Do you think there is still some innovation that can be done to cycle wheels? Like changing the cycle spokes pattern? Or is it already in an optimised state?

  • I think the innovation will be in tires more than in wheels (and in low friction bearings)
    – Max
    Aug 3 '18 at 16:49
  • 2
    All sorts of games have been played with bike wheel spokes over the past 20-30 years -- different lacing patterns, flat spokes, straight spokes (with no hook on one end), etc. And I'm thinking that folks have experimented with flexible fiber lacing. Nothing has really caught on. Aug 3 '18 at 17:13
  • @DanielRHicks you are probably thinking about Topolino (pardo.net/bike/pic/fail-028/index.html)
    – ojs
    Aug 3 '18 at 17:45
  • The spoked wheel was invented circa 2000 BC, a key part to any innovation will be from advances in materials engineering rather than advances in understanding wheels.
    – mattnz
    Aug 4 '18 at 3:42
  • Is this a question about your bike? It sounds more like engineering or design homework.
    – Criggie
    Aug 4 '18 at 20:52

I’m not aware of any significant innovations in the last 4000 years. The spoked wheel was invented 2200–1550 BCE.

Sure, we have carbon rims and spokes now, straightpull spokes, disc wheels, tri-spoke wheels, tubeless tires, disc brakes …

But all of those have really been mostly incremental improvements. So judging from the past it’s unlikely much will change in the future.

  • Wheel with tensioned wire spokes was invented as late as 1808.
    – ojs
    Aug 3 '18 at 16:24
  • @ojs: Probably because steel couldn’t be manufactured in good enough quality before then?
    – Michael
    Aug 3 '18 at 16:32
  • @Michael maybe, but a cart wheel could be made with rope spokes under tension. Tensile rather than compressive spokes were quite a significant advance, and of course the spoked wheel was an incremental improvement on the disc wheel, which itself was incremental on rollers
    – Chris H
    Aug 3 '18 at 20:05
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    Pneumatic tyres is probably bigger than anything else in a very very long time. Wooden spoked wheels on cars work fine, at very high speeds - as long as you have pneumatic tyres. Solid wheels are pretty awful at any speed.
    – Henry Crun
    Aug 4 '18 at 14:17

Everything is always in an optimised state. You just have to ask what it is optimised for.

For example, todays racing bikes are not optimised for speed: they are optimised to remain functionally unchanged , and energetically comparable to 80 years ago.

A speed optimised track bike would have 12", 250psi tyres, disc wheels, a horizontal body position, and full fairing.

[Think about how much energy is wasted by the upper part of 700C wagon wheels, which are traveling over 150km/h wind speed in a 200m time trial]

  • 1
    We are looking for answers with more information. Perhaps you could draw a comparison of a modern wheel and one from 80 years ago and explain why none of the changes made have any effect. As for the rest, the question was about wheels. There are plenty of places on the Internet where you can whine about UCI rules as much as you want.
    – ojs
    Aug 4 '18 at 18:18
  • Any science or data to back that up? Aug 5 '18 at 19:21
  • The UCI has 'normalized' the shape of bicycles to be used in races to make sure that the performance depends on the rider rather than on aerodynamic advantage of a specific design, like recumbents or fairings. Some designs are banned at most occasions for safety reasons, such as three-spoke or disk wheels or aerobar-extensions. Although you may ride with a bullet shaped front fairing privately if you want.
    – Carel
    Aug 6 '18 at 11:18
  • My point was nothing to do with UCI. It was that "optimised" is a function of what you optimise for. There is plenty of room for significant innovation in wheels, and innovations waiting in the wings, but not when the objective of optimising is constrained to "be exactly the same", either by the UCI or consumer taste and marketing. To answer AA, yes, our research showed greater efficiency from a small wheel (hardly the first to know this), and that allows a radically innovative wheel construction.
    – Henry Crun
    Aug 6 '18 at 20:36

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