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British Motorcycles

Archibald Montgomery Low

1922 La motocicleta “Ideal” de Low (prototipo)

Como otros tantos ejemplos de genios con una creatividad inversamente proporcional a su visión comercial tenemos a Archibald Montgomery Low (1888 - 1956)
Low fue un ingeniero inglés, físico, investigador e inventor y autor de más de 40 libros. Considerado el "padre de los sistemas radioguiados" por su trabajo pionero en cohetes guiados, aviones y torpedos, el “Profesor” Low también era un habitué de Brooklands en la década del 20 y fue Presidente de la Auto-Cycle Union (ACU) durante 24 años.

En 1922 diseña lo que él considera la moto “ideal”. Según los requerimientos de los potenciales compradores, la moto debía poder ser conducida tanto por “hombres con pantalones blancos de tenis de la época así como por mujeres con polleras”, debía poder ser lavada con una manguera luego de un viaje por caminos barrosos y debería tener transmisión cardánica. Así es como la Low Engineering Company construye una moto con un conjunto motor-caja en una sola unidad totalmente cerrada por un cuadro poco convencional de chapa estampada. El motor era un cuatro cilindros en línea de dos tiempos de 492 cc refrigerado por aire, configuración usada por primera vez en un vehículo de dos ruedas. La caja era de tres velocidades con un embrague multidisco y la transmisión cardánica estaba encerrada en una cubierta telescópica. El tanque de combustible de 2,5 Galones también estaba incorporado a la estructura del cuadro de chapa y el asiento tenía una ingeniosa forma de amortiguación, también patentada por Low. Ambas ruedas, delantera y trasera, eran intercambiables, así como si se le adosaba un sidecar, también su rueda era intercambiable con ellas.

Una dínamo Rotax montado sobre la caja de velocidades proveía la corriente para ignición e iluminación, en conjunto con un distribuidor, bobina y batería. Para poder hacer mantenimientos menores a la bujía y al distribuidor, el chasis tenía pequeñas puertas de acceso a esos componentes. Estas puertas además tenían aletas para canalizar aire de enfriamiento hacia el motor.

La máquina experimental se ensayó durante unas 1500 millas y se la describió como excepcionalmente buena en su andar, con una aceleración moderada y la suavidad similar a la de un motor de ocho cilindros. Se encontraron algunos problemas de carburación y hubo una crítica al diseño del manubrio.

Nunca estuvo en los planes de Low la producción en serie de esta moto experimental, aunque se cree que era poco viable por su elevado costo de fabricación. Además, en mi opinión, creo que el consumo de combustible no la debe haber favorecido, recordando que unos años antes, en 1916, Royal Enfield había llegado a esa conclusión cuando diseñó su Modelo experimental de tres cilindros dos tiempos.

Años más tarde, en 1947, el Profesor Low intenta aplicar su experiencia en el campo de la cohetería, diseñando un sistema de propulsión con cuatro cohetes sólidos adosados a una moto de speedway con motor JAP. La moto hace su demostración en la pista de Wembley al comando de Bill Kitchen.


The Rocket Man


Professor Low's Motorcycle of 1922

You can't make this stuff up.

There are many examples of genius whose creativity appeared inversely proportional to their commercial vision. Such a man was Archibald Montgomery Low (1888-1956)

"Archy" Low was a British engineer, physicist, inventor, researcher and author of more than 40 books. In short, a boffin.

Considered the "father of radio control" for his pioneering work in guided rockets, aeroplanes and torpedoes, "Archy" Low was a regular at Brooklands in the 1920s and was the chairman of the Auto-Cycle Union (ACU ) for 24 years.

In 1922 he designed what he considered the ideal motorcycle. The machine was designed be ridden by both "men in white tennis pants as well as women in skirts", could be washed down with a hose after a trip over muddy roads, and should have transmission by shaft.

The Low Engineering Company built a motorcycle with the engine fully enclosed in a pressed-metal frame, not dissimilar to Phil Irving's design for Velocette some decades later. The engine was an air-cooled four-cylinder two-stroke of 492cc, the first example of such an engine in a motorcycle. The gearbox had three speeds with a spring clutch and the transmission shaft was concealed within in a telescopic cover. The 2.5 gallon fuel tank was also incorporated into the chassis and the seat had an ingenious method of suspension, also patented by Low. Front and rear wheels were interchangeable, as was the sidecar wheel if fitted.

A Rotax dynamo mounted on the gear box provided the current for illumination and ignition, in conjunction with a distributor, coil and battery. To facilitate access to the spark plugs and distributor, the chassis had small removalbe access panels which were vented to channel cooling air into the engine. These days we call them NACA ducts.

The experimental machine travelled around 1500 miles and was described as exceptionally good to ride, with moderate acceleration with minimal vibration comparable to that of an eight-cylinder engine. There were minor critisisms involving carburation and the design of the handlebars.

It was never in the plans of low production in the series of experimental this bike, although it is believed that this was not feasible because of its high cost of production. Also, in my opinion, I think the fuel consumption not the must have favored, remembering that a few years earlier, in 1916, Royal Enfield had come to that conclusion when he designed his experimental model of three-cylinder two-stroke.

Years later, in 1947, professor low tries to apply his experience in the field of rocketry, designing a propulsion system with four solid rocket townhouses to a bike with a motor speedway. The bike makes his demonstration on the track of Wembley to the command of Bill Kitchen. 

"Archy" Low invented the forerunner of television in 1914, naming it "TeleVista". The invention was not pursued due to the onset of war, during which he was a captain in the Royal Flying Corps where he explored the concept of remote controlled aircraft, planning to turn them into guided missiles. He was a founding member of the British Interplanetary Society and its president from 1936 to 1951, and was inducted into the International Space Hall of Fame in 1976.

Archibald Low quotes:

"The telephone may develop to a stage where it is unnecessary to enter a special call-box. We shall think no more of telephoning to our office from our cars or railway-carriages than we do today of telephoning from our homes."

"The second stage in the development of space-ships could be the launching of what have been called space-platforms...The rocket or space-station will travel round the earth in twenty four hours at most. The value of such stations might be very great; they might enable world-wide television broadcasts to be made; they would transmit data about cosmic rays or solar radiation; and they might have incalculable military value."


Further Reading:

www.nmspacemuseum.org/halloffame/ - Low at the Space Museum
Rocket Cycles #2 by The Vintagent (who echoes this writers' thoughts on the remarkable Archy Low and his rightful place in history).
skyward.io/marilyn-monroe-and-the-origin-of-drone - Marilyn Monroe and the Origin of "Drone"

Sources: Sergio Scalerandi


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