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I've noticed something about most cyclists since I've been cycle commuting across Bristol.

Most cyclists aren't dedicated road cyclists, in fact, they are just trying to get from place to place. I've noticed a surprising amount of people driving to the outskirts of the city before cycling the remaining distance to the centre. I've also noticed a lot of people riding dutch style step through bikes.

I can't work out why small wheels haven't caught on. They are far less cumbersome than 700c, so much easier to put in your car. They are much easier to store (in an office, at home or at cycle racks). Obviously, I've seen a few Bromptons around, but they retail at around £1000 and weigh a silly amount due to the folding.

The only disadvantage I can see is they don't give such a comfortable ride, which could be very easily solved by rubber dampers.

Moulton came up with this design in the 60's, I'm struggling to work out why it hasn't caught on for city commuter cyclists (which make up a surprisingly large portion of cyclists).

I'd certainly find a small wheel bike much easier for when I drive halfway and cycle half way on my commute...

42 comments

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Canyon48 [990 posts] 5 months ago
1 like

https://forum.cyclinguk.org/viewtopic.php?t=18319

I think I just found the answer.

Seems a combination of build quality of some small wheeled bikes and the poor performance on bad roads mean small wheeled bikes fell out of favour.

Interestingly, small wheel bikes are in fact very popular in Japan, perhaps not a surprise due to the lack of space!

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John Smith [65 posts] 5 months ago
2 likes

Because most people go in to a shop (generally Halfords) and pick the first bike they like the look of that they can afford. They don’t think about wheel sizes and the like. For manufacturers, where cost is the major factor for the majority of cycle commuters, one wheel size makes it much cheaper, especially where is is the standard wheel size for most bikes. 

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Boatsie [230 posts] 5 months ago
1 like

Anyone remember the old gyro demonstration? If you hold each axle side with each hand and spin the wheel away from you then by pushing on the left side of the axle, the wheel will tilt left rather than turn right.
Yes, at slow speeds we can turn the handle bars yet at higher speeds, by pushing on the handle bars, rather than the handle bars turning, the bike will lean into the corner.
A larger diameter experiences a larger gyro effect and that to me is a lot safer at higher speeds.
A 20 inch rim is more likely to survive trail punishment, jumps, etc and a 20 inch rim is easier to transport but a 28 inch rim will be a lot kinder at higher speeds associated with road bicycles. MTbs being smack bang in the middle.
With regards to road cycling; smooth through to not so nice yet jumpless roads, 700c seems perfect especially with our tyre advancement and some wider low resistance tyres/frame combinations offering comfort on our fun roads.
Basically... Bigger diameters need less grip than smaller diameters while traveling at speed when cornering is required.

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Canyon48 [990 posts] 5 months ago
1 like
Boatsie wrote:

Anyone remember the old gyro demonstration? If you hold each axle side with each hand and spin the wheel away from you then by pushing on the left side of the axle, the wheel will tilt left rather than turn right. Yes, at slow speeds we can turn the handle bars yet at higher speeds, by pushing on the handle bars, rather than the handle bars turning, the bike will lean into the corner. A larger diameter experiences a larger gyro effect and that to me is a lot safer at higher speeds. A 20 inch rim is more likely to survive trail punishment, jumps, etc and a 20 inch rim is easier to transport but a 28 inch rim will be a lot kinder at higher speeds associated with road bicycles. MTbs being smack bang in the middle. With regards to road cycling; smooth through to not so nice yet jumpless roads, 700c seems perfect especially with our tyre advancement and some wider low resistance tyres/frame combinations offering comfort on our fun roads. Basically... Bigger diameters need less grip than smaller diameters while traveling at speed when cornering is required.

Gyro forces are insignificant in bike handling http://www2.eng.cam.ac.uk/~hemh1/gyrobike.htm

I'm confused why you believe bigger wheels need less grip? Wheel diameter has nothing to do with cornering forces.

