We all know that riding motorbikes is a potentially dangerous activity. We know that, and we take what steps we can to minimise the dangers. But the dangers are still there; and sometimes it makes you wonder. With authorities today imposing ever-increasing regulations, supposedly aimed at increasing safety, have you ever wondered what would happen if the motorcycle was invented now? Would it be approved as an acceptable means of transport? Join me as I take a light-hearted look at that scenario. “Is this the place?” asked Barry. “Yes,” Suzie assured him, “This is where we go to have our invention approved.” On reaching the desk inside the office they introduced themselves to the very prim-and-proper secretary. “Mr. Williams and Miss Hondasaki are here to see you,” she announced into the intercom. “Send them in.” The machine replied. The room they entered was lined with bookshelves containing books about safety standards, engineering designs, and other related topics. Once inside, with the door closed behind them, a tall official looking man greeted them. “Barry Williams?” he asked, shaking the hand of his visitor. “Yeah. Barry Maxwell Williams actually; but you can call me Bazza!” “And Miss Hondasaki?” “Suzie Hondasaki,” she replied, shaking the hand of the official gent. “She’s from Japan,” said Barry, as if needing to explain the name. The man motioned them to sit. As they sat down, Barry noticed the name-plate on the desk. “Is that your name?” he asked, trying to suppress a laugh. “Howard Rudd?” The official, looking just slightly awkward, replied, “Yes. Unfortunately, my parents didn’t have a political crystal-ball when they named me. Anyway, they’re common names. Rudd is actually a common surname in Australia.” Barry looked thoughtful for a moment then nodded. “Yeah, Dad and Dave’s name was Rudd.” he said. Suzie looked puzzled. “Your dad’s name was Rudd?” she asked. “Nah, not my dad! You know, ‘Dad and Dave’, the radio show!” Suzie still looked puzzled, but let it go. “Now,” Howard began, “Let’s get to this invention of yours, the motor-cycle.” “Yeah,” said Barry enthusiastically, “Bloody ripper isn’t it!” “It has certain merits, yes, but I am concerned about some details.” Howard said, perusing the documents before him. “But before we discuss the actual details, can I ask you where you propose to manufacture this invention, should it be approved?” Barry, still sounding very enthusiastic, exclaimed, “In Australia! Us Aussies would do a beaut job! I know some engineering type blokes, and I reckon we could knock up a prototype in the shed over a weekend, with a few coldies thrown in to keep ‘em going. Then we’d get some proper manufacturing place to build ‘em for market. I was gonna use me initials as the name; but Suzie reckons that’s already been taken by some bloody German car-maker.” “I’m thinking we’d manufacture in Japan,” Suzie ventured. Then, with a voice exuding national pride, added, “We have the technological expertise. We developed the transistor radio and the digital-camera, you know!” Barry looked a bit indignant. “Ya also invented kamikaze pilots! That didn’t really catch on, did it!” “Perhaps we shouldn’t discuss the war.” Howard suggested. “Right, gotcha. ‘Don’t mention the war’ eh, Basil?” Suzie gave Barry a gentle prod in the side. “His name is Howard,” she whispered. “Nah, I mean Basil Fawlty! Ya know, Fawlty Towers!” Suzie was looking perplexed. “Don’tcha get any good TV over there?” Barry asked. “What about Europe? Germany, for example.” Howard suggested. And as if to justify the suggestion added, “They did invent the motor-car.” Barry looked even more indignant at this. “The Germans? Yeah, right; Mercedes bloody Benz! They invented the car and now they charge more for ‘em than I paid for me house!” he countered. “And when they did bring out a cheap one, the ‘People’s Wagon’ as they called it, it looked like an over-size peanut on wheels!” Howard thought it best to leave the issue of where it would be manufactured. After all, it was his job to assess the viability of the design, more than the place of manufacture. “Ah, let’s get back to the invention.” He said. Then, after looking at the documents again, he turned his attention to Barry. “Now, Mr. Williams, you say that your invention takes up only a quarter the space of a normal car, so takes up much less room on the road and when parked; it has twice the fuel economy of a