David Morley

“One com­po­nent, two jobs. On the sur­face, bril­liant. In re­al­ity, it wor­ries me a bit”

Motor (Australia) - - SKID MARKS -

ILIKE MOTORBIKES. I mean, I re­ally, re­ally like motorbikes. I’ve owned them for years, rid­den them long be­fore that and they’ve taken me around the world, over moun­tains and across deserts. One of the things I like most about bikes is that they tend to be pretty bloody-minded from a de­sign point of view. Well, the ones I like best are, any­way.

When you’re work­ing with a ma­chine that can’t stand up by it­self even when it’s NOT mov­ing and it has to be man­han­dled by a sin­gle hu­man in the nor­mal course of things, and can eas­ily be ca­pa­ble of a 10-sec­ond quar­ter mile, you tend to find a lot of what would be con­sid­ered con­sid­er­a­tions in a less fo­cused ma­chine are sud­denly not. Con­sid­er­a­tions, that is. Keep­ing weight down also means pay­ing se­ri­ous at­ten­tion to the no­tion of one thing hav­ing two or more jobs.

It’s how some bikes evolved to carry their lu­bri­cat­ing oil in their frames. And why en­gines be­came stressed mem­bers and, there­fore, part of the load-bear­ing frame struc­ture. But some­times, that ethos gets a bit out of hand. Ap­par­ently.

I re­cently saw a home-made bike (and some of my all-time faves have been home-brews) which took the multi-task­ing thing a step too far. The builder had re­alised that the fuel tank was a teardrop shape with a rounded front that ta­pered back. And so was the bikini fair­ing he had in mind. So, the bloke (or it could have been a dame, I dunno) took a fuel tank, made re­cesses for the han­dle­bars and then mounted it at the front to the bike just like a small fair­ing. Hell, he even mounted the head­light in the front of the tank, too.

On the sur­face, this was bril­liant. One com­po­nent, two jobs. In re­al­ity, it wor­ried me a bit. For a start, petrol is heavy and, when you carry it up high, your cen­tre of grav­ity moves up with it. This goes against ac­cepted en­gi­neer­ing wis­dom in a bike or a car. Not only was the cen­tre of mass hiked, it was also moved way for­ward (out­board of the steer­ing axis, in fact, so just like hang­ing a car’s en­gine ahead of the front axle line) to where it would have been if the bike had used a con­ven­tion­ally-mounted fuel tank. And not only that, but now the mass was also slosh­ing around when the han­dle­bars were turned. And just to cap it off, the changes to the C of G and the load on the steer­ing axis would change as the vol­ume in the tank var­ied. Looked cool, but deffo not the way I would have gone. And that’s be­fore we even get to the stuff about the fuel tank now be­ing the first thing on the scene of the ac­ci­dent.

Same goes for some car de­sign I’ve seen in the last few weeks. The Fer­rari 488 that fea­tured at PCOTY the other day had the least in­te­grated door han­dles I think I’ve ever seen on a car. Cock­burn tut-tut­ted, ex­plain­ing that he reck­oned they were de­signed to tai­lor the air­flow into the cool­ing ducts at speed. He’s right, but they still look fugly and re­main a winglet too far for mine.

Mod­ern touch screens are prob­a­bly the worst of­fend­ers. A Citroën I drove re­cently used the same touch screen for the en­ter­tain­ment, HVAC, phone and nav func­tions. Sounds like clever use of a sin­gle screen. At first. Prob­lem was, once the screen was switched to ei­ther dis­ci­pline, you couldn’t ac­cess a sin­gle func­tion of the oth­ers. You want to change the ra­dio sta­tion and turn up the air-con at the same time? Tough. Se­lect en­ter­tain­ment from the menu. Change the ra­dio. Go back to the menu. Se­lect the cli­mate con­trol and then, fi­nally, set your new temp. And half­way through all that, the phone rings and over-rides the lot.

Con­sider that.

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