After A Century of Motorcycling

The Future Starts Now

After 10 consecutive months looking back over the past century of motorcycling as part of our MC100 celebration, let’s shift our gaze ahead and look to the future of our favorite sport. In many ways, it’s already upon us. As one example, elsewhere in this issue you’ll read about the smartest production motorcycle ever built—BMW’s S1000RR HP4—equipped with traction control, wheelie control, launch control, anti-lock brakes and the world’s frst dynamically adaptive, auto-adjusting electronic suspension.

Sophisticated technology that makes riding safer and more enjoyable, new vehicle designs that make two-wheeled travel more practical and accessible to an even wider range of people, and entirely new propulsion technologies are just the beginning the changes coming. The sport of motorcycling will evolve in other signifcant ways in the coming decades, including the development of a “smart” transportation grid populated by vehicles driving themselves and new vehicle shapes and confgurations that challenge the very notion of what a “motorcycle” is.

To get a bead on the future, we asked the brightest minds in our industry—designers, product planners, engineers, and trend spotters—to give us a glimpse of the future as they see it. We asked them a single question: “What will motorcycling look like 50 years from now?” As you will see, their answers are stunningly diverse. If they’re right, the next 50 years look to be every bit as dynamic, revolutionary, challenging and fun as the last 100 have been.

Enter the "Tilters"

David Robb, Owner, Designing Things That Move You
[Former BMW Design Chief]
If you’re expecting a singular “bike of the future” in Tomorrowland, sorry—that ain’t gonna happen. Our myriad tastes and desires will be satisfed by an almost unlimited array of machinery. The look? Everything from Hummer-like security to Tron Light Cycle sophistication to traditional naked bike architecture in homage to the 1950s and ‘60s. Three- and even four-wheeled “tilting vehicles” will continue to draw newbies who appreciate the fun and excitement of leaning with added stability, especially at stop lights. The same appeal will make these new vehicles equally attractive to older, “former motorcyclists,” too.

Ridership will increase because individuals will want a more engaging alternative to a daily commute in a “living room on wheels.” Motorcycling will transition from the pure leisure sport it’s been for more than 50 years into an appealing practicality. With the rising cost of fuel increasingly determining what we drive (and ride), many will fnd motorcycles intriguing not only for their tiny traffc footprint but their reduced carbon footprint as well.

Safety and performance enhancements will become totally non-intrusive and expected in every class of vehicle. Macho claims of “outbraking any ABS,” will be quaint anecdotes of the past. The democracy of high-tech will make new riders feel welcome. Connectivity at all times will be expected as well. All systems—navigational, infotainment or performance-oriented—will be voice controlled and intuitive of our needs, allowing us to enjoy the ride without distraction. Enhanced protective riding gear will be integrated with the vehicle, and audio and visual information will be piped into your helmet to enhance environmental and situational awareness.

Shape-Shifting, Self-Healing E-Bikes

Michael Czysz, CEO and Founder, MotoCzysz
Fifty years from now, the MotoGP grid will be all-electric. Today’s most advanced electric motors are already better than current MotoGP engines in terms of torque delivery, physical size, engine-braking controland reduced gyroscopic/handling impact. In 50 years, it will not even be close.

Where batteries are concerned, charge time will become equal to fll time for gas bikes. Battery energy density may increase two times or even four times in 50 years, but the real breakthrough will be in charging. Carbonized nano-graphite networks, which emulate the structure of bone marrow, will dramatically increase battery surface area and reduce full-charging intervals to minutes, or possibly even seconds.

Bikes will roll on self-healing tires. High frequency, ultrasonic tire warmers will trigger engineered molecules in the rubber to fow from areas of high density to areas of low density. The result will be a tirethat can heal itself from cold tears, harsh abuse and uneven wearing to look like new for the next track session.

Aerodynamics will play a more important role as energy consumption will be continually reduced. Fairings that change shape to offer maximum beneft in a variety of conditions will be necessary to maintain performance while reducing consumption.

