On the Spot

Alex Miles

Alex Miles

Andi Berlin

We saw Alex Miles, a sophomore in optical engineering and material sciences engineering, waiting for the Tuesday night bike ride in front of the fountain at Old Main.

Wildcat: OK, you’re on the spot. How does a bike work? How much horsepower does it have?

Miles: It would really depend on the gear ratio and rider. I have no idea.

W: How many gears per minute is it?

M: I actually don’t know. I don’t think the shift on mine works anymore.

W: What are these wires?

M: They allow the motion of the handlebars and the break, the switches for the gears to the actual brake calibers and to the wheels and to the shifter if it worked.

W: A shifter is to go from different brakes?

M: No, it changes the gear ratio between the rotation of the pedal and the rotation of the wheel. The closer it is to a one-to-one ratio, the more actual torque you get for going up a hill, but the lower it is, the easier it is to pedal.

W: I didn’t know riding a bicycle was so mathematical.

M: (Scoffs.) It’s pretty simple, actually.

W: Do you have to pedal faster to go faster?

M: You can play with gears to go faster without necessarily pedaling faster. Some of the people out here have fixed gear bikes. The chain goes straight from the pedals to the back wheel and they have no way of braking except for slowing down the rotation of their feet. If they shift their motion fast enough to put all their weight on the pedal, they should be able to brake.

W: How do they put all their weight on the pedal if they’re so heavy?

M: By standing up.

W: Can I go on the bike ride?

M: Just show up. If you have a bike, you can ride along.

W: What if you have a car or a Vespa?

M: I don’t know. I don’t really know what the rules are.

W: Is it mountain biking, or…Oh, they have neon. It’s like a circus! When you go to school, is it faster to walk or is it faster to bike?

M: It’s faster to bike, but it can be inconvenient because of the bike routes.

W: Is it more environmentally friendly?

M: Uh, not necessarily. I mean, you don’t give off any greenhouse gases while you’re walking.

W: Is it more environmentally friendly than skateboarding?

M: I wouldn’t know, but I know that any wheel transportation is more efficient than walking. At the interface of the two surfaces, you only have static friction, not kinetic. But that’s another tangent.

W: So would it be faster to bike, or to take a car?

M: It would probably be faster to take a car, if you could afford parking on campus.

W: Do you have to pay money to park your bike on campus?

M: No.

– interview by Andi Berlin