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It takes much more energy to ride a bike with a flat tire because of a scientific physical phenomenon called, “elastic hysteresis.” When pressure is placed on a flexible and elastic material, such as a tire, it can deform and eventually restore itself back to its original shape. This process requires energy, which can be dissipated through internal friction or heat. Moreover, hysteresis can be analyzed through a stress-strain curve to better understand the response of a material due to an outside force. A common example for rubber can be seen in a stretched rubber plan where the gap between the load vs. unload forces are due to the stretching forces of a rubber band as seen in the figure below:

Now under a similar circumstances regarding the case of the biker, more energy must be exerted to continually move the bike with a flat tire for each rotation when in contact with the ground in order to overcome this additional energy barrier or deformation. This can be easily avoided by riding a bike with fully inflated tires, which will allow the bike tires to maintain their shape.

The extra horsepower of your engine masks the increased energy that is necessary to drive your vehicle on under-inflated tires. Not only is this a dangerous scenario for you, your passengers and other drivers, it is wasting your fuel while putting excess wear on your engine components. In fact, the likelihood of a tire-related crash increases threefold when tires are deflated more than 25% of the recommended pressure, which is why this problem should always be addressed promptly. If possible, please avoid the use of compressed air in your tires and make sure to take the appropriately actions to maintain them for their optimal and long-term use.

Not only is it incredibly dangerous to drive cars with a flat tire, but this can be a frightening experience that jeopardizes the safety of you, your passengers, and those around as well. This rapid loss of air pressure in under-deflated tires signify a defect, a puncture, or overuse of the tires overtime. To preserve the longevity and usage of bike and automobile tires.


Post Author: Stacy Chin Ph.D.

Ph.D. in Polymer Chemistry from Boston University. Special emphasis in biochemistry, biomaterials, polymer synthesis, and translational research. She has many articles published in high impact peer review journals.

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