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Duration:03:44
Uploaded:2015-11-18
Last sync:2019-06-13 00:00
Ever wonder what keeps you from falling over when you’re riding your bike? Jessi, with the help of some other SciShow Kids, shows you the answer!
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SOURCES:

http://sciencequestionswithsurprisinganswers.org/2013/04/18/what-keeps-a-bicycle-balanced/
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oZAc5t2lkvo
http://ezramagazine.cornell.edu/SUMMER11/ResearchSpotlight.html
[Intro plays]

Jessi: Just like Squeaks, I love riding on wheels. But my ride of choice is my bicycle! When I’m on my bike, I can go farther and faster than when I’m walking. Plus, it’s super fun! But I remember when I was first learning how to ride a bike. It was kind of hard to figure out how to keep this wobbly thing, with just two wheels, from falling over. And a few of you have been wondering about the same thing! Violet recently wrote to us and asked, "How does a bike keep going without falling over?"

Well, when a bike is standing still, it can’t stay up on its own, right? You have to use a kickstand to keep it from toppling on its side. But when you’re riding the bike fast enough, like my friends Jack and Noah here, it can stay up, no kickstand needed! Why?

The secret is in the balance! Whether you know it or not, you are an expert at staying balanced. When you’re walking, rollerblading, biking, or even just standing still, you’re balancing. And you’re naturally good at keeping yourself in balance, too. Say you’re walking down the sidewalk and your friend comes up and gives you a nudge to one side. If they push you to the right, you’ll automatically put your foot out to the right. Without even thinking about it, you prevent yourself from falling, by keeping the top of your body in line with your feet, which keeps you in balance.

And the same is true when you’re on your bike! In order for your bicycle to stay upright, you have to keep the bike in line with the wheels. And you do that by steering it! It might feel like you’re moving in a straight line most of the time, but you’re actually making tiny corrections all the time using your handlebars, to keep both you and your bike all lined up. If the bike leans just a little bit to the right, you steer a bit little to the right. But then the bike might lean a bit to the left, so you turn a teeny bit to the left, too. Every time you steer the bike in the direction it’s leaning, you’re bringing the weight of the bike, and you, back on top of the wheels.

To help you picture what you’re doing when you’re riding a bike, let me give you another example. Have you ever tried to balance something tall and skinny, like a baseball bat, upright in your hand? When you try to balance it, the bat will lean to one side. And when it does, you move your hand to the same side to bring the bottom of the bat in line with the top. That helps keep it upright... at least for a second.

When you steer your bike, it’s like moving your hand to get back under the tilting baseball bat. Now, keeping your bike in balance can be hard sometimes. When you’re first learning how to ride, it definitely takes a while to figure out. But even you more experienced bike-riders know that you’re kind of wobbly when you start pedaling at the beginning of a ride. Since you’re going slowly at first, you need to swerve around a little to keep the bike lined up until you can gain some speed.

So, this brings up another question: Why do you need to be going fast to stay in balance? Well, when the bike starts to lean over, you have to act fast to keep it in balance. If your bicycle’s moving too slowly, you can’t turn quickly enough to get it lined up again, and keep it from falling. Learning how to ride a bike can be tricky. You have to teach yourself how to work with the bike to keep it upright. But now you know that, when you’re steering, you’re not just pointing your bike in the direction you want to go, you’re also keeping it balanced! You may start out wobbly at first, but once you get going it’s as easy as, well... riding a bike!

Thanks for joining us today! And if you have a question about... anything! Let us know by getting a grown up and leaving a comment or sending us an email at kids@thescishow.com See you next time!