Roller Racer

“Just swing the handlebars from side to side for a wild new ride!”

When we were kids we never really thought about why things worked. Atari games were just there… they plugged into the console, and all of a sudden a game appeared on your TV screen. And who really knew how Madonna’s voice went through a microphone and onto a thin strip of brown tape inside that cassette?

But perhaps the most head-scratchingly awesome toy from our youth was that crazy, physics-defying Roller Racer that first arrived on the scene in the mid 80s, thanks to Wham-O.

You sat on a seat, you wiggled the handlebars back and forth, and… you moved! Try the same thing on your Huffy, and you’d just look like an idiot standing in your driveway wondering why your bike wouldn’t go anywhere without pedaling it.

The only explanation we could possibly come up with was, of course, that it was magic. Pure and simple.

Or (more likely) it was just:

The front wheels of the machine are connected to the handlebars by a lever, in such a way that they are located behind the axis of rotation of the steering column. This means that a torque applied to the handlebars will cause a lateral friction force by the wheels on the ground, a force parallel to the axle and perpendicular to the direction the wheels are rolling. If a component of this force points to the back of the car, the reaction force of the ground on the car (by Newtons’s “action/reaction” law) points partly forward and accelerates the car.

Sure it all makes sense now (assuming you have a Ph.D. in physics), but back then, well… the Roller Racer was just damn cool.

Turns out the Roller Racer is still cool… a hot-seller on Amazon even today, and a staple in pretty much every middle school gym in the country.

Just don’t ask us how it works.

We ♥ the Roller Racer.

As for that Annie trivia from yesterday? We asked if you knew who the two girls were (each of whom went on to make quite name for themselves in our favorite decade) at :15-:19 of this clip. If you guessed Amanda (Can’t Buy Me Love) Peterson and pop star Martika, you’re right!

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~ by weheart80s on March 20, 2012.

2 Responses to “Roller Racer”

  1. I had one of those once. After the accident involving the neighbor’s dog, it never saw the light of day again. Now I wish I had it back.

  2. Wow I remember this

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