Bike Science with Shawn Small
Our Bike Science superhero
Shawn Small will rescue you from
the sea of bike jargon and myths.
(Photo © J. Maus)

Welcome to Bike Science with Shawn Small, a new column that will debunk, demystify, and sometimes destroy everything you (think you) know and love about bikes.

For more background, check out the introductory post.

If you’ve got a question or topic you’d like Shawn to look into, drop us a note and we’ll forward it to the lab.

– Bike Science with Shawn Small is made possible through the support of Strava, an online service that lets you log, analyze, compare and compete with yourself and others.

Bike Science: Trigonometry and carbon fiber help Paralympian win

Posted on April 4th, 2011 at 12:09 pm.

[After a hiatus, our Bike Science column is back. Below, carbon fiber master and engineer Shawn Small shares the science behind one of his recent projects.

Steven Peace at start line of 2010
UCI Para-cycling Road World Championships.
(Photo: Joy Anderson)

Steven Peace was a Lieutenant Commander in the Navy in his early 30s when he suffered a massive stroke while lying alone one night in his apartment. He was found 14 hours later when EMT’s broke down his door. When he came to, he was paralyzed on his right side and suffered from severe aphasia.

Only 6 months after leaving the hospital Steven quickly defied all odds by riding a Catrike Trail (recumbent) in the Soldier Ride which goes from Phoenix, AZ to Las Vegas, NV. Here’s how Steven described that first ride; “..the ride was unbelievable, and life-changing. After the first ride, I knew I had to do another one, and another, and another.”


Bike Science: Machismo and your ‘gain ratio’

Posted on November 24th, 2010 at 9:44 am.

Tony Pereira's new singlespeeds-15.jpg
(Photo © J. Maus)

[This is our latest Bike Science column by Shawn Small. Read previous entries here.]

In the world of singlespeeds and fixed gears you often hear people talking about each other’s “gear-inches”. This is an easy way to prove your machismo and is also a way to get useful data about your riding style. Today on Bike Science, I’ll take a closer look at gear-inches and explain why I prefer to use the concept of “gain ratio” to out-macho my friends.


Bike Science: Keeping the rubberside down

Posted on October 26th, 2010 at 1:35 pm.

Slip or grip?
(Photo © J. Maus)

[This is our latest Bike Science column by Shawn Small. Read previous entries here.]

With cyclocross season in full swing and the rainy season upon us, it’s likely that tires have become a part of your bike gear conversations of late. And it’s no surprise; tires have a huge impact not just on the quality of your ride, but on whether you get home in one piece.

So let’s talk about tires.


A quick recap of ‘BikeBotics’ session at Barcamp

Posted on October 25th, 2010 at 1:35 pm.

— Publisher’s Note: This post is by our Bike Science columnist Shawn Small. We’ll publish short bits from him on Page Two in between his more in-depth columns that run on the Front Page.

The most feasible idea that we rolled around was the idea of incorporating a proximity sensor into a rear taillight.

This weekend I nerded down at Barcamp Portland and saw a lot of fellow nerds on bikes or with bike gear and thought I should finally do a BikeBotics session.

What is BikeBotics? I describe it as a merging of smartphones, gps, heart rate monitors, power, hacking, and bikes!

A few topics we discussed were:


Bike Science: Making sense out of traffic signal sensors

Posted on September 27th, 2010 at 3:14 pm.

How to get a green light-1
A traffic signal sensor in Portland.

Welcome to our newest column: Bike Science with Shawn Small

One of the more frustrating aspects of cycling in an urban environment is not being able to trigger a signal and being stranded at an intersection.

There you are, riding happily along, when you come to a red light and — after an entire signal cycle — you get the sinking feeling that the light is ignoring you. Fortunately, in many cities (including Portland) traffic lights are triggered by the presence of a bicycle. But how does it work? Is there a special technique for getting the green?

To supplement my own understanding of this topic, I got in touch with Peter Koonce, the Division Manager of Signals, Street Lighting, and Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) for the City of Portland (learn more about him here).


Introducing our new column: Bike Science with Shawn Small

Posted on September 10th, 2010 at 1:42 pm.

Our Bike Science superhero
Shawn Small will rescue you from
the sea of bike jargon and myths.
(Photo © J. Maus)

It’s with great excitement that I introduce our latest project here at BikePortland, a new column we call Bike Science with Shawn Small.

Shawn is the man and the mind behind Portland-based carbon fiber research lab and manufacturing company Ruckus Components (a business we profiled last year). He’s smart, he’s passionate about bikes, and he’s a mad scientist (I mean that in the best way possible) — all of which make him perfect for the job!