Friday, 12 December 2014

The Amazing Race 25, Episode 11

Manila (Philippines)

In this episode of The Amazing Race 25, the contestants faced a cycling challenge whose difficulty was a consequence -- in a not so obvious way -- of the economic conditions in the Philippines that I talked about last week.

As I've noted previously, the on-screen host and off-screen co-producer of The Amazing Race, Phil Keoghan, is a cyclist who takes every opportunity to put the racers on unusual bicycles. If you're preparing to compete in the race, you should ride as many different types of bikes as you can find, especially unusual configurations of cargo bikes.

The design of the diamond-frame bicycle, and its more recent relative the motorcycle, has changed remarkably little in the last century. Although there are some cargo bikes with the load carried in front, and some front infant and child seats and carriers, larger loads and adult passengers are almost always carried on the rear of a bicycle. A few seasons ago in Malawi, one member of each team had to pedal a bicycle "taxi" with their teammate behind them on the pillion.

But tricycle rickshaws, both pedal powered and motorized, have long been, and continue to be, made in at least three fundamentally different configurations:

  • "Delta" trikes, with two drive wheels and the passenger(s) and/or cargo in the rear, and the driver and a single steering wheel in front;
  • "Tadpole" trikes, with the driver and a single drive wheel in the rear, and the passenger(s) and/or cargo between or over the two front wheels; and
  • "Sidecar" trikes, with the driver riding a more or less standard bicycle or motorcycle, and the passenger or cargo carried on a third wheel alongside.

Each of these designs has it's own pros and cons, as Phil would say. Each is the norm in different countries.

Standard Indian cycle-rickshaws are delta trikes, while standard Vietnamese cycle-rickshaws are tadpole trikes.

Motorized "auto-rickshaws" in India and most other countries are delta trikes which require a rear differential in the drive train, but which can be steered directly with handlebars, with an extraordinarily small turning radius, without the need for a complicated steering-wheel linkage.

The Philippines is one of the few large countries in which almost all three-wheelers, whether pedal powered or motorized, have sidecar configurations.

Why is this? Largely because either a delta or a tadpole design requires more complex custom components than does a sidecar attached to an off-the-shelf bicycle or motorcycle.

Indian (delta) cycle rickshaws and (delta) auto rickshaws are manufactured entirely in India.

In the Philippines, as I mentioned in my previous column, there's almost no domestic manufacturing, and no significant domestic production of either bicycles or motorcycles. It's much cheaper to import a cheap mass-produced bicycle or motorcycle, and attach a simple locally-made sidecar, then to import an expensive and very bulky complete tricycle rickshaw. The only moving part on the sidecar is a standard wheel, which is neither powered nor steerable and generally doesn't even have a brake.

While sidecars can be compact and maneuverable, their asymmetry (power, steering, and often braking all from only one side) makes them less intuitive to drive and potentially less stable.

The biggest challenge for the racers was steering a sidecar bicycle rickshaw, with their teammate as passenger, around corners and through city traffic.

Most of the racers also had problems with the sizing of the pedicabs. That should be a reminder that, as with clothing, it can be difficult to find a properly fitting bicycle in a place where most local people are much shorter, taller, thinner, or fatter than you are. Even in Japan, with a large bicycle manufacturing industry, there are many common makes and models of bicycles that aren't produced in sizes appropriate for someone like me 5'11" (180 cm) tall. As the racers found out, you can ride a bicycle that's much too small for you, at least for a short distance. But it won't be comfortable and you won't be able to develop much power.

Link | Posted by Edward on Friday, 12 December 2014, 23:59 (11:59 PM) | TrackBack (0)
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