So far, the CFD I've done is concurrent with the prevailing opinion that smaller wheels are more aerodynamic anyway. Not only that, smaller wheels give more responsive bike handling.

It seems to me that we are only using 700c because it was the most common size derived from an archaic French system of wheel measurement.

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iandusud [71 posts] 5 months ago
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I have a Moulton Jubilee amongst my collection of bikes and it is a delight to ride. As a touring bike it is fantastic, it is relatively heavy compared to a stripped down CF road bike but weight isn't everything and the weight is comprable with a touring bike. The small wheels accelerate well and are indestructable. The comfort in unsurpassed and load carrying with the rear rack is fantastic and very stable. I've descended mountains in France fully loaded with camping gear at over 50mph and the bike was as steady as a rock - I couldn't have done that on my previous touring bike with 700c wheels. Also the small wheels with mudguards which wrap well around them makes it a very good bike for wet weather as there is next to no raod spray. It is my bike of choice to jump on for everyday journeys. My weekend warior riding with the club is a stripped down road bike. 

As ever trends in bikes, like cars and motorbikes, are heavily influenced by what goes on in the workd of racing and the UCI put a ban on small wheels on bikes back in the 60s (limiting wheel size to 24" iirc) when Moultons were racing because they had an unfair advantage over traditional designs - how's that for progress. 

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hawkinspeter [1999 posts] 5 months ago
2 likes

I suspect it's just to do with the quality of most roads - larger wheels can easily roll over bumps/dips that cause a significant 'bump' on smaller wheels.

I'm not convinced that rubber dampers are an effective solution as they're relatively heavy for a small amount of travel. That's why most suspension forks don't just use a rubber damper. What might work is to keep a small wheel size, but have a much bigger tyre on them. That would also increase weight, but would provide much better cushioning.

Also, I suspect that small wheels are relatively heavy compared with larger wheels as some features can't just be shrunk without compromising strength (e.g. the hub). There's also the economy of scale that makes 700c wheels cheap to produce.

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kil0ran [923 posts] 5 months ago
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I regularly ride my partner's eBike (folder, 20" wheels) and I find it utterly terrifying but that's mainly due to my ham-fisted handling skills. Steering damper would help I guess - until you ride a smaller wheeled bike you have no idea how much wrestling a 700c wheel needs.

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iandusud [71 posts] 5 months ago
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Putting fat tyres on small wheels ruins (suined them). It's what gave small wheelers a bad reputation as rotating weight and rolling resistance increases. It's what killed off the original 1960s Moultons and what made Alex Moulton a very bitter man, as he sold a licence to Raleigh to make them only for Raleigh to ditch the suspension for fat tyres to make them cheaper.

There are so many misconceptions about small wheeled bikes. I used to sell the AM Moultons (1983 on) and they sold themselves - the simple secret was giving people a test ride. People couldn't believe how fast and comfortable they were, and also how well they handle. 

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cyclesteffer [336 posts] 5 months ago
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Interesting isn't it, the amount of people part driving, part cycling to Bristol (and Bath) it's like a whole secret world of multi modal commuters out there, but you only realise it when you do it yourself.

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Shades [387 posts] 5 months ago
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I'm a Bristol 'part drive, part cycle' commuter; solve the space issue by having a van.  Have a small wheel folder for train/bike days.  Much slower than a standard 700cc bike, although easier on the train.  Have noticed an increase in Bromptons over the past year or so.  You wonder whether there's any merit in councils having small free parking areas at strategic points to encourage drive/bike commuting.

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Boatsie [230 posts] 5 months ago
1 like
wellsprop wrote:
Boatsie wrote:

Anyone remember the old gyro demonstration? If you hold each axle side with each hand and spin the wheel away from you then by pushing on the left side of the axle, the wheel will tilt left rather than turn right. Yes, at slow speeds we can turn the handle bars yet at higher speeds, by pushing on the handle bars, rather than the handle bars turning, the bike will lean into the corner. A larger diameter experiences a larger gyro effect and that to me is a lot safer at higher speeds. A 20 inch rim is more likely to survive trail punishment, jumps, etc and a 20 inch rim is easier to transport but a 28 inch rim will be a lot kinder at higher speeds associated with road bicycles. MTbs being smack bang in the middle. With regards to road cycling; smooth through to not so nice yet jumpless roads, 700c seems perfect especially with our tyre advancement and some wider low resistance tyres/frame combinations offering comfort on our fun roads. Basically... Bigger diameters need less grip than smaller diameters while traveling at speed when cornering is required.

