Bicycle Materials Case Study (2023)

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Bicycle Materials Case Study

Author: AndrewCantrell

Project Advisor: ProfessorTom Stoebe

Project Group Members: FirdausKhan

Ryan Oakes

Jeread Sines

Table of Contents: Summary

Bicycle Materials Case Study

Application Requirements

Possible Materials


Material Selection



Date Written: June 12, 2003

Bicycle Materials Index: Back to Bicycle Materials main page

Thissenior project is an educational case study on the material science of bicyclewheels, frame, components and helmets. The idea of this bicycle materialselection case study is to increase the knowledge of the reader of the casestudy, as well as the author. We will involve physical aspects of materials(structure, properties, etc.), by educational literature survey, discussions,application analysis, and material selection. This core study will be done in ageneral way by completing three informative tables. One table will presentmaterial properties requirements for the selected materials commonly used for bicycle wheels, frame, components and helmet.Table two will display these common possible materials to be used, in referenceto their application (i.e. alloy—frame, foam—helmet, etc). The third table willselect the best material for said bicycle application. The material selectionwill be determined and focused on a cost effective standard touring roadbicycle (mid-level) built for the intermediate to advanced road cyclist. Ouroverall key features will be weight and cost for this mid-level bicycleapplication. The factor of cost in our discussion will only briefly be examineddue to additional manufacturing, design, and material processing costs. Thecyclist profile will be exercise minded road bicycle commuters. The correlativematerial/application processes and materials selection will then be discussedand displayed with conclusions and future prospects. All information presentedwill be understandable for non- technical audiences.


Educational case study onthe material science used to in a present day bicycle wheels, frame, componentsand helmet.


My goal for this term project isimprove my ability to investigate a materials science case study andengineering problem by using my background in physical materials principles.


The objective of this bicyclecase study is to apply as well as increase my knowledge in applications ofmaterial science, and to present that information to the reader of the casestudy.


(Video) Objet Customer Case Study - TREK Bicycles

This Bicyclecase study will involve physical aspects of materials (structure, properties,etc.), by educational literature survey, discussions, analysis, and preparationof a report.


The majority of the researchwill be done by preexisting educational literature on material properties andstructures. This core study will be done in a general way by completing threeinformative tables. One table will present material properties requirements forthe selected materials commonly used for bicyclewheels, frame, components and helmet. Table two will display thesecommon possible materials to be used, in reference to their application (i.e.alloy—frame, foam—helmet, etc). The third table will show the best chosematerial selection for said bicycle component application. This materialsselection will then be discussed and displayed and the correlativematerial/application processes will then be described.



Case Study


Possible Materials


Material Selection

Conclusion and Future Prospects


The senior project I haveundertaken is a research project on a materials case study for the developmentof an educational materials science web site, for Junior High to High Schoolstudents. This website is already in place (online) and is designed, authored,and edited by Professor Stoebe and/or his students; I will add my case study toit in a reference and informational driven web design including the definitionsthat go with my case study. For example, I write about frame alloy design,composite wheel design, component plastic/metal applications, and helmetcomposite design. This case study when presented on the website should peaksome interest, give understanding and encourage growth in the material scienceknowledge of its readers.

The following brief casestudy outlines bicycle component design through materials selection. In MaterialScience Engineering understanding the material selection process is the key toengineering any application and/or part design. Material selection is thefoundation of all engineering application and design.

As always the major overall bicycle requirements are speed,safety, comfort, and endurance. The bicycle weight is the key to speed, but thelightweight need must be balanced by the other factors (safety, comfort, andendurance). The following table gives a brief outline of the applicationrequirements.

Table 1: Application requirements








multi-part mechanical


tensile loading

tensile strength




core structure









mechanical parts


mechanical wear

need varies





cyclist head

one use-failure

for safety





Wheels arefundamental to the purpose of the bicycle. A bicycle wheel is made up of a hub,spokes, a rim, tire, and tube. Each part of the wheel may require differentmaterial properties. Our focus will just consider the materials for the hub,spokes, and rim. Material importance in comparing these parts of the wheel asfollows:

Table 2: Wheel parts


Key Feature

Material Importance



low density


tension loading

tensile strength





The frame is the core to the bicycle as a completefunctional unit. Material selection importance should lay with strength andweight (i.e. strength/density materials and processing). A major considerationis the tube frame design. The standard commercial bicycle frame diagram is showbelow.

