Rolling: The Wheels
Without the wheels a bike is pretty much useless and certainly isn’t going anywhere fast (unless you want to use it as a towel rack or a seat, that is). Often the most obvious component when you think of a bike, the wheels are a key defining feature of any cycle.
The number of wheels can vary from machine to machine, not surprisingly bicycles have a pair. While three wheelers remain largely uncommon, tricycles are still produced for specialist applications. Unicycles make use of a single wheel and again, remain largely uncommon.
In this guide, we will consider the wheels on a bicycle. Put simply, the wheel is the circular part of the bike that rotates as the bike moves across a surface. One is located at the rear of the bike, which is rotated through the transfer of energy via a belt, or (more commonly) a chain that is then linked to the drive system. The rear wheel is fixed in place in the frame so although the wheel freely rotates it does not pivot or change angle. In contrast, while the front wheel also freely rotates, it can also change direction in terms of the angle via the turning of the handlebars. The front and the rear wheels are completely independent of one another, so one can rotate while the other is stationary, and vice versa.
The dimensions of the wheel and associated parts are often the best indicator of what terrain the bike is designed to conquer and straight away you can get a pretty good idea about what the bike is intended for just by looking at the size and width of the wheels. Although this is not to say you cannot ride around town on a bike with 20 inch wheels, or ride down a mountain with 700c wheels, more and more specialist manufactures are increasingly exploring the use of different wheel sizes for different uses.
In the guide below, each component that makes up the wheel will be identified, deconstructed and explained.