Well, I'd be brutally honest in letting you know that I have never liked the greeting - Good Morning! I rather say “Hi” or something similar to what my fellow colleagues say. I have always associated this greeting with a sense of subjugation (I feel as if I am still in school!). I am not too fond of mornings as well because mornings mean dragging to office! I would prefer working from home, but the HR won't care. Well, let’s leave that thought. I don't want to upset her! Until recently, I used to travel to the office using the mass transport system - Delhi Metro, but not anymore. Reason? You guessed it right - the time it takes and the much-desired alienation that it could never provide!
Now I use my bike, which cuts the travel time by half and rids me of the gratuitous human company. Due to the sheer amount of time that it takes, travelling by car is really not an option, despite it being the most comfortable one. But a two wheeler has its own flaws, which make it a desirable option only next to a car. If we could get rid of at least some of them, in my view, it would become “the ultimate mode of transportation,” for it delivers good mileage, unlike some of the cars, provides independence that a mass transport system cannot, and most importantly, saves time. Yes, I know, very dreamy! Well, my fellow colleagues asked me to re-imagine the perfect commuter for India and here I am dreaming, errr...writing about it.
What is wrong with the two wheelers that we have at present in India? There's nothing grossly wrong, I agree. But if you look at the way how even the scooters have done away with the spare wheel that they previously offered, it gives us an idea where we are heading. The tubeless tyres are indeed practical and extend the range, but does this make the spare wheel redundant? I disagree! I would stop harping the day we have, not puncture-resistant tyres, but significantly reliable, go-anywhere, without-worrying Tweels.
Getting wet in the rain is another big issue that makes one rethink if the choice of travelling by bike is indeed a good idea. Can we have something of the sort that provides some amount of protection against getting wet? Why don't you just get a car? Tell me!. No, I won’t! The idea is to reinvent the wheel (No, I am kidding). Honestly, the idea is to have huge expectations while still on two wheels.
The Carver is bankrupt now, but the Carver one had a lot of attributes that made it super desirable. It used a four-cylinder engine, was powerful, provided a complete enclosure to the driver, could seat two and with the help of Dynamic Vehicle Control system, could even lean on the curves. If only it had two wheels and was more compact! Furthermore, we doubt the affordability of anything like that as a commuter bike in India.
The C1 from BMW or Benelli Adiva could have brought us closer to our dream commuter bike, but BMW stopped producing the C1 following poor sales. The Adiva was fairly successful in the European market and offered a removable roof, unlike the C1, which offered a roll cage but had no option of a removable roof. The affluent middle urban class of India might not want to pay as much as the cost BMW decided for the C1. But can the companies like Bajaj make something similar yet affordable? The C1 was an enclosed scooter designed by Bertone for BMW. The engine capacities (124cc and 200cc) were in the same range as we expect bikes to be. The C1 offered a windscreen / hardtop, which provided moderate protection from rain too. The rear section of the scooter allowed one to use –a luggage rack, pillion seat or lockable external storage box.
The removable top of the Adiva, along with its capability to seat pillion with the driver, made it look more practical than the C1. The C1 got really close but what I did not like is that the pillion rider would sit behind the roof/roll-cage that would droop between the rider and the passenger. The pillion rider would look like a second-class human being while sitting behind the rider.
It would have been better if the windshield had provided enclosure to the pillion rider too. But that was the way it was designed! Can it bettered? We think so.
Another great idea in the area of personal mobility was presented by a French company - Swincar. The crazy-looking, car-like thing is more close to an ATV and can serve as an inspiration for the next generation commuter bikes. The Swincar uses spider-like separate limbs with independent suspension and electric motors on each hub. More capable off road, the pendulum tilt curve allows the vehicle to lean to the corners, much like a motorcycle. The compact and small footprint, despite the four-wheel configuration, is something that you can live with. What is impractical, to an extent, is the range, which is limited by its power source being electric. An enclosure that could seal the driver from rain would have taken it close indeed.
The Swincar, or even the Carver, is perhaps too radical and the commuter that I imagine lies somewhere close to the BMW C1 or the Benelli Adiva, which were indeed ground breaking in terms of what they tried to offer. While anything close to them might never be offered in India, but some people just refuse to put the raincoat on and dream of rolling on an invincible set of two wheels. They live with a never-fulfilling hope, while imagining - What Could Have Been.