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Figure 1: Bicycle Frame [3]


“Components” is the bicycle industry’s name for the movingmechanical parts: everything but the wheel, frame, seat and handle bars. Wewill just the overall material importance for the components. This focus is theparts function, wear, weight, and cost. The following figure shows some bicyclecomponents.

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Figure 2: Bicycle Components [5]

(Video) Selecting Ideal Materials for Bicycle Frames Using Material Selection Charts


The helmetmaterials will be considered separately from the other bicycle applications.The standard helmet design is crushable foams. Helmet design factors areweight, cost, and safety. An example of standard bicycle industry design is asshow (Bell’s Aquila-sport helmet).

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Figure 3: Bicycle Helmet [8]

We will only introduce the most common materials that arepresently used for these applications. The bicycle wheel, frame, and componentsmaterials to be considered are Steel alloys, Aluminum alloys, Titanium alloys,and Composites.

Table 3:Possible Materials [3]

<![if !vml]>Bicycle Materials Case Study (5)<![endif]>

The Helmet materials lie in a separate material category:Crushable foams. Crushable foams are ideal for helmets designed for one hardimpact. Some foam used is EPS(Expanded PolyStyrene), EPP(Expanded PolyPropylene), and EPU(Expanded PolyUrethane). EPS is one of the most common foam used in oursociety, the white foam found in picnic cooler, eggs carriers, and stereo gearpacking. EPP is multi-impactfoam, with slow shape recovery, (higher cost) and mostly for multi-impactsports like skateboarding. EPUis similar to EPS, but it has very uniform cell structure that adds to theesthetic appeal. EPS is the most available, cheap, and efficient, thus mostcommon helmet material selection. [7]

The following discussion of physical principles forfunctional material strengthening will further support the resulting materialselection per bicycle application.

We will give a brief outline four of the major physicalprinciples that can be applied in these applications. The four principlesconsidered are densification, composites, and alloying. There manymanufacturing techniques used to strengthen and form materials as well.

Densification is the most common and necessary way tostrengthen concrete cement composites. In general, this increases the tensilestrength by reducing the porosity of the matrix. This can be shown in thefunctionality of helmet design. The Styrofoam density and porosity must beproportional and functional to protect your head upon serious head impactwithout injury.

The standard composite rule of mixtures is when the standardmatrix is soft/pliable and the reinforcing material is tensile strong. One themajor reasons for the prevalent use of composite materials in construction isthe adaptability of the composite to many kinds of applications. The selectionof mixture proportions can be aimed to achieve optimum mechanical behavior ofthe harden product. Selection can result in the change of the strength,consistency, density, appearance, and durability.

The alloying of metals is one of the oldest and mostfundamental material processing techniques. An Alloy is a solid solution thatis composed of two or more elements. There is a solvent (majority composition)and a solute. The Solute element can strengthen the overall solid solution bydifferent element size, density, and other material properties

Given our presented applications, possible materials, andphysical principles we can gather our resulting material selection consideringwith cost and without cost. The factor of cost for the materials is difficultto examine due to lack of presentation in our discussion because vastadditional manufacturing, design, and material processing cost/factors.

Table 4: Material Selection


Material w/out cost

Material w/cost


Hub/Rim- Composite,


Hub/Rim- Aluminum Alloys,



Titanium Alloys






EPP foam

EPS foam

This material application selection process as concluded wasstated only as a brief outline to demonstrate the need for material science inbicycle technology and not by any means a full discussion.

In the last 10 years of the 19th century at leastone-third of all the new patent applications sent to the U.S. Patent Officewere bicycle related. The past 20th century technical and materialdesign for bicycles at times increased greater than automobile design. Now inthe 21st century even the said “low-class” (inexpensive) bicyclesare pushing boundaries of lightweight, efficient, functional, and highperformance needs of the cyclist.

In conclusion, we could say that bicycles have a big futuredue to their increasing popularity of use; thus material selection and designwill lead that future in terms of technology. Low environmental impacts havebeen added incentive for present popular use in contrast to the automobiles forcommuting. But as always, popular use is driven by utility of cheap efficientexercise and transportation.

