After a Century of Motorcycling | The Future Starts Now

Three Visions of the Future

John Keogh, Principal, Joh Keogh Motorcycle Design

What is interesting from a design point of view is to ask “What will motorcycles look like 50 years from 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.

Same As It Ever Was

Chris Hunter, Owner/Editor

It’s tempting to conjure images of levitating machines and whisper-quiet electric marvels, but I think the machines of 2062 will bear a strong resemblance to those we ride today. Fifty years ago people were riding Triumph Bonnevilles, BSA Gold Stars and Harley Ironhead Sportsters. They’re essentially the same as today’s bikes: the same engine technology, the same basic components in the same locations, and similar frames.

There have been gradual improvements in engine efficiency, component design and frame materials, but it’s an evolution. Clever marketing has made these incremental improvements seem significant. We’ll see more gradual improvements, with increasing focus on electronic control. But the bikes themselves will look and feel largely the same. Motor-cycling’s simpler pleasures will be stronger than ever.

Electric Avenue

Scot Harden, VP of Marketing, Zero Motorcycles

Electric motorcycles will become a major player in the motorcycle market. The technology is already relevant, and the improvements we over the next 50 years will be astounding. Energy costs, non-existent powertrain maintenance, low emissions, and the way the rider interfaces with the machine—and fellow enthusiasts—through personal communications devices all favor electric motorcycles. As technology improves, electric bikes will go farther, faster, and, most importantly, be more fun to ride than traditional motorcycles.

Stuff Happens

James Parker, Industrial Designer, Radd Technologies

The motorcycle industry is built on three foundations: ideas, money, and “stuff.” Ideas and money are self-explanatory. Stuff is everything from infrastructure to raw materials to the material we get most of our energy from: petroleum. For the first 100 years, motorcycling thrived on plenty of ideas, money, and oil. There will always be good ideas, but will there be enough money and stuff to support them? It’s likely that we’ll see shortages and difficulties we’re not used to. Motorcycles may have to be adapted to conditions that are currently hard to imagine.

Third World Rising

Gary Gray, Director of Motorcycle Product Planning, Polaris/Indian/Victory

When we think about motorcycles today we think about Japanese sportbikes, American cruisers, and European adventure-tourers. Fifty years from now, trends will be dictated by India, China, and Brazil, where more than 25 million motorcycles are already sold each year. As those economies mature, the motorcycles they ride will change from economical transportation to larger-displacement, recreational machines. By virtue of the sheer size of their markets, they will dictate industry trends.

It’s The [Fuel] Economy, Stupid

Derek Brooks, Motorcycle Product Planning Manager, Yamaha Motor Corp. USA

The future of motorcycles? Soon Yamaha’s hover-cycle will break cover, and dominate all forms of motorcycling, especially Supercross. All kidding aside, I would like to see more people recognize the benefit of parking their car in favor of riding a motorcycle that gets 40-50 mpg, or a scooter that gets 130 mpg. So much attention is paid to hybrid and high-mileage internal-combustion autos, many of which get worse mileage than any $8000 motorcycle.

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