Many inventions are ingenious extensions of existing ideas. But there are dangers in this method of product development.
Bicycling Bertie had only three gears
With which he’d been cycling for many long years.
They’d taken him everywhere he liked to go,
Those old Sturmey-Archers, in the hub down below.
The handlebar lever, marked ‘3’, ‘2’ and ‘1’,
Gave Bicycling Bertie such innocent fun:
He’d change down to ‘1’ when his legs felt the need,
Then change back to ‘3’ when he cycled at speed.
But, one day, while walking his bike up a hill,
He was passed in a flash by young Mountain-bike Bill.
He spotted that Bill had not three gears, but more –
It couldn’t be, could it? It could – twenty-four!
“Call that a bike? Well, I think it’s disgusting;
Gears should be hidden, protected from rusting
By Three-in-One oil, not exposed to the air!
I know he did pass me – but see if I care!”
Now his pride had been hurt, but our Bertie was bright.
He hatched an idea. He would do it tonight.
He dismantled some old bikes and took out their guts,
Then hammered and welded and tightened up nuts.
He’d thought it all out, and developed some theories
That if you connected eight Sturmeys in series,
Encased in their hubs so that none of them spoiled,
Then twenty-four gears could be yours – fully oiled!
One trifling problem, however, remained:
Those eight Sturmey-Archers, all nicely contained
In their eight oil-filled hubs, needed eight gear-change levers –
A point missed by Bertie’s inventive night fevers.
He’d need longer handlebars, that was for sure,
But he’d only got two hands; he couldn’t grow more.
So he added three saddles for others to ride,
And broadened the frame so they sat side by side.
A test-drive soon showed that more wheels were essential,
And the drive had to pass through a small differential.
By this time, the bike was impossibly whopping
That more brakes needed fitting to guarantee stopping. . .
Well, that made it heavier; it had to be stronger,
So the frame was enlarged, but that made it longer. . .
And so it went on, and it still does today;
But Bertie’s new bike will emerge . . . one fine day.