A few weeks ago some colleagues of mine moved to a new office – whiteboards, tables and chairs had to be dragged, the archive had to be cleared out and logically everything had to be rebuilt afterwards – including the various computer-workstations. There are certainly things in life which are more fun, but some colleagues and I offered our help – to get it done fast.
But I digress…
It was indeed lots of fun when it came to transporting the office chairs. The ones with rollers. We thought: Why should we carry them when we could simply roll them, and even more: Why the hell should we roll them, when we could just drive on them??
You can imagine that this was the beginning of one or the other race that day. The corridor in front of the gallery into the production area, where we had an audience, was particularly popular. That’s how moving is fun. 😀
Now this morning one of these colleagues told me about a contribution on TV about curious competitions in China:
Office chair races
Whaaaaaat? Wow, they are imitating us!
High time for some research on this subject. And I can tell you – it was quite productive.
Here are the hard facts:
This sport may have its origin in the cartoonist André Franquin and his cartoon character “Gaston”, who spent his working time (among other things) with running office chair races against a stopwatch and who also liked to tune up the chairs for this purpose. Gaston used to kneel with one leg on the seat and push himself off with the other foot.
It remains to be seen whether this was actually the birth of this now world-famous office sport or whether its success is only due to human nature – our laziness and eternal quest for efficiency (keyword: “energy-saving mode”). What’s safe is that office chair races exist worldwide as a recognized fun sport and apparently are the absolute hit in China! Japan should also be mentioned (some who do not believe in the Gaston-theory see the tireless Japanese who are always interested in progress as the true inventors of this pastime), and – tataaaa – we Germans are not shy, either: Until a few years ago in Bad König (Odenwald) there was actually even a German championship in office chair racing.
But also in Great Britain, Australia, France, Sweden or Spain there are corresponding tournaments and in California even sofas are admitted to the races.
Since Gaston, the technique has been reduced to two principles:
- Use gravity.
- Look for possibilities to minimize friction and thus resistance.
Tuning is explicitly permitted: There are hardly any limits to the “pilot’s” imagination, except that the rollers must be freely movable, must not have a diameter larger than 20 cm and must not have any kind of gear or propulsion system. Apart from that, lubricants can be used at will, the rollers and roller bearings can be exchanged for newer, faster ones, the weight of the chair can be increased in order to achieve a higher speed once it rolls (but beware – too much of an improvement in this case can lead to a fatal loss of time at the start).
On the other hand, any foul on the opponent results in immediate disqualification.
Even though it is reported that many pilots try to steer the chair with their feet, it is primarily the weight shift with which the office chair is steered along the race track. This may lead to acrobatic postures and movements in the knockout rounds.
Since such a tuned office chair can really take up speed (especially when moving downwards), protective equipment is strongly recommended and sometimes partly compulsory as crashes are a daily occurence in such races and are sometimes even intentionally caused to amuse the public with a somewhat planned stunt.
That didn’t happen to us – thank God – of course, as our races on the gallery were completely harmless. But it was still real FIBEEER and I guess that one or the other of the participants would have liked to “step on it”. 😀
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