Finally, Kenny Roberts will still be faster than you on an XR100 around a backyard dirt track!

Tree Visions Of The Future

John Keogh, Principal, John Keogh Motorcycle Design
What is interesting from a design point of view is to ask “What will motorcycles look like 50 yearsfrom now?” I can see three general types: 1) A commuter featuring a wrap-around safety cage and some form of outriggers or gyro-stabilization for when it’s stationary; 2) A fun motorcycle, with the emphasis on not just riding but also tinkering and customizing. These bikes will have small hybrid powertrains that, via electronics, can be highly customized much as you would add apps to a smart phone now. 3) A bullet-shaped racer with cutting-edge aerodynamics and electronics to allow a new type of racing on two wheels, where electronics enable even better competition by having exploitable parameters that can turn this “pod” from straight-line speed merchant to wheelie-capable stunt rocket. Rider skill, of course, will still rule.

Unified Function

Pierre Terblanche, Freelance Motorcycle Designer [Former Ducati Design Chief]
Fifty years is a very long time. I really have no idea what technologies will be used in the future, or even what bikes will look like, but I do know how I would like them to function. I believe that the various current segments of hypersport, standard and multipurpose bikes will morph into more sophisticated, unifed-function products capable of fantastic performance no matter how or where they are used. New-look products will be beautiful, ecological, powerful and lightweight, with automatic gearboxes, adjustable ergonomics, and full integration of communication systems and Internet, along with active and passive safety systems. We will also fnd built-in 3D video cameras so experiences can be shared after the ride, and all this will come without interfering with the fun factor of riding a motorcycle.

On Auto Pilot

Will Motorcycles One Day Ride Themselves?
Google has already built a feet of self-driving cars that have logged thousands of accidentfree miles, and BMW’s Research and Technology group—among others—are building autonomous automobiles. BMW’s ConnectedRide initiative is the frst attempt to use that technology to dramatically improve motorcycle safety.

The ConnectedRide-equipped K1600GT incorporates collision detection, pedestrian detection, roadway obstacle detection and weather warnings. Tere’s even a “left-turn assistant” that uses a combination of cameras, laser scanners, radar and vehicle-to-vehicle communications to detect a car making a potentially dangerous left turn in front of the rider. When this situation arises, a “conspicuity enhancement program” can fash the bike’s lights and sound the horn, or even activate the wayward car’s brakes.

Thankfully, the idea of a truly autonomous motorcycle seems far-fetched right now—there are numerous technical challenges, not the least of which is staying upright while stopped. Selfdriving cars will almost certainly be a reality soon, however, and more and more of the safety technologies devised for autonomous vehicles will be adapted to motorcycles, too.

The Legacies Go Electric

Electric Experiments From Honda and Kawasaki
WORDS: Ben Purvis

Despite a reputation for embracing the latest technology, Japan’s legacy OEMs appear to be left behind in the race to electrify their two-wheeled products. But recently leaked patent documents show both Honda and Kawasaki have been beavering away on electric superbikes.

With a history of electric and hybrid automobile technology to draw from, Honda has a head start. We’re already familiar with Honda’s gorgeous RC-E electric superbike that debuted as a concept at the 2011 Tokyo Motor Show. New patents reveal development of a production RC-E with the electric motor and batteries combined into a single unit to centralize mass, simplify maintenance and aid cooling.

Meanwhile, Kawasaki appears hard at work on an eSuperbike, too, with patents revealing two designs. Te frst is a full-on, aluminum-framed electric superbike, while the second is along the lines of a battery-powered, tube-framed ER-6. Both use a similar water-cooled electric motor bolted—unusually—to a traditional motorcycle-style, four-speed transmission.

Evidence of this development shows, as many have suggested, that the major legacy OEMs are just biding time until economic circumstances and worldwide demand align to make electric motorcycles a proftable proposition.

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