Gyro forces are insignificant in bike handling http://www2.eng.cam.ac.uk/~hemh1/gyrobike.htm

I'm confused why you believe bigger wheels need less grip? Wheel diameter has nothing to do with cornering forces.

So far, the CFD I've done is concurrent with the prevailing opinion that smaller wheels are more aerodynamic anyway. Not only that, smaller wheels give more responsive bike handling.

It seems to me that we are only using 700c because it was the most common size derived from an archaic French system of wheel measurement.

Different view and possibly a better writer than I. Understanding gyro forces significantly improves cornering and bigger diameter wheels improve such.
Corning is handling, hence whom am I to know whether a Baker is teaching an art class?

How'd aero get recognised? Is it because their closer to ground? The wall behind them doesn't count aye; just a wheel aye.

Less grip, corner at speed, bigger diameter wheel. If too big like pointed out, wind resistance. I like 700c, still way smaller than my wall.
Basic principles, physics.

It is a known force. It might not be named 'gyro' and if such the case I wronged you there.
I ain't pedantic, it is basic physics principles although with support towards smaller wheels one may argue that at the same speeds the wheel speed is greater hence more gyro or whatever the name of that force will translate into movement.
Bigger wheels roll over potholes. Lol.
Thanks with the information that 700c came from the French engineers.
They often intelligent. English used to stick two fingers up with that jester originating from the English /French war as it was more effective to chop two fingers off an English archer than it was to terminate him. The qualified archers would stick 2 fingers up at the French to let them know that they are still qualified archers.
I like 700c wheels, my roads are basically flat/smooth.

Imagine a very smooth road and a road bike using a grass hill skateboard wheel on the front end. Yes, an aerofoil would be easier to manufacture enabling the pushed wind to displace into a slipstream yet the grip required when cornering would be enormous.
I didn't read the entire article, I remember reading something to do with initial steering which too me is important at higher speeds.
My mate commuted 2*30km daily on 20 inch rims. They suit some. Momentum of the wheels tangent using 700c suits most road riders. Besides all that, I haven't neither a wheel or tyre factory and same as you with we use what we get.
Less grip.. I haven't the expertise to explain angular momentum.

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iandusud [71 posts] 5 months ago
3 likes

A bigger wheel will cope with pot holes and other road surface irregularities better than a smaller wheel on a bike without suspension. However the Moulton is a very different beast. I have two 700c road bikes that I run with GP4000s 25s at 70psi (I weigh around 70kg) and I can assure you that they cannot compare in any way to ride that my Moulton gives on the sort of potholed roads around here. When I was commuting in London I would alternate bikes and the when riding the Moulton I didn't have to worry about steering around potholes and drain covers. There was also a downhill section with speed humps that I would take on the Moulton full speed without have to take my weight off the saddle - I couldn't do that on the others. I can also say that the Moulton is the best steering bike at speed that I've ever ridden. 

I'm not a Moulton evangelist - I'm a cycling evangelist and I love all my bikes for different reasons, but I hear so many people stating opinions as facts about small wheeled bikes as if all small wheeled bikes are the same. It's like people who've had a bad experience with cycling because they've ridden a poorly maintained bike that's the round size saying that cycling is hard work.

