Sunday, 9 May 2010

Bang Bang - You're Not Dead

Amy mentions in the excerpt from her book, about roaring off on a Harley Davidson, and it reminded me about a thought I had about them the other day which, dear readers, I am now going to share with you.

The internal combustion engine is basically a series of explosions, and it's the harnessed power from these explosions which makes the vehicle move.

As far as I can tell, the Harley is the only machine running which actually sounds like explosions. They even market it's distinctive spluttery bangs as a safety feature, along the lines of "You can always hear one coming!" (Of course there have been other marketing ploys too - see above). All other cars and bikes - no matter how loud - sound like other things - a whine, a shriek, a growl, a howl, a sewing machine, etc. etc. The Harley deliberately sounds like a machine shot-gun.

Cars have been designed to get more and more quiet - even the clock in a Rolls Royce is quartz quiet - EXCEPT for the central locking systems. We need to hear a heavy ker-chunk as our car locks itself up with a remote, and designers have deliberately kept it nice and loud, or replaced it with annoying bleeps and flashing indicators, like some sort of servile salute as you walk away.

A friend of mine has just bought a big, electric motorcycle. It's very quiet. Too quiet. He crept up on me the other day in the countryside, and he had to sound the horn before I knew he was there.

I don't think he has ridden it through a busy, pedestrian town yet, but it's only a matter of time....


  1. See last week's Sunday Times. Some over-priced flash electric/petrol sports buggy, even has to add CAR NOISE, so that people will hear it coming! Progress at last. Sorry, can't find the paper for details.

  2. I'm actually scared to death of motorcycles--funny that I should write about one in the book! If I had one, though, I'd want it to be loud and very rumbly.

    Having a quiet motorcycle does seem like an accident waiting to happen.