Downhill cycling symmetry breaking: How the rider foils experiment

Yuval Ben Abu, Ira Wolfson, Gil Bran, Hezi Yizhaq

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


In high-school teaching of mechanics, we deal, among other things, with the nature of static and kinetic friction, forces that are proportional to the normal force. Under the influence of frictional forces, a body moves down a rough sloped decline at a fixed rate of acceleration that is independent of its mass. This situation does not apply to cases where the frictional force is dependent upon velocity, such as bodies which are moving through a streaming fluid (such as raindrops falling to the ground). In this case the body moves with a continuously decreasing acceleration, eventually reaching a terminal velocity when the frictional and gravitational forces balance out. This velocity constraint is determined by the dependence of the frictional force on velocity and geometric parameters that determine the strength of the frictional force. We show here that a similar situation takes place when bicycles descend an incline with a fixed slope. We also investigated the dependence of the velocity constraint with mass, using bicycles equipped with sophisticated sensors that metamorphose them into data-processing laboratories.

Original languageEnglish
Article number065005
JournalPhysics Education
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Physics and Astronomy (all)


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