Thursday, March 12, 2009

Two Weeks and a Stupid Bike

Somehow we're down to just two weeks until it's time for Formula 1 racing to return to Melbourne for the season opener! And because of the sweeping technical rule changes, the racing should be wide-open. Teams like McLaren seem to be struggling lately in the practice sessions, while other teams like Brawn (formerly Honda, which happily just found a new buyer in Russ Brawn) which has just taken to the track, are finishing at the top of the time sheets. Even if their car isn't much to look at;

The technical aspects of Formula 1 just blow my mind, and there are lots of technologies that trickle down from the sport into various other industries. Toyota has used what it's learned in Formula 1 to make create the iMobile "mobility concept". Which was reviewed not long ago on Top Gear;

Pretty intersting, but all I could think of while watching the story were the lazy, fat humans in the movie Wall-E, being shuttled around and coddled by their chairs which they seemingly lived in.

Unfortunately, I was much less impressed with the Formula 1 technology that was used to create "the world's most advanced bike", the Factor001;

"Multi-channel electronics package which provides unique ergonometric data collection, logging and analysis capabilities; can correlate biometric data from the rider, physical force data from the bike and environmental data; developed with feedback from professional athletes. Carbon ceramic brakes provide endless, exact braking performance at any temperature. Almost all original parts; key components designed and manufactured in-house from Formula One-grade materials. Fully integrated structure using BERU f1systems’ Wire-in-Composite patented technology; load sensors, wiring, batteries, sensors, control cables and lines for the hydraulic braking system are all fully integrated into the composite during construction, to give unparalleled efficiency and durability with a clean, uncluttered appearance. Twin-spar frame reduces sideways frame flex and preserves rider comfort. 8-spoke monocoque composite wheels deliver high lateral stiffness and robustness for everyday use. Bespoke made-to-measure frame (to within 1mm); each customer to experience Formula One-style ‘seat fit’ process."

Ummm... great... I have a bike. It weighs nearly 10% less than this 7kg bike. I don't have a "twin-spar" frame, but my "single-spar" frame provides more stiffness than I need, and is much more simple to design. Ceramic brakes? I'd be surprised if they really did get those to work properly. Perhaps you could (considering there seems to be a collection of people bent on bringing disc brakes to road bikes, even if they are heavier, more complicated, more expensive, increase rotating weight and provide more power than you could ever consider using), since while ceramic/carbon brakes typically require rather high temperatures to work well, you could get by with a set of disc brakes barely working to their potential on a road bike. This bike has special monocoque wheels that are stiff, and you can use them everyday. Of course, it's hard to tell from looking, but many wheels designed with a similar look to these have tested poorly in the windtunnel - and frankly, EVERY set of wheels I have, can be used every day.

The Factor001 does include an onboard computer though... but doesn't EVERY bike technically have an onboard computer now? Like the Factor001 it even features a radio transmitter to relay it's information. Throw on one of the new wireless ANT+ powermeters, and there you. The Factor001 has built-in, internal cabling for the shifters, brakes, and computer hardware. Definitely designed by a car maker, ask any mechanic worth his salt if that sounds like a good idea to him.

"The most advanced bike in the world" doesn't even have electronic shifters and derailleurs! Even worse, it's downright ugly, and the makers decided you needed grips on the drops, rather than tape, which gives you the lovely, and often sought-after, "dog-erection look" for your handle bars.

While being on the "cutting edge" is often tempting, even at the mere cost of $20,000 UKP, I think I'm going to stick with my "old-fashioned bike" that runs less than a quarter of that, and looks a lot more purtier.

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