Clock ticking for Falcon

Posted on February 26th, 2009 in Ford,Opinion by Julian Edgar

Hastened by the current world financial crisis and its effects on (particularly) US car makers, there is growing discussion in this country about the demise of the Ford Falcon model.

What to many people was unthinkable even only a year or two ago is now becoming an ‘it’ll probably happen’ scenario that while not palatable, is at least open for discussion.

Colouring your street directory green…

Posted on February 25th, 2009 in books,Economy,Global Warming,Opinion,pedal power by Julian Edgar

The boom in GPS-based navigation systems must have seen a diminution in sales of book-based street directories. I haven’t seen the figures to support that, but it’s certainly what you’d assume to be taking place.

But the companies that produce street directories (and of course in many cases also supply the software for the nav systems) are fighting back.

Wilful ignorance

Posted on February 23rd, 2009 in AutoSpeed,Driving Emotion,Opinion by Julian Edgar

As I have said in the past, AutoSpeed’s internal data generates a daily referrers’ list, where I can see discussion groups and other web pages from which readers are coming.

I read the referrers’ list (and then follow many links) at least a couple of times a day. It tells me, indirectly, which are our most popular articles for that day, and even more importantly, it also shows me how well each article is understood.

Huh – ‘how well it is understood’?

Well, the sad truth is that many AutoSpeed articles are completely misunderstood by readers. But again, that’s useful to me – if my writing hasn’t been clear enough, or the photos of sufficient quality, then I get to see the outcome expressed loud and clear.

But there’s nothing I can do about wilful ignorance.

An amazing bargain!

Posted on February 19th, 2009 in Driving Emotion,Materials,tools by Julian Edgar

The other day I made a purchase that can only be considered an amazing bargain.

I first saw the goods (and then bought them) on Australian eBay, but by going direct to the manufacturer’s site, you can get them even cheaper.

So what am I talking about? Hose clamps – no less than 150 of them!

For just AUD$64.90 you get 150 stainless steel hose clamps to suit hoses from 6mm to 60mm. The clamps are packaged in boxes and appear to be of good quality.

And not only that, but you also get a flexible drive screwdriver (complete with three different sized socket bits to suit the clamps), a travel mug and a carry bag!

The company claims the retail value to be $240 – and that sounds about right.

The $64.90 cost includes postage to anywhere in Australia, and mine came delivered in a good quality cardboard box.

The deal is ‘while stocks last’ so you’d better get in fast!

Go here for the details.

A stunningly useful design tool

Posted on February 17th, 2009 in Electric vehicles,Materials,pedal power,testing,tools by Julian Edgar

Over the years I have built plenty of simple structures that I’ve wanted to be both light and strong.

Those structures vary from little brackets that might be holding something in the engine bay, to complete human-powered vehicles that I trust my life to.

In all cases, the starting point for the design is to consider the forces involved. How does the force of gravity act on the structure? What direction do braking loads act in, or short-term transient loads like suspension forces? Will this tube be placed in bending (not so good) or is it being subjected to compression (good) or extension (better)?

Heading down a blind alley

Posted on February 12th, 2009 in Opinion,pedal power,Suspension by Julian Edgar

Right now my confidence is at an utterly low ebb.

I have been working on my new recumbent, touring bike design and now, after almost two months of thinking, designing and constructing, have abandoned the project in its current form.

The machine has several strict criteria it must fulfil: it needs to be able to be folded into a package (say) 1 metre x 50 cm x 40 cm; it needs to be able to carry a lot of camping gear; it needs to be stable; and it needs to weigh less than 20kg. Oh yes, and as I have previously indicated, it needs to use a recumbent seat and have a lot of gears.

My first on-screen design looked a bit like this. A delta trike, it used (two and then) three air springs, allowing interconnection of the front and rear suspensions. The machine used chain-twisting front-wheel drive and rear wheels that could lean, parallelogram-style. The leaning ability could also be locked out for low speed travel.

Sorry, I have to go fix my Hippo

Posted on February 10th, 2009 in AutoSpeed,classics,Opinion by Julian Edgar

Regular readers will know that I am a voracious consumer of second hand books.

eBay, the Lifeline BookFest (no less than a million second-hand books for sale, and all proceeds benefitting charity!), bookshops (both new and used), garage sales – the sources are endless.

The other day one of the books that lobbed into my post office box was an orphan – a single volume of one of the Newnes Motor Repair sets of the 1950s – and perhaps the early 1960s. The book – Volume 3 of probably a 6 volume set – covers commercial vehicles, tractors and general car repairs (but the latter only the subject titles from ‘B’ to ‘E’).

I was browsing it, looking at the different designs of the (mostly) British vehicles when something suddenly hit me.

The names!

People wasting away their lives…

Posted on February 5th, 2009 in Opinion by Julian Edgar

Whenever I write a blog that makes judgments about how people choose to live, I am greeted by a paroxysm of indignant outbursts.

How dare I question the lifestyle decisions people have made?

Well, I dare to do so in just the same way as I make judgements about lots of matters: I don’t see any reason why lifestyle choices should be sacrosanct.

One of the underlying philosophies in my life has been that I believe that the paid work I undertake should contribute to the betterment of people. That does not mean that it should contribute in some massive manner, but it should – no matter how small in impact – be beneficial.

When I was a school teacher, I very much took this to heart. My love of teaching Geography – and its ability to provide a holistic intellectual framework for analysing our world – I consider to be very valuable. Therefore, I believed – and believe – that my teaching of that subject helped my students better understand their human and natural environments.

(In this I am of course not alone – in my experience, most teachers enter the profession with the implicit belief that they can help others see things in a different, better way.)

As a journalist I have also always had ‘education’ as my underlying theme.

Time for a Paradigm Shift in Pedal Power

Posted on February 3rd, 2009 in Global Warming,Opinion,pedal power by Julian Edgar

As I write this, I am on holidays – something that also won’t be the case by the time you actually read this!

In addition to doing four AutoSpeed stories, I’ve been spending the time cudgelling my brains over my upcoming Human Powered Vehicle project – a front-wheel drive, delta (two rear wheels, one front), recumbent, leaning trike.

I’ve looked through the articles I’ve previously done in AutoSpeed on recumbent pedal trikes (including the tadpole trike pictured above), and have been furiously scanning the web.

Recumbent bikes (where the rider sits back in a reclined seat, the pedals in front of him or her) make up only a tiny minority of bikes worldwide.

Recumbent trikes make up a small minority of that tiny minority – and recumbent, delta, leaning trike designs can be counted on the fingers. Of two hands.

Thus web searches have tended to return to the same sources, taking any one of a number of routes to get there.

As a result of the small number of web pages dealing with this topic, I have had a chance to re-read my posts to an online recumbent bikes/trikes forum, one that has a specific area for homebuilders. Before I was banned, I was almost pleading with those who had developed recumbent trikes to do some testing and measurement of their machines’ performance, so that the tiny community of scattered builders around the world could actually compare designs and see which approaches were best.

Seems an obvious request, but it was met with refusal.