Physics Dept. Demonstration Manual

DRD 03 - Conservation of Angular Momentum, Bicycle Wheel Gyroscope

  • To show gyroscope action, precession and nutation.
  • To show conservation of angular momentum.
  • Bicycle wheel
  • Gyro stand
  • Rotating platform


The spinning bicycle wheel on the gyro stand will demonstrate precession and nutation.

The spinning bicycle wheel is held by the demonstrator while he (no she would be foolish enough to do this) stands on the rotating platform. If he rotates the axis through an angle, he will rotate on the platform until he returns the axis to its original orientation.

While standing on the platform, he can also show conservation of angular momentum by (a) starting and stopping the bicycle wheel (axis vertical), (b) starting the bicycle wheel (axis horizontal), (c) having someone hand him the spinning bicycle wheel (axis vertical) and stopping it.