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 first 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 significant ways in the coming decades, including the development of a “smart” transportation grid populated by vehicles driving themselves and new vehicle shapes and configurations 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 satisfied 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 find motorcycles intriguing not only for their tiny traffic 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 control and reduced gyroscopic/handling impact. In 50 years, it will not even be close.

Where batteries are concerned, charge time will become equal to fill 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 flow from areas of high density to areas of low density. The result will be a tire that 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 benefit 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!

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