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Old 11-02-06, 03:08 PM
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Fraction
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Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: Madison, WI
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Bikes: 2008 ZR Cycles track, 1985 schwinn peloton, 1983 univega gran turismo, fixed gear beater

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Skid Patch Theorem

Theorem:
Let a / b be the reduced gear ratio (that is, a and b are integers with no common divisors other than 1). Then,
(1) With single-sided skidding, there are b skid patches, and
(2) Ambidexterous skidding doubles the number of skid patches if and only if a is odd.
(1) is already well-known. It is proved here for completeness.
(2) is generally not known and disproves several conjectures seen recently.

Proof of (1):
Turning the pedals through one revolution turns the wheel through a / b revolutions. Turning the pedals through b revolutions turns the wheel through b * (a / b) = a revolutions. That is, after b pedal revolutions, the wheel is returned to the same position it was originally (since a is an integer). So there must be no more than b skid patches, since the same cycle of b wheel positions will be repeated through every b pedal revolutions.

Now suppose that two of the intermediate wheel positions were the same, say, after i and j pedal revolutions (0 <= i < j < b). Then j - i pedal revolultions also returns the wheel to its original position, so (j - i) * a / b is an integer. Thus b must evenly divide (j - i) * a / b. However, a and b have no common divisors, so b must evenly divide j - i. But j - i is less than b, so this cannot happen. Therefore, all b of the intermediate wheel positions (after 0, 1, 2, ..., and b-1 pedal revolutions) are different. So there must be no fewer than b skid patches.

There are no more than b skid patches and there are no fewer than b skid patches, so there must be exactly b skid patches.
Proof of (2):
As above, turning the pedals through one revolution turns the rear wheel through a / b revolutions. Turning the pedals through one half-revolution turns the rear wheel through half as many revolutions. So the number of skid patches with ambidexterous skidding should be the same as that with single-sided skidding on a gear ratio half as large. Now to apply (1) to this situation, we need to know how 1/2 * a/b reduces as an integer ratio. This depends on whether a is even or odd. If a is even, (a/2) / b is the reduced ratio, so there are b skid patches, as in the single-sided case. If a is odd, a / (2b) is the reduced ratio, so there are 2b skid patches.
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