Thursday, June 10, 2010

Motorcycle emptiness

Poor old Valentino Rossi fell off his motorcycle at the weekend and fractured his tibia, so his campaign to retain his MotoGP title in 2010 is over before it really began. Lucky I didn't put a bet on him to win, although I suppose that might have been illegal in Hong Kong anyway. Unless they decided to stop competing on motorcycles around the world and instead started racing polo ponies around Happy Valley.

I'm biassed against this, partly because I'm allergic to horses and more importantly because I doubt a diminutive man on a horse would make as much noise as an 800cc motorcycle going brrrrrrraaaaaaappppp round a racecourse.
Therefore I was a little chastened today to see that there's an electric motorcycle being raced on the Isle of Man this week; rather than storming around the circuit leaving a smell of oil and a cloud of burnt hydrocarbons behind him, the MotoCyrzzz rider will be a stealthy, silent something, scything through the lanes without the roar of an internal combustion engine.

Of course, there might be the noise of a man screaming as the batteries catch fire underneath him, but that will be muffled by his helmet.

I've nothing against electric vehicles. I've drunk plenty of milk in the past, delivered by ponderous battery-powered milk floats. I thought Toyota Priuses were a good idea when I realised they didn't make a sound below 15 miles per hour, which made them perfect granny-assassination devices in the villages of Kent. Silent yet deadly.

Although they wouldn't be good for running most people over: according to government advertising you need a fair whack of speed to ensure fatalities. But for brittle-boned geriatrics, probably less of a problem.

Of course, if they were 94-year old Taiwanese men, that still wouldn't help, because they'd likely be able to climb stairs and place themselves out of reach of any four-wheeled lithium-ion elderly-disposal charabanc.

But never mind whether it's more or less practical to run people over in a petrol car or an electric or a compromised hybrid, and whether it's more polluting to use a vehicle powered by a small and efficient engine or a dirty great coal-fired power station somewhere in the Pearl River Delta, and even if you can get an electric bike to do 140 mph, it still steps around the fact that you're trying to be more sensible and intelligent, when the whole pursuit of flinging yourself around the Isle of Man at an average (an average!) of 100mph is still quite, quite barmy.

Trying to be sensible at the same time just doesn't quite seem right.

Then again, they say the reason the Japanese engineers at Honda, Kawasaki et al came up with such lunacy for the last thirty years of Fireblades and the like is because if you have a really big brain, the effect of turning it off is much more significant. So perhaps if the Motocyrzzzizzziziizizyizy does a flyer of a lap and then transforms into a giant robot stagbeetle that flies over the finish line while singing Swing Low Sweet Chariot in the voice of Charlotte Church trapped inside a theremin, they'll be staying true to racing's roots.

I'll still be trying to play ManxTT on the special sheep mode, mind.


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