Motus Operandi | First Look

America’s newest motorcycle maker reveals its first bike

By Aaron Frank, Photography by Motus

Pratt & Miller is an engineering powerhouse. Best known for racing collaborations with General Motors—the firm developed the LeMans-winning Corvette C6.R, the SCCA Champion Cadillac CTS-V and more—the company also quietly consults with the U.S. Military on everything from “unmanned tactical wheeled vehicles” to ballistic missile technology. With remarkable talent and resources at hand—including the world’s most powerful privately owned supercomputer—Pratt & Miller is one of the most accomplished engineering firms in the world. What are they doing partnered with upstart American motorcycle manufacturer Motus?

Birmingham, Alabama-based Motus, run by Lee Conn and designer Brian Case— previously with Confederate Motorcycles—originally contracted Pratt & Miller to develop the trellis frame and transmission for its MST prototype. As the project progressed and Pratt & Miller became more impressed with the Motus effort, the engineering firm transitioned from contractor to partner and eventually put its name on the prototype as an endorsement.

That’s how we ended up inside Pratt & Miller’s facility in New Hudson, Michigan, where the Motus MST was first revealed. The sport-touring machine—intended to appeal to “mature” sportbike enthusiasts and American motorcycle fans who equally value performance and comfort—was as impressive as the location, showcasing clever design, fine craftsmanship and genuine technical innovation.

The heart of this new machine is its 1650cc, liquid-cooled, 90-degree KMV4 motor. Designed and built by another top-tier GM supplier, Katech Engineering, the so-called “baby-block” V4 shares the same two-valve, pushrod architecture as the Chevrolet LS7.R small-block V8 that powers Pratt & Miller’s racecars. This juxtaposition of traditional engine design with a modern, sophisticated sporting chassis seems incongruent, but Case insists it’s complementary. The KMV4 weighs just 130 lbs., and without a heavy, complicated DOHC mechanism located far away from the engine centerline, mass is centralized.

The KMV4 uses direct fuel injection, the first use of this sophisticated technology on a four-stroke motorcycle. Instead of a conventional injector spraying fuel into a throttle body, direct injection shoots an exceptionally fine, “digitally atomized” fuel vapor directly into the combustion chamber for very efficient, clean-burning combustion. The KMV4 is very powerful. Motus claims 160 bhp and 122 lb.-ft. of torque near the 8000-rpm redline. With crankpins offset 75 degrees it’s got a muscular exhaust note, too; more like a quick-revving NASCAR racer than any narrow-angle Honda or Aprilia V4.

A bevel-gear arrangement transfers power from the longitudinal crankshaft to the six-speed transmission, which incorporates a conventional, multi-plate motorcycle clutch. The powertrain is unexpectedly compact, fitting easily within a 58-inch wheelbase. The seat is 31.5 inches high and surprisingly narrow at the front, so even short riders can reach the ground with two flat feet. With the cylinders canted forward 15 degrees and the low-mounted transmission, legroom is generous. Ergonomics are “almost identical to Yamaha’s FZ-1,” Case says, and claimed wet weight is just 550 lbs., making it easy for average-sized riders to maneuver the bike, too.

Dual counterbalancers kill vibration, built-in Givi hard luggage provides carrying capacity and a 6-gallon fuel tank should deliver state-crossing range. Motus intends to offer two versions—a base-model MST and a premium MST-R with Öhlins suspension, Brembo brakes, Marchesini wheels and carbon-fiber bodywork—plus a naked version is under consideration as well. Pricing hasn’t been finalized, but Conn hopes to keep it within reach of “motivated” enthusiasts—presumably well south of $30,000 for the base model.

Case says that the MST could make it into dealers as soon as the end of this year, and we see no reason to doubt that claim. The company has already come from wishful thinking to an innovative prototype in just three short years. With prime movers like Pratt & Miller and Katech on their side, they are well prepared for the final push to market. We can’t wait for our first ride!

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