Just a final annecdote. What really convinced me of the merits of the AM Moultons was about 30 years ago when I'd had a forced 12 month break from cycling due to a knee injury. The annual London to Brighton bike ride was coming up and I'd missed it the previous year due to my injury and I didn't want to miss it again. So I decided at the last minute to ride it on our demo Moulton AM7. As I hadn't ridden a bike in over a year I decided to just ride to Brighton and get the train back. When we (my brother and  28 got to Brighton I felt so fresh that I decided to ride back to London. We picked up another rider and formed a chaingang and did the fastest ride back from Brighton I've ever done. I felt remarkably fresh at the end of it, which was a testimony to the ride quality of the Moulton. I proceed to build myself the Moulton Jubilee I still ride today. 

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Canyon48 [990 posts] 5 months ago
2 likes
Boatsie wrote:
wellsprop wrote:
Boatsie wrote:

Anyone remember the old gyro demonstration? If you hold each axle side with each hand and spin the wheel away from you then by pushing on the left side of the axle, the wheel will tilt left rather than turn right. Yes, at slow speeds we can turn the handle bars yet at higher speeds, by pushing on the handle bars, rather than the handle bars turning, the bike will lean into the corner. A larger diameter experiences a larger gyro effect and that to me is a lot safer at higher speeds. A 20 inch rim is more likely to survive trail punishment, jumps, etc and a 20 inch rim is easier to transport but a 28 inch rim will be a lot kinder at higher speeds associated with road bicycles. MTbs being smack bang in the middle. With regards to road cycling; smooth through to not so nice yet jumpless roads, 700c seems perfect especially with our tyre advancement and some wider low resistance tyres/frame combinations offering comfort on our fun roads. Basically... Bigger diameters need less grip than smaller diameters while traveling at speed when cornering is required.

Gyro forces are insignificant in bike handling http://www2.eng.cam.ac.uk/~hemh1/gyrobike.htm

I'm confused why you believe bigger wheels need less grip? Wheel diameter has nothing to do with cornering forces.

So far, the CFD I've done is concurrent with the prevailing opinion that smaller wheels are more aerodynamic anyway. Not only that, smaller wheels give more responsive bike handling.

It seems to me that we are only using 700c because it was the most common size derived from an archaic French system of wheel measurement.

Different view and possibly a better writer than I. Understanding gyro forces significantly improves cornering and bigger diameter wheels improve such. Corning is handling, hence whom am I to know whether a Baker is teaching an art class? How'd aero get recognised? Is it because their closer to ground? The wall behind them doesn't count aye; just a wheel aye. Less grip, corner at speed, bigger diameter wheel. If too big like pointed out, wind resistance. I like 700c, still way smaller than my wall. Basic principles, physics. It is a known force. It might not be named 'gyro' and if such the case I wronged you there. I ain't pedantic, it is basic physics principles although with support towards smaller wheels one may argue that at the same speeds the wheel speed is greater hence more gyro or whatever the name of that force will translate into movement. Bigger wheels roll over potholes. Lol. Thanks with the information that 700c came from the French engineers. They often intelligent. English used to stick two fingers up with that jester originating from the English /French war as it was more effective to chop two fingers off an English archer than it was to terminate him. The qualified archers would stick 2 fingers up at the French to let them know that they are still qualified archers. I like 700c wheels, my roads are basically flat/smooth. Imagine a very smooth road and a road bike using a grass hill skateboard wheel on the front end. Yes, an aerofoil would be easier to manufacture enabling the pushed wind to displace into a slipstream yet the grip required when cornering would be enormous. I didn't read the entire article, I remember reading something to do with initial steering which too me is important at higher speeds. My mate commuted 2*30km daily on 20 inch rims. They suit some. Momentum of the wheels tangent using 700c suits most road riders. Besides all that, I haven't neither a wheel or tyre factory and same as you with we use what we get. Less grip.. I haven't the expertise to explain angular momentum.

I'm not quite sure that I follow, to be honest.

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StoopidUserName [448 posts] 5 months ago
0 likes

Never seen a moulton in the flesh (pretty ugly in the pics I've seen) but as great as I'm sure they are, if you cant buy them then whats the point of bigging them up for a commute? Most people will either go for an expensive Brompton or cheap folder thats even worse to ride (not saying Bromptons are particularly bad).

