Gearing up

irritatedEver been irritated by clocks that tick too loudly, or by soap dishes that collect water and ruin the soap? Ever tried to plug USB drives the wrong way? Ever struggled with scissors with small holes where your fingers just wont fit in? Ever struggled with a remote control in a neighbour’s place? Ever bumped your leg into furnitures with sharp corners at knee height? Ever wondered why umbrellas have sharp metal points right at eye-level? Ever been interviewed by an ATM machine? Ever lifted a metallic trash can’s lid with hand, whose cheap plastic pedals are broken?

It is interesting how we are surrounded with daily objects which are poorly designed. One of the most poorly and inconsistently designed object I use everyday, and has troubled me for long, is the motorcycle’s gearbox. Every other motorcycle, even when they belong to the same manufacturing company, has a different gear transmission mechanism. In one bike all gears switches on the foot lever are down. In another bike, all of them are up. A third bike has one down and others up. Then there are bikes where gears are on the bike’s handle. Some have automatic gear-shifts, while some are semi automatic. Aargh! Rarely do we realize that such inconsistency can prove fatal for the biker!

Going purely by the safety of the biker, the mechanism with ‘one down, others up’ are the best. A motor-bike is designed to help the biker lean forward when he wants to slow down and lean backwards when he speeds up – the reason foot brakes are down, hand brakes are pushed and accelerators are pulled (god bless! there is some consistency here). That is the natural order of things if the laws of motion apply. A gear-box with ‘one down and others up’ is good, due to the fact that in order to stop during safety situation, the biker naturally will be kicking, leaning, struggling forward and will be slowing the bike further. This way, the biker reaches the 1st gear where his bike is the slowest. The neutral-gear is placed in reverse strategically, in order to avoid free rolling of the bike in the adverse condition.

Now when such well-researched and well-thought idea for placement of gear-shifts exist, I wonder, why bikes have such erratic gear-shift mechanisms? I don’t know what the reason is, behind such mindless inconsistency. Maybe our mechanical engineer friends can throw some light on the topic.


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