Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Insatiable Curiosity

posted by Danni

In the spring when I was considering what type of bike to purchase, I was directed to a series of articles on recumbents to aid in my decision-making process. One such article had an extremely unique yet, for most people, completely useless comparison. The author compared the touch on a Bacchetta's handlebars to the touch on the controls of a helicopter. This comparison really bugged me. I mean how many people actually know how to fly a helicopter? Then take that small number and factor in how many of those helicopter pilots are interested in riding a recumbent and the percentage must be extremely low. So why would somebody use this as a comparison on a recumbent review? This is just the sort of thing that piques my curiosity to unbearable measures. I just had to know!! So what did I do? I signed up for helicopter flying lessons, of course.

Introductory helicopter lessons start with four hours of ground school. During these four hours you learn a fair deal about aerodynamics and how lift is created as well as the three main types of energy a helicopter uses in flight; potential energy (height), kinetic energy (speed), and rotational kinetic energy (blade rotation/power). Given that the amount of energy used in flight is a constant divided between these three types of energy, you learn how to balance these in flight by using the three helicopter flight controls. The three controls are the collective which controls the altitude of the craft, the cyclic that controls the attitude (or direction) of the craft, and the anti-torque pedals which control the heading of the craft by countering the blade rotation. You spend the majority of time in class learning how to use the controls in relation to each other to perform lift, turns and descent. On paper the operations seem extremely complex.

On Monday I had my first flight. I am happy to report that with a strong grasp of the theory on how the controls work together, if you just relax and keep your eye on the horizon, working the controls isn't anywhere near as complex as it seems on paper. You can easily see and feel what needs to be done while flying - even when the wind is playing with you and pushing you around any which way it chooses. The key is to just relax and work the controls gently while using the horizon as a visual cue.

So once the flight concluded, I started thinking about how flying a helicopter relates to steering a Bacchetta. It is true that using the cyclic control, the directional control of the helicopter, requires a light touch (as do the handlebars on the Bacchetta) which is the point the author makes in his review. I agree completely. However, that is where the comparison ends for me. In a helicopter, you control the direction of the craft by making small, gentle movements with the cyclic control on a horizontal plane by using hand/arm movements. When I ride my bike, I keep a light touch on the handle bars to keep the front wheel aligned with the frame of the bike, but most of the actual steering is done by leaning my body into the turns - very little, if any, is done by moving the handlebars with my hands. And from my limited experience, leaning into the turns in a helicopter, as I do on my bike, just doesn't seem like a wise idea!!

Since this revelation, I've been racking my brain to find a better analogy for the gentle touch needed on the handlebars of a Bacchetta. Alas, much to my chagrin, I have yet to come up with a better description than the light touch required on the helicopter controls that the author describes in his review. This is now bugging me even more. Now, not only is there one person using an obscure analogy for the light touch needed on the handlebars of a Bacchetta, there are two! There must be a more mainstream way to describe the feel of steering a Bacchetta! I look to you, dear reader, to help me out on this one. How would you describe the feel of steering a Bacchetta? And PLEASE give me less expensive analogies than the touch on the controls of a helicopter. If I need to go test a number of theories equally as expensive as helicopter lessons, I'm going to go broke!!

In the meantime, when I was asked in class why I was taking helicopter lessons I responded that, "I wanted to see if a Bacchetta really did steer like a helicopter." My fellow classmates decided that after they learned how to fly the helicopter, they would need to see if a helicopter really did steer like a Bacchetta. To that end, I hope Scott is going to be very busy in the next several weeks teaching my fellow flight students how to ride a recumbent!

Smooth-flying-(oops,-I-mean-riding!)'ly yours,


1 comment:

  1. Danni, For our safety, I'm glad he didn't make a comparison to jumping off the Tobin bridge : -)


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