 

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LWaB [64 posts] 5 months ago
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Most folks only buy and ride what they see. Then they justify their choice without knowing enough about the alternatives.

I've done a lot of 1200km brevets on my custom S&S 700C Frezoni and a lot of 120km brevets on Moultons. Moultons are a little heavier and a little slower uphill but much more comfortable and quicker downhill. I'll keep riding all sorts of bikes - they're fun!

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Shouldbeinbed [56 posts] 5 months ago
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I've disposed of nearly all of my bike collection, the one bike that I have kept hold of for all types of riding is my 2002 Birdy Blue. It's a bit Triggers Broom in that lots of the moving parts have been changed a few times over the years but it is the perfect bike for pretty much anything but flat out racing and has effective suspension front and rear so it smooths out even the grimmest of Manchester roads and the odd cobbled bits I encounter quite happily. I'll be riding it until it or I can't manage any more.

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pjclinch [103 posts] 5 months ago
1 like

It boils down to the bike market being very conservative.  Small wheels are not what "proper bikes" have, so therefore they must not be so good (probably...).  So far more big wheeled bikes are made, so that's what people choose, and so on in a self-reinforcing cycle.

It didn't help that historically the original Moulton was buried by Raleigh in a fit of Not Invented Here and the cheap and cheerful lookalikes like the RSW weren't actually cheerful, though most people today will have forgotten that.  These days most people will simply repeat Received Wisdom as to why small wheels are bad without actually trying a well designed small wheel bike, and persist with the big wheels they're familiar with even when they're not actually any particaular help (or for diminutive riders, possibly an active hindrance).

A Brompton opened my eyes to small wheels being more capable than I'd thought, and now I use a Moulton TSR as my general Hack Bike.  It's just nicer to ride than a 700c bike, more manouvrable and more comfortable (and so it should be at the price, of course)

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hennie [31 posts] 5 months ago
4 likes

I'd love to add to the clever debate above, but the honest answer is that I'd feel a bit of a plonker on one

Short and sweet 

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zero_trooper [237 posts] 5 months ago
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Raleigh Twentys have a bit of a cult following:

 

https://www.sheldonbrown.com/raleigh-twenty.html

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iandusud [71 posts] 5 months ago
0 likes
zero_trooper wrote:

Raleigh Twentys have a bit of a cult following:

 

https://www.sheldonbrown.com/raleigh-twenty.html

If you're after a 20" small wheeler à la Raleigh Twenty pick up a Dawes Kingpin if you ever see one for sale. Much like the Raleigh but better. 

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sergius [548 posts] 5 months ago
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I'd never heard of Moultons before, interesting.

 

Have seen a few about town in London, but nothing compared to the ubiquitous Bromptons.

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John Stevenson [326 posts] 5 months ago
2 likes

TL;DR: To do a small-wheeled bike well costs more than a large wheeler; small wheels have a reputation for being unpleasant to ride; most people don't see that they need the advantages of a small-wheeler.

The long answer

First, let's unpick a few things here.

Wheel size has no effect on handling. That's down to weight distribution and trail. However, to get the same trail you do need a different fork offset for a given head angle.

Wheel size also has no effect on acceleration that any normal mortal could detect in a double-blinded study, if such a thing were possible. The weight of bike and rider completely swamps the effect of the reduced weight and second moment of inertia of the wheels.

If you want a small-wheeled bike that works really well, you have to go down the Moulton route: high-pressure tyres and suspension. Small wheels with fat, soft tyres are just horrible because the rolling resistance goes through the roof. 

Moulton sold tens of thousands of bikes in the sixties, because they were practical, fun to ride and very much caught the zeitgeist of Mini cars and mini skirts. But that was against a background of plummeting interest in cycling. By the '70s bikes had become a cheap commodity item.

Raleigh helped destroy the image of small-wheeled bikes in two ways. The first was the execrable RSW16 (Raleigh Small Wheeler) bike, which had two-inch-wide, low-pressure 16-inch tyres and was an absolute dog. But it was a lot cheaper than a Moulton.

