Saturday, 20 July 2013

Get your knee down!

At the Swindon swapmeet back in the New Year, I bought a couple of SCX motorbikes.  These had a central rod through the axis of the bike with the (comparatively) heavy motor below and light rider above.  The idea was that in the bends the motor would swing out and give the effect of the rider leaning in.  It was reasonably effective but didn't work great with Scalextric track, particularly the tight hairpins, and I quickly sold them on.

However, I recently discovered an alternative made by Speed ISS.  They produced a series of leaning motorbikes from 2009 to 2011.  I'm assuming they didn't do well as their website no longer active and the bikes are available for a good price.  But they work much better than the SCX models.

As you can just make out on the top and side of the box above, the bikes come with their controller, so as well as the normal throttle, you have a wheel to turn which activates a servo on the bike to make it lean one way or the other.

So rather than happening automatically like the SCX model, you decide when to lean in.  There's a little bit of "pat your head and rub your tummy" about this, especially as the position of the lean wheel means you control the throttle with your left hand and the wheel with your right, but it soon all clicks into place.

I bought models of the Ducati Desmosedici ridden by Nicky Hayden, and Valentino Rossi's Yamaha YZR M1.  I chose these two partly for the colours but mainly because the other two bikes I have by Scalextric (non-leaning) are also Hayden and Rossi (bottom pair below).

Although the company website is no more, there remain a few promotional videos on YouTube.  This one shows a bike in action.

So how does it work on an analogue track?  The box contains not just the bike and a controller but also a little box of tricks that plugs into the Scalextric power base, and then has the power supply plugged into it.  This allows the controller to not just send speed signals to the bike but also a signal that actuates the powered servo to lean the bike.  This is pretty clever and also has me wondering about how to adapt this so that other cars could have servo-operated effects - a real ejector seat in the Aston perhaps?

It's not perfect - there is some buzzing from the servos at times - and you do have to concentrate to control them.  But it does add to the racing and the leaning makes a real difference - you can go faster through a corner when you're leaning (and of course are likely to deslot if you accidentally leaned the wrong way!).  An interesting addition to the collection.

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