normal car and emits far less exhaust emissions?” “Yeah! Told ya it was a bloody ripper invention!” Barry exclaimed, continuing his enthusiasm. “Well, those are very admirable points. I’m sure we’d get the environmentalists on-side with that.” Howard said, then once again turned his attention to the drawings in front of him. But as he looked further, his expression became one more of concern. “From what I can see here, it appears to have only two wheels?” “Yeah!” Barry replied, as enthusiastic as ever. “So ya save on tyres compared to cars too!” But Howard Rudd’s concern wasn’t alleviated. “What stops it from falling over?” he asked. “The rider balances it.” Barry replied. Howard was looking increasingly concerned. “What if the rider isn’t able to balance the machine?” he asked. “We don’t recommend it be ridden by people who have balance inabilities.” Suzie explained. Then she continued, “However, when it’s moving the gyroscopic effect of the wheels does most of the work of keeping it upright.” Howard still wasn’t convinced. “What happens when you stop?” he asked. “The rider puts their feet on the ground.” Suzie explained. “And if the rider doesn’t put his feet on the ground?” “Well, the silly bugger would fall over!” Barry exclaimed. Howard looked back at the drawings. “I don’t see any restraining device, like seat-belts, to keep the rider in position. What keeps the rider secure on the machine?” “He just sits on it.” Barry stated, as if it was self-evident. “And hangs onto the handlebars.” he added. Howard Rudd was looking more concerned. “So the rider has to balance the machine to stop it falling over, and he’s just sitting on a seat with nothing to secure him in position?” Suzie tried to think of something reassuring to say, but Howard kept going. “Have you considered the potential injury that would be sustained if the rider was to fail to maintain the balance of the machine, or was to fall off the seat?” Suzie was ready for this one. “We plan to clothe the rider in special riding apparel that would protect the rider in the event of a fall.” “And if the silly bugger doesn’t fall off the seat he won’t get hurt anyway!” Barry said, attempting further re-assurance. “We don’t recommend falling off it!” Suzie added. Howard changed tack. “With no bodywork, what protects the rider from the elements, like rain and so on?” Suzie was ready for this one too. “The special clothing would be made water-proof; and there would be a special range of additional water-proof clothing as a further option to protect the rider in wet weather.” Rudd, still concerned with the lack of bodywork, continued. “Miss Hondasaki, with the rider just sitting on the machine with nothing around him, what protects the rider in the event of a collision with another vehicle?” Suzie seemed to squirm a little at this, then answered, “We don’t recommend colliding with another vehicle.” “Nah, we wouldn’t recommend that at all!” Barry added, quite emphatically. “Wouldn’t it be preferable to give it four wheels for stability, and some bodywork for protection from the weather and from other vehicles?” Rudd suggested. “That would make it a car, Mr. Rudd; and that’s already been done.” Suzie replied, with more than a hint of sarcasm. Howard gave them a look that suggested he thought this was all becoming a waste of time, but looked back at the documents and then directed his attention to Barry. “Mr. Williams,” he began, but Barry interrupted. “Call me Bazza, mate!” Howard looked uncomfortable. “Alright, Bazza; you mention that the machine would have good performance?” Barry looked more enthusiastic than ever at this. “Oh yeah!” he exclaimed. “It’s gonna have the same sort of power as a small car, and be about a fifth of the weight; it’ll go like the bloody clappers, mate!” Howard looked suddenly even more concerned. “What sort of top speed are we talking about?” he asked. “Well, the decent size ones would do around 200kph, but the real full-on sporty jobs we’re gonna take to nearly 300kph!” Barry replied proudly. Howard Rudd looked as if he was about to fall off his chair. “What?!” he exclaimed. “This invention you’re wanting me to approve is only kept upright by the rider balancing it; the rider is just sitting on it with nothing to hold him in place or stop him falling off; there’s no shell or bodywork to protect him from the weather or from being injured in an accident; and it’s going to be