Ambush by Rolling Aluminium
The new millennium arrived with a bang. Boom time in the Australian technology markets, stocks were going through the roof. But at the Vehicle Design and Research Laboratory in Sydney all of the investor capital was spent and there was zilch to show for it. VDRL’s last intern, Julina Ganessa, had eloped with all the data, muttering about lack of openness in research, vowing to release everything into the public domain.
Luckily there was one small chance to turn things around: a new contract had been signed with the State Government of Victoria to investigate the safety characteristics of the latest fad on the street, aluminium push scooters. All that was required was someone to do the work for the chicken feed funds that remained. So when Flo and Edith arrived for interview for once it wasn’t straight back out the door. If anyone could survive on such a paltry income then it was Flo and Edith, a pair of chickens trained in linguistics and physics by an overeducated outback farmer disgruntled with human company. Chicken farmer Lachlan had spent a lot of time in the hen house after his wife made off with a crocodile hunter and after years of close study had discovered that chickens had a lot more up top than anyone realised.
“So what we have to do is characterise the stability dynamics of push scooters?” repeated Flo. “Piece of cake,” rejoined Edith. “Simple extrapolation from established research on other two wheeled velocipedes. Compare and contrast. Stability, control and breaking - the maths is all well-established.”
Keen to impress their new employer, they set to work the next day. Calculating centres of mass, measuring steering angles and trail offsets.
Flo, always the experimentalist, began to study videos of riders on mountain bikes, BMX bikes and the latest model of Razor fold-up scooter. A firm believer in the validity of empirical analysis she became convinced the Razor was as stable and controllable as any other two wheeled vehicle.
But Edith was transfixed by the theoretical. And all the calculations yielded the same prognosis: low angular momentum, zero mechanical trail, culminating inevitably in self-exciting oscillations above a pitifully low critical speed. Edith knew this bird just wasn’t going to fly.
“Hey Edith, this Razor scooter is rad! Let’s take it for a spin.”
“Flo just ‘cause you’ve got wings don’t mean you can ignore front wheel flutter. That’s a dangerous piece of junk.”
“Stuff your theory Edith. I’m sick of patronising theorists like you. I could ride this sucker with my eyes closed,” Flo squawked, jumping on to the Razor and shooting off down the hill towards Vic Road.
Just maybe she was right about stability. By the time she reached the next intersection that scooter was doing 20kph plus, shooting straight as an arrow. However this euphoric moment was also when she discovered how ridiculously inadequate rear wheel skid brakes can be. The wheel locked, Flo’s anisodactyl toes slipped on the smooth aluminium, she fell onto the street - feathers flying while the aluminium rolled on.
Wham! That Razor slammed into the left shin of a copper, slicing his flesh almost to the bone. Flo panicked and fled the scene.
Rising to his feet superintendent Pete Ryan flipped his notebook. “Now Edith, let’s take this from the top. You admit that this is your friend’s scooter, so once more for the courtroom, why did the chicken cross the road?”