Electronic Design

Bob's Mailbox

Dear Bob:
Your article on ROI was very interesting (Electronic Design, Aug. 6, p. 97). I know that many people get caught out by great offers in savings on energy-efficient devices. One thing that bothers me is that the bigger picture doesn't look as good if, for example, we examine how much more energy is involved in making these energy-efficient devices in the first place. Like electric cars, which are supposed to reduce pollution, in many cases, they will just move the pollution back to an inefficient power station. Anyway, thanks for the many articles untangling jargon. Someone at S.L.A.C. once told me that jargon is something you use to find out what somebody else doesn't know, so you can snow them with it.
Robert L. English
via e-mail

Not to mention the expense and the large amounts of energy that will go into making the batteries and all the other expensive parts. Plus, the batteries have to be replaced every couple of years at a significant cost in money, energy, and pollution to the environment. Most people don't think about that. Cost to the environment doesn't always correlate with dollars saved. In many cases, it's close enough.—RAP

Just read your "Mailbox" (Electronic Design, Sept. 17, p. 100). Looks like Adam was going through some back issues to find the article on bicycle-brake set up (Electronic Design, Feb. 9, 1998, p. 141). In any case, I just thought you might like to know that nearly all bikes—motorcycles and bicycles—used to have the front brake on the right. In 1975, the CPSC (www.cpsc.gov) turned its attention to bicycles (under the Federal Hazardous Materials Act, believe it or not). The problem was that they weren't cyclists themselves and considered bicycles more as toys than as transportation. That didn't stop them from making up a bunch of rules that covered all bicycles and not just "toy" bicycles. (I didn't know this. Those blankety-blank bureaucrats. /rap)

Among the most grievous errors they made was deciding that front brakes are inherently dangerous, and that the cure for this was to move the front brake to the nondominant hand. (I guess left-handers are either smarter about these matters or expendable.) The only bicycles currently normally set up with front-brake-right (in North America, at least) are cyclo-cross bikes (www.cyclo-cross.com). A lot of bicycle riders who also ride motorbikes set their bicycles up front-right too so that the controls are as similar as possible.

Unfortunately in North America, this front-left/rear-right stuff is so ingrained that it's probably impossible to correct now. (Well, I have been using RH levers for the front brakes for so long that I'm impossible to cure too. /rap) By the way, besides being a research scientist, I am a member of:

  • The Bicycle Transportation Alliance
  • The Washington County Bicycle Transportation Alliance
  • The Beaverton BIKE Task Force
  • Team Oregon
  • Oregon Bicycle Racing Association

I own four bicycles personally—road, mountain, track (velodrome), and commuter—and there are 11 bicycles in our household.
Leo Baldwin
via e-mail

I have several old bikes, including a track bike, as well as the new Specialized Rockhopper A1FS, which feels pretty good. I have only ridden it 80 miles, but I'd be ready to go to Nepal tomorrow if it would let our bikes in. But (talk about bureaucrats who write rules on topics that they know nothing about), the people who run the Annapurna park district have locked almost all bikes out of the district except in January and February (peak of snowy winter), and June, July, and August (monsoon rains). So, we have postponed our trip to Annapurna until next June 1 to try to get through ahead of the rains. Thanks for writing to explain how things became the way they are today.—RAP

Dear Bob:
I've ridden street motorcycles for the last 23 years. The first thing that I do whenever I buy a bicycle for me or someone in my family is change the brake cables so the right hand actuates the front brake. I don't want any of my kids to grow up thinking that the front brake is on the left, because someday, they too may ride motorcycles. As you pointed out (Electronic Design, Sept. 17, p. 100), the importance of the front brake for a motorcycle or bicycle can't be overstated. Also, it's important to practice using braking systems hard in a controlled environment to learn how to stop as quickly as possible. I have found that modulating the front brake at the point of lockup (fastest way to stop) is much easier with the dominant hand. (Exactly my point. /rap)

I allocate most of my cognitive resources to the right hand in any hard stop, and leave what's left over to the left hand (bicycle) or right foot (motorcycle) for the rear wheel, which is much less effective due to the weight transfer in a hard stop.
Jonathan Williams
via e-mail

The rear brakes are mostly suitable for generating heat on long downgrades.—RAP

All for now. / Comments invited!
RAP / Robert A. Pease / Engineer
[email protected]—or:

Mail Stop D2597A
National Semiconductor
P.O. Box 58090
Santa Clara, CA 95052-8090

TAGS: Components
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