Abstract In five experiments, assessments were made of people's understandings about the dynamics of wheels. It was found that undergraduates make highly erroneous dynamical judgments about the motions of this commonplace event, both in explicit problem-solving contexts and when viewing ongoing events. These problems were also presented to bicycle racers and high-school physics teachers; both groups were found to exhibit misunderstandings similar to those of naive undergraduates. Findings were related to our account of dynamical event complexity. The essence of this account is that people encounter difficulties when evaluating the dynamics of any mechanical system that has more than one dynamically relevant object parameter. A rotating wheel is multidimensional in this respect: in addition to the motion of its center of mass, its mass distribution is also of dynamical relevance. People do not spontaneously form the essential multidimensional quantities required to adequately evaluate wheel dynamics.