The second was to buy the Moulton brand, produce just one new model, the Mark III, and then kill it off. The Mark 3, with its triangulated rear subframe, was actually rather good, and Moulton Bicycle Company still uses that aspect of the design.

But by the early '70s the bike market was divided up into cheap 3-speeds and 10-speeds for getting about; kids' toys (Raleigh had been wildly successful with the Chopper); and lightweight road bikes for enthusiasts. 

The Moulton was squeezed out of the practical-bike market by its price, wasn't a kid's toy but also wasn't an enthusiast bike, even though records had been set in the 60s on lightweight Speed series Moultons. And of course the cheap-and-nasty RSW 16 helped perpetuate the idea that small wheels were hard to ride.

The advantages of the suspended small-wheel design are a bit non-obvious. For example, you can carry a shitload of stuff on a Moulton, on platforms above the wheels, and loading them up a bit actually improves the ride and handling. They take less space to store and transport, especially the Stowaway models of the 60s and, thanks to the separable space frame design, almost all Moultons since the AM series in the early 80s.

But most people don't need  to carry lots of stuff, they don't need a compact bike, and if they do they need a folder that can be made genuinely tiny, which is why the Brompton dominates multi-mode commuting. For everyone else, standard 700C-wheeled bikes do the job really well, especially as you can get a pretty damn good one for £500. Moultons start at £1,250.

 

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Doc Sportello [3 posts] 5 months ago
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I use a Moulton TSR for commuting 8 miles each way and it is an absolute delight.  Big rack, looks fantastic and is uber comfortable and that is what it is perfect for.  It's different horses for different courses though -  in the same way I wouldnt want to use my Bianchi Oltre for a rainy trip to the shops , I wouldnt use the Moulton for a pacy 100 miles.  I am lucky enought to have a number of bikes and a friend once asked which one I would choose if I had to just have one for the rest of my life - and the answer was the Moulton. 

In terms of speed, on the flat parts of my commute  I will do 20 mph on the Moulton but would  do 22mph on a decent road bike - guess there are aero issues - and the handling gets a little bit lively over 30 mph.

 The only downside is that everyone who knows about Moultons tends to assume you are an architect or a designer as they are absolutley mad on them - "all about the triangles" in the space frame apparently.

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Boatsie [230 posts] 5 months ago
1 like

I disagree. Wheel size does effect handling characteristics. Design of bike more so towards effect of handling.
At an extreme, we don't see 1inch diameter or 1.5metre diameter wheels often yet 20-28 inch seem decent to many modern bike designs. 20inch certainly helps transportation of such. I love riding a 24inch bike as I find it a lot faster along tow paths. It is light weight, wide wheeled and a fantastic design. On long straights it might be capable of pushing wind yet it is single cog and ain't tall geared. I prefer this to a larger wheel on tow paths because I ain't as shaken and it's agility certainly keeps the pace up. On larger faster smoother curves I prefer 700c yet again that probably bike design.
Much to much, can't go wrong with either if you find your bicycle comfortable and enjoyable.
Smaller wheels are often stronger and less maintaince.
My faster tread 700c wheels aren't the fastest tyres but heaps harsher than a cruisy pace fat one.
Best of luck.
(I believe in moment of inertia yet whatever makes you smile is the best suit)
I have never seen a Moulton bicycle. They do look quite quick. I'm impressed from internet browsing.
More yawning of what I type. Lol.
I don't think they have caught on here because..
Expensive.
I have trouble trusting 700 28c down the local grade on 70kmph sweepers, the 24 inch isn't stable down the straight road grade and just plain and simple... I rely on inertia preferably far from the axle. Because the wheel wants to go that way it will have less tendency to want to go sideways. I am so scared, remembering consistently which lever is which brake. On drop bars at the grade 30km from home 90kmph not uncommon.
Storage, flatter roads, strength.... They look really useful.

