Undergraduate Teaching

Engineering Tripos Part IIA Project, SC2: Bicycle Design, 2019-20

Engineering Tripos Part IIA Project, SC2: Bicycle Design, 2019-20

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Prof M P F Sutcliffe

Timing and Structure

Please see moodle page for 2020 revised details


Part I Mechanics, Materials and Structures


The aims of the course are to:

  • To define the specification of various types of bicycle in current use
  • To choose suitable materials for a number of components, using the Cambridge Engineering Selector as the principal tool, but also drawing on other sources.
  • To investigate in detail one aspect of bicycle design, as listed below.


The project will investigate the mechanical, structural and materials design considerations for the bicycle.

1. Introduction (joint sessions).

An introductory session will put the bicycle in its historical perspective and discuss the specification of various types of bicycle. Students choose a mini-project for section 3.

2. Specification, Conceptual Design and Use of the Cambridge Engineering Selector (students work alone in week 1).

All students will receive two handouts. The first will guide the writing of a report on the specification and conceptual design of selected parts of the bicycle and an introduction to their mini-project.

The second handout will lead students through the use of the Cambridge Engineering Selector (CES) to identify suitable materials and help them establish performance indices for a number of key components.

3. Mini-projects (students in pairs).

Students will undertake a mini-project on one aspect of bicycle design. Mini-projects will be directed through the use of handouts and timetabled supervision. Each student will write a report on their mini-project.

The subjects covered are: 

  • Optimisation on cost or performance
  • Tyre rolling resistance
  • Bearing and chain performance
  • Fork and frame loading
  • Fatigue failure of frames and spokes
  • Power matching.

4. Presentation and Assessment: Each student will make a short presentation of their findings.


Coursework Due date Marks

First report

Wed 13 May 2020


CES report

Fri 15 May 2020



Wed 3 June 2020 (TBC)


Mini-project report Fri 5 June 2020 50


Examination Guidelines

Please refer to Form & conduct of the examinations.

Last modified: 03/04/2020 22:53