Breaking Bicycling Stereotypes

Student Stories Oct 15, 2014

There are a number of reasons why people in our country choose various modes of transportation rather than bicycling. On a practical note, both distance and comfort are crucial factors. Heavy traffic and long distances are the typical reasons why people choose powered vehicles over bicycles. In bicycles, greater speed with lesser effort is preferred over requirement of high cadence rates and effort.

Rather than spending money to join a physical training center or hiring a personal physical trainer, bicycling is a perfect substitute. For nearby destinations, it is probably the best mode of transportation. Bicycle companies such as Shimano, Firefox and Hercules have designed equipments for improved efficiency of torque transmission and safety systems. Geared-bicycles have revolutionised the bicycling industry with multiple gear combination options. Systems such as ‘Bud Brakes’, a typical ABS system, have ensured high safety braking for bicycles. Aerodynamic and light-weight frames have hit the market in the recent years. These bicycles have been proved to be much more efficient and faster.

In spite of these considerable improvements, there is not much increase in bicycling population. What everyone needs is comfort and ease of riding. Latest equipment display cadence rates, heartbeat, number of calories burnt and also show the operating gear combination. These have managed to attract some health concerned citizens. A general problem faced is that people do not know when to switch gears. Existing systems show operating gear combination which may not be of considerable use. With personal effort as well as support, I started working on this issue. Throughout the process, the idea was to improve the comfort of the rider, make most of pedal power. Bicycling on slopes and flat terrains are different. The optimum gear combination and cadence are the key to better efficiency. Different people have different styles of riding. Few people prefer shifting gears at lower pedalling rates and others do not.


To fix the above problem, I came up with a new idea. This idea helped me in filing an Indian patent (1435/CHEN/2014). Two proximity sensors with the assistance of an accelerometer are mounted on the bicycle frame. This helps to decide the most efficient gear combination based on the operating cadence and orientation of the bicycle. The Figure 1, shows the positioning of the two sensors mounted on the bicycle frame. The system developed is based on the concept of power curves and optimal shift points of specific gear combinations. It is able to improve the pedalling torque by around 98%.

Figure 1: Position of the two sensors

Due to lack of knowledge on when to shift gears, bicyclists do not always maintain the efficient gear & obtain fewer 'metres of development’ (meters displaced by wheel per rotation of the crank). This happens mostly in bicycles when compared to any two or four wheeler as we do not have the ‘feel’ as in when to shift due to lower pulling torque at initial gears. The system implemented has proved to be very helpful to new bicyclists. On an average, using the system, cyclists can travel around 18 % more distance within the same time and effort when compared the one without the system. 18% may sound a little less, yet, when scaled up for longer distances, it does shrink by a great factor.


Inventions such as ‘The Copenhagen Wheel’, have proved to be super-pedestrian. An astonishing 40% population of the Danish capital use this bicycling system to commute to work. The Figure 2 shows how the ‘Copenhagen wheel’ is mounted onto the bicycle frame. For people who cannot cycle for long distances, there is an electric motor which improves pedalling power. Such advancements are the answers to all the ‘excuses’ we give.

Figure 2: Copenhagen Wheel (By Fair use)(All rights held by Superpedastrian)

Reasons such as bicycling being ‘Unsafe’, ’Funny’ or ‘Uncool’, should not be stated. Age and Gender being standard stereotypes, have to be broken in our country. Bicycling has no limits.


Aditya Varma K

Aditya Varma is an ambitious engineer and an active cyclist. Drawing interests from a mechanical background, he works on design and sensor integrated products.