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Canyon48 [990 posts] 5 months ago
1 like
John Stevenson wrote:

TL;DR: To do a small-wheeled bike well costs more than a large wheeler; small wheels have a reputation for being unpleasant to ride; most people don't see that they need the advantages of a small-wheeler.

The long answer

First, let's unpick a few things here.

Wheel size has no effect on handling. That's down to weight distribution and trail. However, to get the same trail you do need a different fork offset for a given head angle.

Wheel size also has no effect on acceleration that any normal mortal could detect in a double-blinded study, if such a thing were possible. The weight of bike and rider completely swamps the effect of the reduced weight and second moment of inertia of the wheels.

If you want a small-wheeled bike that works really well, you have to go down the Moulton route: high-pressure tyres and suspension. Small wheels with fat, soft tyres are just horrible because the rolling resistance goes through the roof. 

Moulton sold tens of thousands of bikes in the sixties, because they were practical, fun to ride and very much caught the zeitgeist of Mini cars and mini skirts. But that was against a background of plummeting interest in cycling. By the '70s bikes had become a cheap commodity item.

Raleigh helped destroy the image of small-wheeled bikes in two ways. The first was the execrable RSW16 (Raleigh Small Wheeler) bike, which had two-inch-wide, low-pressure 16-inch tyres and was an absolute dog. But it was a lot cheaper than a Moulton.

The second was to buy the Moulton brand, produce just one new model, the Mark III, and then kill it off. The Mark 3, with its triangulated rear subframe, was actually rather good, and Moulton Bicycle Company still uses that aspect of the design.

But by the early '70s the bike market was divided up into cheap 3-speeds and 10-speeds for getting about; kids' toys (Raleigh had been wildly successful with the Chopper); and lightweight road bikes for enthusiasts. 

The Moulton was squeezed out of the practical-bike market by its price, wasn't a kid's toy but also wasn't an enthusiast bike, even though records had been set in the 60s on lightweight Speed series Moultons. And of course the cheap-and-nasty RSW 16 helped perpetuate the idea that small wheels were hard to ride.

The advantages of the suspended small-wheel design are a bit non-obvious. For example, you can carry a shitload of stuff on a Moulton, on platforms above the wheels, and loading them up a bit actually improves the ride and handling. They take less space to store and transport, especially the Stowaway models of the 60s and, thanks to the separable space frame design, almost all Moultons since the AM series in the early 80s.

But most people don't need  to carry lots of stuff, they don't need a compact bike, and if they do they need a folder that can be made genuinely tiny, which is why the Brompton dominates multi-mode commuting. For everyone else, standard 700C-wheeled bikes do the job really well, especially as you can get a pretty damn good one for £500. Moultons start at £1,250.

 

I like it!

I think you pretty much summed it up. I guess that 700c is cheap enough and does the job well enough for most (although about half the people I see commuting are on 26" hardtails - which makes no sense to me for city riding).

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Boatsie [230 posts] 5 months ago
0 likes

From earlier...  Why do we need less grip to corner with larger wheels?

Moment of inertia.  Formula on internet.
 Force is proportionate to square of radius.
Hence if we use same tyre width/compound on a larger wheel and a smaller wheel then the larger wheel will not only have a larger tendency to remain at velocity from each point of tangent but also more tangents to accumulate sum of forces with.
Hence because the wheel is lawful to that of common physics,  a greater force will be required to move such sidewards. 
A downside to such is agility which is sometimes preferred along technical roadways such as tow paths where short sharp velocity changes make lifes easy.

I love UK,  I laugh with a brother because his front door height is about level with my eyebrows. We have different road ways down here and space to store bikes which could be why small wheel tall cog machines haven't caught on.

I love the French,  pretty sure some French dude invented the bicycle.  They are as simple as us!

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asdfqwerty [41 posts] 5 months ago
1 like

I imagine a lot of people associate small wheels with childrens' bikes and that would be enough to put them off it. For most people buying bikes, aesthetics and budget trumps appropriateness.

