Most People Don't Know How Bikes Work

  • Published on Nov 27, 2021
  • Why are bicycles stable? The most common answer is gyroscopic effects, but this is not right. This video was sponsored by Kiwico. Get 50% off your first month of any crate at

    Huge thanks to Rick Cavallaro for creating this bike on short notice. Thanks to all the friends who participated in the filming. Rick was also responsible for the Blackbird Faster Than The Wind Downwind Cart.

    Much of the information presented here on the stability of a riderless bicycle stems from original research at

    This line of bicycle-balance research was initiated by Jim Papadopoulos:

    Great videos on bikes and counter-steering:

    MinutePhysics: How Do Bikes Stay Up?

    MinutePhysics: The Counterintuitive Physics of Turning a Bike:

    Why Bicycles Do Not Fall - Arend Schwab TED talk:

    Today I Found Out: We Still Don't Know How Bicycles Work

    TU Delft - Smart motor in handlebars prevents bicycles from falling over:

    Andy Ruina Explains How Bicycles Balance Themselves:

    More References:

    TU Delft Bicycle Site:

    Bicycle stability program:

    Special thanks to Patreon supporters: Luis Felipe, Anton Ragin, Paul Peijzel, S S, Benedikt Heinen, Diffbot, Micah Mangione, Juan Benet, Ruslan Khroma, Richard Sundvall, Lee Redden, Sam Lutfi, MJP, Gnare, Nick DiCandilo, Dave Kircher, Edward Larsen, Burt Humburg, Blake Byers, Dumky, Mike Tung, Evgeny Skvortsov, Meekay, Ismail Öncü Usta, Crated Comments, Anna, Mac Malkawi, Michael Schneider, Oleksii Leonov, Jim Osmun, Tyson McDowell, Ludovic Robillard, Jim buckmaster, fanime96, Ruslan Khroma, Robert Blum, Vincent, Marinus Kuivenhoven, Alfred Wallace, Arjun Chakroborty, Joar Wandborg, Clayton Greenwell, Michael Krugman, Cy 'kkm' K'Nelson,Ron Neal

    Written by Derek Muller
    Filmed by Trenton Oliver, Raquel Nuno and Derek Muller
    Edited by Derek Muller
    Music from Epidemic Sound and Jonny Hyman
    Produced by Derek Muller, Petr Lebedev and Emily Zhang

Comments • 17 965

  •  ShortHax

    It’s easy to build a rocket. It’s not like it’s bicycle-science

  • z beeblebrox

    You know a design is perfect when a hundred or so years after it's invented, researchers are still studying how it works so well

  • dogsrocks

    To me its incredible how humans just learn to do these things unconsciously. Noone tells you that when youre a kid, you just try over and over again until suddenly you do it right without even knowing what youre doing differently.

  • Pindex
    Pindex 14 days ago +29

    Love this video. Thought I would already know it all, but of course, you were a step ahead : )

  • Bismarck
    Bismarck  +187

    I actually did some "Research" like this of my own. I sometime tried to steer my bike without leaning, and I found it to be very hard just pointing the handle in the direction I wanted to go go. I eventually discovered that this is technique we've been using all along, just by executing a dumb idea of mine.

  • Voices of Music
    Voices of Music 14 days ago +48

    When I rode a motorcycle we all countersteered. But I guess we were just steering.

  • LyricWulf
    LyricWulf  +17

    "Turn right to go left... Hm..." -Lightning McQueen, moments before disaster

  • no 4 is my name

    I used to cycle often and I came to realise that gradually leaning into the turn generally makes the turn way smoother than to just turn the handlebars - never knew the exact reason why til today

  • Daniel Klopp

    Motorcyclists (particularly those that ride fast sport-bikes with "clip-on" - i.e. short - handlebars) know about counter-steering (as Derek noted, it's the ONLY way to get a single-track vehicle to turn). Armed with this knowledge, I taught my boys to ride bicycles in less than an hour (with no training wheels). I had them sit on the bike, with their feet on the pedals, while I stood behind them gripping the back of the seat (so I could balance them). I then told them to steer in the direction of the lean as I leaned the bike from side-to-side. I kept leaning their bikes from side-to-side until I was confident they could counter-steer to correct the lean.

  • Zack the slayer

    Only time I have ever steered without doing this, I defied gravity, shifted sideways at almost 60-70 degrees (I felt the grass on my knee by the sidewalk) and did a full 180 turn in under half a second. I dont know why, or how i did it, but I took a break from riding my bike that day... I was legit just amazed...

  • ilanf2
    ilanf2  +174

    This actually makes the reverse handlebar bike even more interesting too.

  • TheSavageProdigy

    The more you know, learn something everyday, this is a real inspiration to some including myself to design stuff in such ways and understand how they work.

  • DoctorMotorcycle

    I figured this out by accident when I did a (small) motorcycle build and wanted to see how tight I could make the steering stem to act as a ghetto "steering stabilizer". I tightened the steering stem to the point where it required a fair amount of force to turn the bars, and I almost fell off the bike when I let the clutch out. It was un-rideable. I had always thought gyroscopic procession was why the bike stayed stable, and immediately realized it was the abilty to constantly re-correct that keeps you from falling over. Would you consider doing a video on the mechanics of Trials bike riders?

  • deebznutz100

    This explains why when I'm riding my bike and find myself riding near the edge of a curb or sidewalk I find it difficult to turn away without falling off the edge.

  • Gábor Kiss-Vámosi

    I've learned to ride an unicycle in 2-3 weeks. It was a great to experiment to learn it as an adult. Firstly, it was quite a bit of challenge even just to sit on it while holding to the wall with two hands. After some days my brain and body got automatically and intuitively better and better in a seemingly impossible task. I didn't know what I did differently in each try but my brain just learn behind the scenes. I only needed to fed in some input data to let the neural network do its job. It was amazing to feel what magic happen inside a how little we understand about our own mind and internal processes.

  • Brian Driscoll

    If anyone is looking for an even deeper dive in the science of this the motorcycle Channel "Mike on Bikes" is fantastic. He even goes into the magical relationship of lean angle, speed, and turning radius and SOO much more. As a rider it's fantastic but I imagine it's good for anyone who geeks out over physics.

  • Rapotato GAMING

    so when I ride a bike with no hands, my handlebars are basically on autopilot. Fascinating

  • Brian Selmer

    When riding on ice, this counter steer flies out the window. I have heard about the self stabilizing aspect of the rake on the forks, where you can ghostride the whip and it keeps going... gyroscopuc procession helps... but no one mentions the difference in radii between the center of the tire tread, and the side of the tire. Just like how a train with solid axles makes a turn, (the track underneath the train moves as the train keeps its original direction, and the camber of the train tires, which are conical, create 2 different size wheels.......the inside wheel has a smaller circumference, and the outside wheel has a larger circumference.... no need for a differential.) Instead of the contact patch being a cylinder, it becomes a CONE!!!!!!!!!!! Castor effect is cool, gyro stability is great, countersteer has been mentioned, but the contact patch is something most people do not think about.

  • AnImage
    AnImage  +1

    It's actually fascinating how our body learns something intuitively yet our mind stays blissfully unaware.

  • Kristopher Adams

    A humans ability to adapt to something, even without knowing how, is amazing to me.