Smoke, noise and speed is acceptable in the right setting
As I write, I’m sitting by a reservoir in the Derwent Valley. I’m taking a few days off from a day job of writing and driving in pretty places like the Peak District by, er, riding in the Peak District and writing.
Anyway, it’s more peaceful this way because there’s no photographer shouting at me and it doesn’t matter that there’s no phone reception.And it is peaceful. The sound of birdsong and gentle lapping water, the quack of ducks attempting to drown one another; all very idyllic. But every now and then, a car or motorbike fires up in the nearby car park. Nothing seriously quick and not driven or ridden away quickly, but for a few moments, it’s all you can hear.
Then, less frequently, there is the rasp of something fast, being revved and ridden or driven quickly along some good driving roads.
I don’t mind it, but I can imagine thatif you’re here for the peace and quiet, it might get your goat. Not everybody likes machines as we do, and I’m more aware than ever that fast cars and bikes are, if used to anything like their potential, massively antisocial.
That’s a pity. I recently spent a weekend perving over extraordinary machinery at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. I admired supercars that are more powerful and that can go faster, harder, louder than ever.
And yet:the most enjoyable metal you can buy is something that has none of those ambitions. It has modest limits, engages at all speeds, and doesn’t shout about it while doing so. The power race never stops, I get that, and anyone who moves near a race track and then complains about the noise will have nothing but my contempt. But the perfect driver’s car will entertain the bod at its wheel, while not advertising its presence to an entire valley of walkers.
That said, I met a man in the pub last night, out for the peace and quiet but a keeper of old motorbikes at home. He polishes them, looks at them and sometimes listens to them, but doesn’t ride them any more. He’s 87, he told me (quite a few times as it happens), and likes to remember riding. He liked remembering a lot because “at my age, you have more memories behind you than you do experiences in front of you”.
Which is likely true, I’m sure, but that – the incessant creeping of time, which, at 87, you know is going to catch up with you at some point – sounds to me like a reason to be trying to fit in more experiences in the years you’ve got left, not fewer.
So when I’m 87, I’ll try to be here, telling you about a brand-new superbike I’ve just bought. I’ll be certain it has a quiet exhaust so it doesn’t annoy everyone else.
How much fuel does your car use?
Looking in an old carburettor the other day, I wondered precisely how much fuel an engine would burn in each combustion cycle. So I’ve kinda worked it out, I think. I’ve assumed some things: that it’s a four-cylinder engine, spinning at 3000rpm at 60mph and returning 40mpg.
In that case, every time a cylinder draws in fuel, it’s injecting just 0.0189ml for the combustion. In universal measurement terms, this means that between all four cylinders, it takes just under half a second for a millilitre of fuel to go in, 12 seconds for a 25ml standard pub spirit shot to go in, or five minutes per pint.