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BBB [479 posts] 5 months ago
0 likes
iandusud wrote:

Putting fat tyres on small wheels ruins (suined them). It's what gave small wheelers a bad reputation as rotating weight and rolling resistance increases. It's what killed off the original 1960s Moultons and what made Alex Moulton a very bitter man, as he sold a licence to Raleigh to make them only for Raleigh to ditch the suspension for fat tyres to make them cheaper.

There are so many misconceptions about small wheeled bikes. I used to sell the AM Moultons (1983 on) and they sold themselves - the simple secret was giving people a test ride. People couldn't believe how fast and comfortable they were, and also how well they handle. 

Please stop spreading pseudo-science .

As it's been discussed many times before, rotating mass is bordeline irrelevant when you take into account the weight of the entire system  (including the rider).

Fatter tyres have LOWER not higher rolling resistance particularily on bad roads when used at proportionally lower pressure.  

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OldRidgeback [2931 posts] 5 months ago
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As others have also pointed out, small wheels are far more vulnerable to potholes. As a BMXer I'm more than aware than most cyclists of the ride that a bike with 20" wheels gives. Sure, my racing BMX is a work of art and on the track it's wonderful as it's short wheelbase combines with the built-in instability of the smaller wheels with their narrower turning circle to make it really nimble.

But I do commute on it sometimes, with a big seatpost to raise the saddle. And those same characteristics that make small wheels so good on a BMX track give a far worse ride over potholed roads than even the 24" wheels on my BMX cruiser, let alone the 26" wheels of my MTB or the 700s on the road bike I share with my son.

I've had quite a bit of experience on small wheeled bikes. When I was a kid I rode a shopper with 20" wheels and put in a lot of miles on it. It was a Puch and vastly superior in terms of build quality to the Raleigh model, but boy it was heavy. I was very glad when I got a Falcon 10 speed one birthday and still lament its theft from outside a pub in South London. The Puch shopper was then taken over by my niece who used it for years, until it finally fell apart. The Puch rode ok, certaily better than the original Moulton my mate had. I know some people are starry-eyed about them but I thought it was a horror, with wayward handling, though admittedly not quite as bad as the Raleigh RSW16 another mate had. Moving up to date, another mate uses his Brompton to commute. I've ridden several times and to me, it's compromise. Yes, Brompton has pretty much optimised the idea of a compact folder, but small wheels are a compromise and don't perform as well over potholes, while also being rather twitchy on the steering.

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Griff500 [255 posts] 5 months ago
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Boatsie wrote:

From earlier...  Why do we need less grip to corner with larger wheels? Moment of inertia.  Formula on internet.  Force is proportionate to square of radius. Hence if we use same tyre width/compound on a larger wheel and a smaller wheel then the larger wheel will not only have a larger tendency to remain at velocity from each point of tangent but also more tangents to accumulate sum of forces with. Hence because the wheel is lawful to that of common physics,  a greater force will be required to move such sidewards. 

I take it you didn't study science at school?  Apart from what you say above being absolute nonsense, your generalisations "same tyre width/compound" are laughable, and ignore the very important contribution of tyre pressure and contact patch size and shape.

Your internet formula describing rotational intertia of the wheel has nothing to do with changing the direction of linear momentum of the bike. Any gyroscopic effect in the wheels is negligible compared to your momentum (mass x velocity) in a given direction, which you want to change to a different direction.

Incidentally, Schwalbe, who I assume know a thing or two about tyres, have some interesting stuff on rolling resistance on their website. A few of the highlights: Larger diameter reduces rolling resistance, but so does a wider tyre up to a point, which might explain the recent trend from 23mm tyres to 25mm and 28mm.  Smaller diameter tyres inflated to the same pressure have a higher rolling resistance than a large one because a small tyre when deformed by load,  is "less round" at the contact point. And you can't solve this by inflating a small tyre more, because then your contact patch becomes smaller. So if you want an easy ride long distance on road, stick with your 700c tyres.

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