Will someone design me a better bike?

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The Independent Online
IT ISN'T often that a piece of equipment makes news from the Olympics unless it's a drug, so it was a surprise yesterday to see pictures of a bicycle all over the papers. This was the LotusSport model ridden by Chris Boardman in the 4,000-metre race, designed by Lotus Engineering and described as the most advanced cycle in the world.

On further investigation, it turns out that the advance is only towards more speed. (The biggest barrier to increased speed, says a Lotus expert, Richard Hill, is the cyclist himself - 'the rider is two-thirds of the drag coefficient'. You can tell that Mr Hill would dearly love to get his hands on cyclists and redesign us properly.)

Well, it is nice to know that people are still trying to perfect the bike. But why try to coax a little more speed out of it, when there are whole areas of bicycle design that have not been touched during the 20th century? If any bicycle designer should want to acquire fame and popularity, I suggest he or she addresses one of the following problem zones, all of which have passed Lotus by.

The bell - The average bicycle bell tinkles for a while, then jams, or screws itself so tight that it starts clicking instead of tinkling, and rusts into position. Clicking never averted an accident. I know. I have tried it. I have also tried using hooters, but they sound too much like a clown's car at the circus. What we need is a bicycle bell with a difference.

The pedal - All bicycle pedals have one severe disadvantage. They are at the same height as your ankle. And however careful you are, there is the occasional meeting between pedal and ankle-bone, which produces the most excruciating pain known to man. Why nobody has produced a padded pedal I shall never know. Or - thinking laterally here - a piece of padding to bind round the ankles. Yes, the bicyclist's ankle-pad has just been invented before your very eyes.

The bell, part two - What we need instead of the present bicycle bell, actually, is one that tolls, very low, very threateningly. Something like a slightly angry church bell.

The lock - Modern horseshoe- shaped locks are good. Very good and very strong but, unfortunately, very heavy. I am not surprised that, judging from his pictures, Chris Boardman seems to go into his 4,000-metre races without any sign of a lock aboard at all - he would go half the speed if he had one. But if LotusSport can evolve a hollow light frame, would it not be possible to evolve a light lock as well? Hollow, but unbelievably strong?

The bell, again - I am not suggesting taking a church bell on your bike, of course, merely a pre-recorded church bell. Do I have to do all the work?

The saddle - Cannot someone devise a saddle that takes the shape of its owner's bottom and remains moulded to it, instead of trying to bend your bottom to its will? Or, in the case of some continental saddles, split you up the middle?

The lights - Bicycle lights are stolen whenever left on the bike, and lost whenever taken off. I have an ingenious solution. Build the lights into the handlebars and frame so that they become part of the bicycle and cannot be removed.

Bicycle clips - Sneaking another look at Mr Boardman to see how he tackles the flapping trouser-leg problem, I see that he avoids it altogether by wearing shorts made out of surgical rubber. Personally, I would rather have oily trousers. But the old bike clip is due, I think, for a new designer look.

Saddle and lock, combined - It's worth remembering that the French man of letters, Alphonse Allais (1854-1905), worked out an ingenious solution to the bicycle security problem: a thin sharp spike concealed in the saddle would slowly rise and impale the thief, but could easily be deactivated by the owner. That was devised in 1900. It has still not been marketed. One sometimes wonders if the 20th century has not been a complete waste of time.

Retaliatory weaponry - Bicyclists are often all but killed by fat, stupid, thoughtless and blind motorists, and it has often occurred to me that there should be a more useful way of purging oneself of rage and terror than shaking a fist back at them. I think perhaps the answer is a device on the handlebars that looks like a hooter but is actually a high velocity paint gun, capable of spraying a small dose of paint on the murderous driver's car.

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