Sep 8, 2009
Chasing New Technology
A friend sent me a link to this picture as a comment on something I'd said a while back. If you look closely, you'll see that the carbon fibre front wheel disintegrated and the tire stuffed itself between the front fender and the forks and what was left of the wheel. I have no idea where this happened and under what conditions, but it's a pretty interesting look at what pushing the edges of available technology can produce.
A lot of racers have sacrificed their bodies to provide giant steps in technology over the years. Sometimes, the failure of one technology produces a completely different modification in the state-of-the-art, as when Roger DeCoster's Suzuki semi-experimental forks let loose during a 1975 Trans-AMA motocross and DeCoster suffered serious injury from the resulting face-plant. When he came back from reconstruction surgery, he was wearing a full face helmet and started a revolution in personal protection for motocrossers.
One of the good reasons some riders are so hung up on vintage bikes is that the technology is "proven." A bad reason for the same decision is that the proven technology is so far behind the state of the art that the proven stuff is dangerous; drum brakes, for example. Ignition points might be another example of deeply flawed historic technology, based on modern ignition systems and their reliability.
This last week, my wife drug me to the state championship high school rodeo at the Minnesota State Fair. Having grown up on rodeos, I was surprised to see all of the protective gear some kids were wearing. I like the change, but it's a long way from the "traditional" cowboy look. Helmets, armor, high tech shoes, and ropes that hold a loop even when they are dangling from the saddle horn, all stuff my older rodeo-riding cousins would probably spit on.
Everything changes. Some changes are painful. Some are easy. Some make sense, some ideas that look spectacular on blueprints turn out to be freakin' idiotic in application. As for motorcycle wheels, I still like aluminum wheels with spokes. Ideally, the wheels would support tubeless tires, but I can live with tubes. Someday, I suppose, I'll end up on a bike with plastic wheels and I'll like it.