capable of traveling at 300kph? That’s insane! What you’re proposing sounds like the most dangerous vehicle imaginable!” Both Barry and Suzie were looking decidedly uncomfortable as Howard continued. “This machine you’re proposing is suicidal! Do you really expect it would meet any appropriate safety standards?” “Well,” Barry replied, squirming in his chair, “When you put it like that…” Suzie broke in. “Performance is not necessarily a dangerous thing, Mr. Rudd; in fact we see the performance as a safety feature. It will have the ability to quickly accelerate away from potential danger.” “So it will accelerate quickly too?” Howard asked, not seeing how this would contribute to safety. “Bloody oath, mate!” exclaimed Barry. “Like shi … er, like the proverbial off a spade!” “If it accelerates very quickly, wouldn’t that increase the likelihood of the rider falling off the back of it?” Rudd was obviously still looking at the performance as a negative rather than a positive. “Well ya’d havta hang on!” Barry said, as if stating the obvious. “The rider would keep themselves in position with their hands, knees and feet. It’d be like riding a horse; and people have been riding horses for centuries!” Suzie said, in a further attempt at reassurance. “But your machine will go a lot quicker than a horse.” Howard countered. “I reckon!” Barry exclaimed. “Like Phar Lap with a rocket up his clacker!” That brought disapproving looks from both Suzie and Howard Rudd. Suzie tried a different approach. “There will be smaller-engined models too; some as low as 50cc with a top-speed of no more than 60kph.” she explained, in a reassuring tone. “As we mentioned, they’ll be a real benefit in the city, with ease of handling traffic and parking. And remember that very low fuel consumption. Plus they’ll be fun to ride!” “Oh yeah,” Barry rejoined, “They’ll be great fun!” Howard Rudd was obviously not seeing the proposed invention in the same way that Barry and Suzie were. “How can what you describe be considered fun?” “Have you ever seen a dog in a car?” Barry asked. “They always stick their head out the window don’t they. Well, that’s what it’ll feel like when you’re ridin’ one of these!” “You’ll feel like a dog?” “No, I mean you’ll get that exciting, wind-in-the-hair feeling!” “But the rider is supposed to be encased in protective clothing?” “Well, not exactly in your hair, but it’s the same kinda thing.” Suzie decided she should try. “It’s being at-one with nature; feeling the wind, smelling the air. In a car you’re cut off from all that. On one of our proposed motor-cycles you get to experience and appreciate nature!” Howard looked unconvinced, but proceeded. “Let’s look a bit beyond the actual invention itself.” he suggested. “If we were to approve this motor-cycle, how would you approach marketing it? What would be your sales-pitch for selling it?” he asked. “The freedom!” said Barry. “Freedom to go where you wanna go, do what you wanna do.” “How is there more freedom with your motor-cycle?” “Well, for example, instead of being stuck in traffic, you just whiz past ‘em; 'cause you’d be able to drive up the left of the cars, or in between ‘em. And soon you’d be out on the open road enjoyin’ yourself. Like I said, doin’ what you wanna do, going where ya wanna go.” “That seems to suggest some degree of lawlessness.” Howard suggested. Barry pondered on this for a moment. “The ‘outlaw biker,’ yes, I think I like that!” he mused, and then realised he probably shouldn’t have said that. “Ah, it’d be a social thing; you could get together with a few mates.” he hurriedly continued, “Just hangin’ out and ridin' together.” “Now that sounds like a gang!” Howard exclaimed; and looked quite incredulous as he continued, “You’d market this machine as being something to be used by a gang of outlaws?” Suzie thought it was time she took over. “No, no, not outlaws; nice people!” she said. “We’d market it as something to be used by nice people. Actually I have a slogan already. ‘You meet the nicest people on a motor-cycle!’ That’s how I’d like to market it.” Howard Rudd shuffled the papers together and stood up. “Well," he said, “I think that about does it. I’ll make my recommendations and submit your proposed invention to the appropriate authorities. I’ll let you know what they decide.” Well, what do you think? Do you think they’d approve it?
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