In an earlier post I referred to Cayley as the man who invented the tension-spoked wheel and I described it as ‘hanging the axle from the wheel’. This is wrong. In fact the spokes are pre-tensioned and it is only the lower spokes that carry the load by a reduction in their tension. The other spokes have a role to play in maintaining the integrity of the structure.

I discovered this from a paper by Dr Chris Burgoyne, “The Bicycle Wheel as a Prestressed Structure”, published in 1993, ( which I came across during some work I’m doing for the University of Cambridge. By the way – the tyre is a pre-stressed structure too.

Now I wonder what Cayley’s mental model was?