The One Track Mindset
In our modern society it seems that we have developed a stigma against people or things that are “one track.” The popular wisdom seems to suggest that we are always better off if we have an open mind, and support from many sides. People with one track minds are thought of as almost irrational to the point of being off-balance.
If we extend this thinking to bicycles and related human powered vehicles, we raise the question as to whether we should have two wheels, three wheels, or more points of support, and thus be “safer.” If we allow the idea of unicycles to be an exception, we can focus on the question -- Is it better to ride bicycles or tricycles?
Our position is that bicycles are vastly superior to tricycles. Bicycles are “single track” vehicles, whereas tricycles are multi-track. We will argue that except in the most of extreme of cases, single track vehicles are best – and even safer as compared to multi-track vehicles. When considering the bicycle and its stability, one is faced with an interesting situation. A stationary two-wheeled bike will fall over. A stationary tricycle will remain quite upright. But, when motion is added, a bizarre reversal occurs. Two-wheeler bikes in motion can at times acquire what we can call dynamic stability – where the bike remains upright of its own accord due to the presence of speed. For tricycles, the situation gets to be grim. When speed is sufficiently high, and when speed is combined with adverse conditions, the tricycle becomes prone to being easily upset – and throwing the rider for a spill. Let’s examine why --
The problem with tricycles, and all vehicles using multiple supports, is that all might go well until we face one of a few precarious dynamic situations:
In either or both of these cases tricycles are deficient. The rider on a tricycle suddenly faced with a bumpy road or a need to make a sharp turn – can get an unwelcome surprise – usually the sudden loss of stability. The sad reality is that tricycles are prone to severe upsets. Occupants are often thrown off these vehicles and injured. The vehicle in motion is incapable of giving the rider any advance warning that one wheel is about to become airborne. Because the vehicle is usually stable as a static device with three point ground contact, the rider is caught unawares when the trike has suddenly become a two wheeled vehicle – as when one wheel can abruptly lift off the ground. Yes, we are saying that we consider tricycles, when operated at speeds comparable to bicycles, to be considerably more hazardous as compared to their bicycle counterparts.
- Rough riding surfaces with potholes, curbs, and bumps
- The need to make sharp turns or maneuvers
Any vehicle, be it a bike or a trike, if is going to operate in the real world it has to be judged based on at least three attributes –
Up to now in this web site discussion, we have focused on stability and maneuverability, as the matter of the ability to reject external disturbances has not yet been discussed. Now is the time.
- the ability to reject external disturbances
Tricycles are poor dynamic vehicles in fact precisely because they are multi-tracked. Imagine a bump or disturbance on the road. The frequent result is that the bump is off-center. When an outside wheel of a tricycle hits a bump or hole, the wheel is lifted or dropped, and more significantly, the vehicle is tossed and also rolled. A rolling action is the result of hitting any bump off center – because the wheel being struck or impacted is off-center. When these sudden rollover actions happen, the situation is further compounded because the rider had little or no advance warning of the upsetting action, and the rider has never been conditioned to develop or encode corrective feedbacks.
Bicycles as single track vehicles, in contrast, are amazingly resilient and are relatively impervious to external disturbances. Yes, hitting a bump or a pot hole isn’t much fun for the sedate crowd, but the bike will tend to remain upright as the bump causes a sudden impact that is in line with the frame and the mass of the bike and rider. Yes, the rider may get a jolt, but the jolt is usually in the head-on direction, and the bike makes it past the disturbance. It seems to be that some bike riders even love hitting bumps and otherwise riding over rough terrain. The sales of mountain and off-terrain bikes reflect this pursuit of sport and challenge. Of course the bike industry has invented clever suspension systems to ease the shock of the bumps. The bumps encountered primarily act in line providing an exciting ride, and yet the bikes are quite impervious to being upset.
An old adage says, “Don’t carry all your eggs in one basket.” My sense is that there can be a better adage, “It’s okay, and actually quite wise, to carry all your eggs in one basket so long as you have selected the correct basket, and are vigilant and carefully watch over the basket.” Multi-support point (three or more points) vehicles are notoriously susceptible to upsetting whenever disturbances are encountered, as compared to bicycles (which have two in-line wheels for support). There are times in life when it is the wise decision to be of a one-track mind. Be sure of the firmness of your beliefs, and then place your trust in that belief.
John 14:6 tells us -- Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
Those who believe that it is better to have multiple supports in place, such as belief in theory X, religion Y, diet Z, make-over Q, or whatever it is that turns them on – these people are more apt to be upset when some disturbance or obstacle is encountered, or should one of their pillars give way. In contrast, if you have the right kind of bike under you, a bike with two wheels like our conventional “safety,” or diamond shaped design, or if you are armed with faith built on a rock, you are on a single track vehicle, but the correct vehicle. Bicycles and faith are also robust, a fourth useful engineering attribute, but we’ll defer going down that path right now.