Are Steering Wheels On A Bicycle Practical? | PedalChef

Key Takeaways

  • Steering wheels on a bicycle are not practical.
  • Steering wheels on bicycles decrease cycling control and balance.
  • This feature can damage your joints and it makes it harder to reach brakes and shifters,
  • Safety risks are a concern with steering wheels given that performance is inhibited.

Most cyclists on the road ride with either a drop bar, flat bar, or another common type of handlebar - with steering wheels being a rarity.

Steering wheels on a bicycle are not practical. Installing a steering wheel on your bicycle will decrease control & balance, damage your joints, and result in your knees hitting the wheel. It will also make it harder to reach the brakes & gear shifters, and will ultimately not improve steering.

After extensively researching bike repairs and customizations, I have gathered enough information to determine if steering wheels on a bicycle are practical. In this article, we’ll be taking a closer look at how steering wheels affect bicycle performance to help you determine if this customization is right for your cycling needs.



Are Steering Wheels On A Bicycle Practical?

There is a reason why you rarely (if ever) see a bicycle with a steering wheel: it’s impractical. Bikes are designed with many different types of handlebars such as flat bars, drop bars, bullhorns, and butterfly bars because these are suitable for cycling.

Steering wheels are ideal for cars and make driving a whole lot easier. That said, that does not imply that this kind of design is ideal for bikes or motorcycles. When riding a bicycle with a steering wheel you can expect decreased performance and less reliability, which increases safety risks for you and everyone on the road.

Reasons Why Steering Wheels On Bicycles Are Not Practical

Over the years, I have seen a handful of odd bikes that feature a steering wheel instead of a traditional handlebar design. In most cases, this was an experimental feature that was simply added for fun - not to make the riding experience more practical.

There are a number of reasons why riding a bicycle with a steering wheel is not practical, and it really comes down to safety and performance.

1. Decreased Control and Balance

When you drive a standard car, the steering wheel is generally at an angle that is directly in front of you. This angle gives you excellent control of the car’s steering.

However, on a bicycle, the steering wheel would be installed directly below you - flat on the position where the handlebars would be. This angle is ideal for traditional handlebars given the position of your wrists.

With a steering wheel, your wrists would constantly have to be turned and you would have decreased control and balance. This can be particularly problematic when your tires roll over rough terrain, as well as bumps or cracks in the road.

2. Bad For Joints

Joint pain can be a major issue for a lot of riders, especially if you suffer from a condition like arthritis. To combat this many riders like to use drop bars or some other alternative that lets them change the position of their wrists to reduce strain.

With a steering wheel, your wrists will essentially be locked into a single position for your entire ride. You can slightly change the area of the wheel that you keep your hands on, but a classic “10 o’clock/2 o’clock” position is going to be instinctive for most riders.

Over time this will strain your joints and will likely make your wrists hurt. This will especially be an issue if you are riding on rough or adverse terrain, as your wrists will have to absorb everything you roll over.

3. Potentially Hitting Your Knees

The design of most bikes limits the angle and position at which you can keep the steering wheel. Many riders who decide to install steering wheels on their bikes often experience problems with their knees making contact with the wheel.

As you pedal on your bicycle, the movement of your knees is quite limited and cannot be adjusted. If there is not enough clearance between your knees and the wheel, they will hit the wheel as you pedal. Not only is this impractical for cycling, but it can also cause knee pain and make steering more dangerous.

4. Limited Reach

A huge problem with steering wheels on a bicycle is that you cannot easily reach other controls on your bike. Unless you are riding a single-speed bike with pedal brakes, this poses some major concerns regarding rider safety.

When cycling, you need to be able to quickly and easily reach both your brakes and gears at any moment. With a traditional handlebar design, the brakes are always within reach of your fingers and gears can be shifted effortlessly.

A steering wheel is going to limit the position of your hands and dictate their position, especially when turning. You will not be able to rely on your brakes or gears nearly as much with a steering wheel compared to a normal handlebar.