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Figure 4: Energy cost of Transportation [5]

This report has renewed mydirection in my senior project by broadening the scope; characterize tasks, andreminding me the importance of literature review. My future prospects are toorganize this report into web pages and add broader content (i.e. list morematerials, applications and define costs).

I acknowledge the following instrumental people for theirhelp:

<![if !supportLists]>Bicycle Materials Case Study (7) <![endif]>Professor Raj Bordia, thank you for directing me tosucceed in this course as well as in my Material Science degree and curriculum.

<![if !supportLists]>Bicycle Materials Case Study (8) <![endif]>ProfessorMehmet Sarikaya, thank you for putting asideyour schedule to meet with me and help focus my discussion about my seniorproject topic and materials.

<![if !supportLists]>Bicycle Materials Case Study (9) <![endif]>Professor Stoebe, thank you for being my senior project adviserand providing an opportunity for my case study topic in informational drivenweb design.


Bicycle WheelManufacturing and Composition

(Video) Bike Frame Structural Analysis with FEM | SimScale Webinar

Author(s): Al Fernandez, Jen Leicht, Scott Radcliffe, DavidRoberts, Lan Thomas, Tom Triesenberg, Song Vufang, LoToya Waters

Publication: MSM 481 - Bicycle Manufacturing Project Reports




Author(s): Brahms, Driscoll, Gilbert, Masterson, McKenzie, Mooradian, Myers, Tedeku

Publication: MSM 481 - Bicycle Manufacturing Project Reports



Bicycle Frame

Author(s): Mananger: Brian VanDragt,Assistant Manager: Sherri Defever, Engineers: Kristin Brandenberg, RebeccaHerman, Jeremy Doezema, Shanti Oram, Wilson Faust, Matt Saltzgaber

Publication: MSM 481 - Bicycle Manufacturing Project Reports



Bicycle History

Author(s): TDK site created by 4UIMOWlawncare * RonnieGallimore



Science of Cycling

Title: What is the Scienceof Cycling?



About, Inc. ( Copyright2002

Title: Applications:Bicycles (Guide picks)



(Video) 2.3- Materials cycle

Bicycle Helmet SafetyInstitute

Title: Foams Used in BicycleHelmets

Website: October 29, 2002.


Bell (helmets)

Title: Aquila(sport helmet)



Materials Science andEngineering FifthEdition

Author(s): William D. Callister, Jr.

Published: John Wiley & Sons., Inc. Copyright 2000


Materials andProcesses in Manufacturing EighthEdition

Author(s): E. Paul DeGramo, J. T. Black, Ronald A. Kohser

Published: John Wiley & Sons., Inc. Copyright 1999


Physical MetallurgyPrinciples ThirdEdition

Author(s): R. E. Reed-Hill and R. Abbaschian

Published: PWS Publ. Co. Boston1991


Complete Guide toBicycle Maintenance & Repair

Author(s): Jim Langley

Published: Rodale Press Inc. Copyright1999


Zinn & The Art ofRoad Bike Maintenance

Author(s): Lennard Zinn

(Video) Webinar "How should recycling be modeled in LCA?" 19 May, 2020

Published: Velo Press Copyright2000

Back to Bicycle Materialsmain page


What are the materials used to make bicycle? ›

Although over the years there have been such oddities as bamboo and plastic frames, current road bikes are made of one or blends of these four materials: steel, aluminum, titanium and carbon fiber. We get into the differences below. But first, realize that fine bicycles are built of all these materials.

What are the 4 main materials used for bike frames? ›

Although there are still boutique manufacturers experimenting with alternative materials, including bamboo and cardboard, the big four are steel, aluminium alloy, titanium and carbon fibre.

What qualities are important in materials for making bike frames? ›

The main property of importance for bike frame design is Young's Modulus. This describes the material's stiffness – the tendency for it to return to its original shape under load. Young's Modulus is similar for metals made from the same alloy. Contrary to what you might expect, outright strength is less important.

What improvements were made to bicycles? ›

The original bicycle was nothing more than two wooden wheels linked with another piece of wood. Over time, though, engineers were able to design more sophisticated bicycles that featured steering mechanisms, pedaling systems, brakes, and pneumatic tires.


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