NZ machine could be future quad

By Paul Charman

Self-righting concept offers answer to accident-prone farm vehicles, writes Paul Charman

It should be compulsory to wear a helmet when on a quad bike. Picture / Paul Charman
It should be compulsory to wear a helmet when on a quad bike. Picture / Paul Charman

Dump the accident-prone quad bike and develop something better has been Driven's persistent call.

We've taken the line that Kiwi inventors, who pioneered use of farm two-wheelers and Gnat trikes (the predecessor of the quad bike), can probably do it again.

The Tahr quad, a self-righting machine, developed by Nick Marks - a 24-year-old designer from Torbay, Auckland - has attracted international attention.

But something this original would take years to get into production so meanwhile we support calls to improve rider training, legislate for helmet use and ban children from adult quad bikes.

It's hard for anyone accustomed to the modern car to comprehend a design which leaves its rider so vulnerable but sceptics must admit these bikes are popular. Over the past two or three decades Kiwi farmers have come to favour the quad for following the cows, spraying and a thousand other tasks.

The basic design - four fat tyres, straddle seat, handle bars and so forth - was adapted from a recreational vehicle, and basic layout means a relatively high centre of gravity. Despite excellent traction and useful load carrying space, these bikes are inherently unstable. And the correct riding technique is not particularly easy to learn.

True, many a Kiwi farmer has mastered the counter-intuitive discipline of transferring body weight appropriately and standing or sitting at the right time. But the fact many get it wrong is illustrated by around 850 injury accidents a year, about five or six of which are generally fatal.

ACC is well aware of the problems and so is Coroner Brandt Shortland. In five deaths Shortland investigated, use of an after-market spray unit or trailer attached to the quad bike was a factor. In April he recommended:

Ditching of the term "all-terrain vehicle" and using "quad bikes" to refer to the vehicle.

Endorsing the message from industry leaders that helmets should be mandatory.

Research into training and education around quad bike use.

Supporting a taskforce to perform research into roll-over protection devices.

Farmers were advised to carry a personal alarm, as many of the victims were trapped under their bikes before succumbing to injuries. Shortland says quad bikes are "a farmer's best friend and their worst enemy".

In response, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment has proposed discussing ways to reduce deaths and injuries.

Here's another suggestion for the ministry, ACC and any angel investors out there: Why not help to get Marks' remarkable concept to prototype stage.

If you want to learn more visit homepaddock.wordpress.com/tag/tahr-quad/

- NZ Herald

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