ultimate goal of the research is to study the interaction between bicycle and rider to determine the handling quality of the bicycle. 'In this way, we can – in theory – create a customised bicycle for every rider', said van Regenmortel.
'Individuals who have trouble maintaining their balance, for example, would then no longer be restricted to a tricycle.'