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High Performance Bicycles


In May of 1988, Autodesk overflowed the office space available at the Marina Plaza complex we had occupied since 1985. We had to split the company between that office and a building at 3 Harbour Drive, further north in Sausalito. Recalling the problems we faced when the company was divided between offices in Mill Valley and Sausalito, Dan Drake suggested that we obtain free bicycles for inter-office transit, just like the Provos of Amsterdam. We couldn't get white bicycles, but we did get a fleet of black and pink clunker Schwinns. Not long thereafter, Kelvin overheard a disparaging comment about the bikes we'd bought. So, he was moved to write the following.

To: Uneasy Riders
From: Kelvin R. Throop
Subject: High performance bicycles
Date: May 10th, 1988

Grouse, grouse, grouse.

Not one company in a thousand would brave liability and flout convention to provide free Provo bicycles to permit primate-powered peregrination among the far-flung buildings of Autodesk's Sausalito headquarters.

But, of course, this is Marin County--Marvelous Marin, where the possible is bounded more by lack of imagination than constraints of reality and resources. So Autodesk's bicycle fleet is regarded with a jaundiced eye by the truly trendy, who say ``a dérailleur is de rigueur!''.


Because Autodesk believes so strongly in upholding the standards and image of Marin County, however mylar-thin and trivial, we have decided to solicit bids for high-performance bicycles to supplement the existing fleet. Turbo Digital Cyclery of Bolinas have agreed to screen entries and maintain the new bicycles after they are delivered.

The new bicycles will be equipped as follows:


Pedals adjustable for leg length from 0.5 to 1.5 metres. Kevlar belt and carbon-fibre cone microprocessor controlled continuously-variable transmission (CVT) delivering power to rear tire. Toe clips equipped with automatic impact-release mechanism.


Bendix carbon/carbon disc brakes on both front and rear wheels. Bosch computer controlled ABS antilock system with deceleration sensor balancing load between front and rear discs.

Guidance, Navigation, and Control.

Martin-Marietta Lantirn Forward Looking InfraRed (FLIR) pod for night riding, presenting imagery in a helmet-mounted Head Up Display (HUD). Laser ring gyro inertial navigation system coupled to moving map display also presented in HUD, with optional superimposition with FLIR information. Backup coordinate fix system using LORAN, Navstar GPS, and Soviet GLONASS systems, with automatic recalibration of inertial navigation data. Terrain and pothole database complete from the Bay Model[Footnote] northward to Feng Nian.[Footnote] Also a speedometer and an idiot light that indicates something failed.


Computer controlled, expert system driven, automatic countermeasures suite. Automatic countermeasure delivery system capable of delivering Milk-Bones if chased by a dog (automatically sized to dog's jaw radius), chaff if illuminated by radar, and Lotto tickets if pursued by bozos. In addition, low observable techniques reduce the radar cross-section to less than 20 cm².

Survival, evasion, and escape.

Zero-zero ejection seat, mortar-deployed quick-opening parachute, automatic inflating life vest with EPRIB transmitter and strobe light triggered by ejection. Watertight survival kit includes can opener, good-luck quartz crystal, PFIX 2.0, Oreo Big Stuff cookie, supply of requisition forms, and Torx screwdriver. In case suicide is required, a Sony Walkman and New Age music cassette are provided.


Four 2 litre tanks are mounted below the centre of gravity. These supply, on demand, Jolt, Gatorade, Coiled Springs Mineral Water, and Diet Toxic Waste. An automatic crossfeed system maintains balance as well as delivering any desired mixture to the rider. The tanks can be jettisoned to improve acceleration in an emergency.


Few combat engagements are anticipated for these bicycles while fulfilling their inter-office mission. For those cases where there is no alternative, four Marinchip BGM-25L bozo-seeking missiles are mounted. These missiles home on the nearest erratically-steered, slowly-moving vehicle, then deploy a balloon in the shape of a Sausalito police car and emit the sound of a siren along with a speech-synthesised ``Pull over, asshole'', permitting the cyclist to pass safely.

Command and control.

On-board cellular telephone, FAX machine, Quotron terminal, UPI newswire, and UUCP mail and news feed. The DIAL[Footnote] system will be automatically alerted when the rider departs, so it can interrupt every trip with a ``you have 35 messages'' call, whether messages are waiting or not.

Configuration and performance.

Curb weight (less rider) not to exceed 8,000 kg. Acceleration from 0 to 40 km/hour not to exceed 20 minutes with average rider. Training time to solo not to exceed 500 hours.

This is, after all, Autodesk. Why not the best?

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Editor: John Walker