5. Does Not Improve Steering

The bottom line is that installing a steering wheel does actually improve steering on your bicycle. Even if you were to install a suitable steering wheel on your bicycle that allows decent control and does not hit your knees as your pedal, it’s still not an improvement over standard handlebars.

If you want to keep your cycling practical and efficient, you should ideally only install features that are logical and beneficial. As far as practicality, steering wheels do not offer any additional perks that you can’t get with a standard handlebar.

How to Install a Steering Wheel on a Bicycle

There are very few steering wheels that are specifically designed for bicycles. With most people naturally preferring to use normal handlebars, it’s not a surprise that there are limited options for steering wheel installations on bikes.

However, some cyclists have pulled off installing this feature. Try one of the following methods to install a steering wheel on your bicycle.

Custom Installation

The most reliable way to install a steering wheel on your bicycle is to opt for a custom installation. With hardly any steering wheels available for bicycles, your best bet is going to be to have a bike mechanic work on the project with you.

Custom bike shops may find this to be an amusing job and will likely take you up on it provided you have solid plans for the work. This is the best way to go about installing a steering wheel on a bicycle because a professional mechanic will be able to custom-fit a steering wheel that is suitable for the design of your bike.

As I mentioned, some riders will experience hitting their knees on the wheel (among other issues) which is something a mechanic can help you avoid with proper installation. Keep in mind, that you may need to reach out to an expert bike mechanic that has welding experience.

Wheelster Bike Wheel

Given how uncommon steering wheels on bikes are, there are not many companies that offer this kind of customized feature. One of the few legit brands that have a patented and tested design is Wheelster.

Wheelster bikes has a Kickstarter campaign to begin mass production in the future to have a solid stock of steering wheels available for purchase. However, not every bike is compatible with a Wheelster wheel and you need to check the specs of your bike to ensure they meet the requirements.

This product can only be installed on bikes without hand brakes or hand shifters for gears, as this is a safety precaution for all riders. While you cannot currently purchase a Wheelster wheel, the Kickstart campaign may take off so that this product becomes available.

Risks of Riding a Bicycle With a Steering Wheel

While introducing a steering wheel to a bicycle may seem like a cool and fun idea, it’s not. Bicycle designs have been relying on normal handlebars for centuries and while innovation and new ideas are always exciting and trendy - they also need to be logical and practical.

A steering wheel on a bicycle not only makes cycling less enjoyable, but it also comes with increased risk.

Falling Off Your Bike

Anyone who has ever ridden a bike has experienced the occasional fall. Falling is not fun and should be avoided at all costs.

With a normal handlebar installation, you have better stability and control - greatly reducing your chances of tipping over when you roll over debris or adverse terrain. A steering wheel design will give you less control and make you much less stable when riding.

Needless to say, you can expect to fall more often with a steering wheel attached to your bicycle.

Potential Traffic Accident

It’s important to understand that riding a bicycle is not only about ensuring your own safety but the safety of everyone around you. Much like driving a car, responsible cycling implies that you should be taking measures to reduce your chances of getting into an accident.

You can expect your control and responsiveness to diminish when cycling with a steering wheel as you will have a worse response when the tire rolls over debris. This could potentially increase your chances of running into a pedestrian or damaging someone’s property.

That said, this also increases the risk of you getting hit by another vehicle or cyclist while you are riding. A wrong movement while commuting to work is all it takes for a car to hit you on the road, which is why you should not rely on a steering wheel design for your bicycle.

Damaging Your Bike

While your personal safety and the safety of those around you should always be priority number one, damaging your bike is also a factor to consider. Dropping your bike due to a lack of control or colliding with an object can easily result in unnecessary damage.

While this may not be such a major concern for a cheap bike, this can greatly lower the value of your bicycle if it’s made with quality parts and materials from a reputable brand.