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Monday, December 08, 2008

StreetView Trike

Streetview Trike

I was barely off the plane from Munich when Mike started talking to me about a trike and Monterey. Then Lea started asking me about pedals. Well, I was jet-lagged, and figured that I wasn't going to be productive in the office anyway, so I might as well get some sun to reset my body clock.

When Lea and Mike showed up near my apartment with a truck and a giant-sized trailer, I was impressed. I tossed my still laden with German mud single bike into the back of the truck, and we headed down to Pacific Grove, where I knew a section of road that had enough room to park the bike and the trailer.

The Street View prototype tricycle was huge, and required no less than 2 people to set up. I was quite superfluous, so could take pictures and as the person most familiar with the area, lead everyone else to the bike path, which was too narrow to take the normal Street View car through (and it really wouldn't be socially acceptable to do so either).

Riding a tricycle is nothing like riding a bicycle, not even a tandem bicycle. As Keith Code's book on performance motorcycle racing says, the most cruel trick your parents played on you was to give you a tricycle to ride when you were small, and then switch you to a bicycle and watch you crash. You can't steer a tricycle by balance, only by turning the handlebars. And if the vehicle lists because of a bump in the road or a pothole, or even just going over a rough surface, doing what your cycling instincts tell you to do is exactly the wrong thing --- counter-steering doesn't work at all! At well over 200 pounds, a 4% grade feels like a 12% grade, and I watched Lea stand up with her full body weight on the tricycle pedals and barely move it!

We rode through downtown Monterey and the Wharf as well as cannery row, drawing the occasional friendly comments and curious looks. After we exited the city limits on the far end of town, Mike decided to visit the beach, and we posed with some pictures on the trike.

I can't tell if our experiment was successful or if we collected much data, but we provided quite a bit of feedback to the mechanical engineers behind the prototype, and we'll see how things go from there!

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