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Keith Tse


  • Writer's pictureKeith Tse

Driving in first gear

I like driving manually. In today’s world, cars with automatic gearboxes seem to be far more popular than the old types where one gets to manually control the gear level in accordance with one’s driving conditions, but I am old-fashioned in my driving in that I like making gear changes since I like playing around with the gearbox and the parking-brake (!). Taking the gear controls out of my driving would deprive me of a lot of manual sensation. Making gear-changes is not particularly difficult or complicated either, since on any normal road one needs to match the gear-level with one’s speed (slope/snow conditions a different story). When I learnt how to drive, it was customary to start in first gear and change gear-level along with one’s driving speed gradually and incrementally. The rationale was that when starting off from a stationary position, first gear was the safest and most powerful engine-state to move the vehicle, and as one gathered speed and momentum, the gear-level would have to go up to optimise the mechanisms of the engine (conversely, one would have to bring the gear-level down when slowing down, a procedure often overlooked by me for which I am labelled a ‘reckless driver’…!). It is interesting though how one always needs to start in the most laborious engine-state (first gear) and slowly but gradually bring the engine-level up to match one’s increasing speed, which suggests that starting the vehicle is, in many ways, the hardest step in driving a vehicle as it requires the most amount of energy and the lowest level of speed. As one gets started, things start to click into gear and one may hence increase the workings of the vehicle, but this is consequential to starting and moving off as slowly as possible, which seems to match the workings of the human brain. One reason why I tend to procrastinate even though I absolutely hate it is that I often find it difficult to get started and moving, since in my stationary state it requires a huge amount of effort to get my body going. Once I get started, things start to flow and I eventually reach the optimal state where I cannot stop until I get the task(s) done and dusted. However, starting off is definitely the hardest, and I have stated before the importance of starting slow (literally snail-speed) since starting off in a rush is not only ineffective but also destructive to one’s system, just as moving off in a high gear would probably damage your vehicle. The human body is hence somewhat similar to a car engine (strange though as it may seem) in that it needs to warm-up properly and sufficiently before it can operate in full-flow, and the slower one begins, the smoother the transition towards the highest possible gear. We all love to drive at 70 mph on a free motorway (or perhaps not all of us), but it is impossible starting off at that speed since even before one gets to collide with other vehicles and kill other road-users, one’s internal engine would break down in sheer failure. One can imagine how catastrophic that would be for one’s vehicle, and one definitely would not want that happening in one’s body. As the DVSA say, ‘beware of other road-users’. Be a safe-driver, then, not only for other people but also for yourself.

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