Streamlining returns to motorcycle racing

Dailies -


Streamlined_Motorcycle.jpgIf there’s one positive thing about the FIM stealing TTXGP’s electric racing platform, it’s the return of streamlining and feet-forward riding positions to racing rule books. That’s right, Craig Vetter’s finally gotten what he’s been asking for for decades: aerodynamic motorcycles. What’s that you say? Your R1 already has a fairing? Think again, we’re talking about all-encompassing, functional aerodynamics and not just a place to stick logos.

Fully streamlined motorcycles were initially banned in 1957 after
manufactures expressed a concern that motorcycles covered in dust bins
didn’t look like production bikes. A clear marketable connection was
needed between the bikes that were racing and the ones in showroom in
order to justify the costs incurred by manufacturers.

The lack of functional aerodynamics are one of the main reasons MotoGP
bikes are still slower than Formula One cars, despite superior
power-to-weight ratios and the absence of drag-inducing downforce. The
fastest 800cc bikes are now reaching speeds in excess of 207mph, yet F1
cars are hitting 221+ on the same circuits.

Despite the concerns of conventional wisdom, it’s inarguable that
racing motorcycle would be faster with streamlined fairings.
Traditional concerns expressed against such fairings include stability
in crosswinds and while cornering, but these have been proven unfounded
both in theory and in practice, witness the high speeds possible on
machines like the Peraves Monotracer and EcoMobile. Just like in car
design, the effects of variable wind conditions can be included in the
design of fully streamlined fairings.

The full streamlining clause in the FIM e-Power rules reads:

Solo motorcycles and ‘vehicles with ‘feet-forward’ configurations
within the criteria listed below are permitted in order to improve
energy efficiency, according to the following provisions:

Air foils or spoilers may only be fitted on solo machines when they are
an integral part of the fairing or seat. They must not exceed the width
of the fairing nor be positioned above the height of the handlebar.
Sharp edges must be rounded off. No movable aerodynamic devices are

Any part of the streamlining which faces rearwards must be finished with rounded edges.

The rider must be completely visible from either side except for the
rider’s hands and forearms which may be obscured by bodywork, the
inclination of the number plate must not render the front number plate
invisible when viewed from the front.

Vehicle’s minimum ground clearance when loaded: 100mm.

The minimum angle of inclination: 45°

Any part of the bodywork may not exceed 1000mm in width at any point.

Streamlining may not protrude further than 100mm in front of the front
wheel. Streamlining may not protrude further than 400mm beyond the rear

The streamlining in front of the rider shall not be higher than the
rider’s shoulders when seated in the ‘race’ position. Any part of the
streamlining behind the riders’ helmet shall not exceed the top of the
rider’s helmet when seated in the ‘race’ position.

For events on public roads, when required by law: mirrors must be
shatterproof and fold back when the vehicle is on one side. The mirrors
must retain their normal configuration when vehicle is upright.

Any design should take into account the characteristics of the course, corners and gradients.

The TTXGP eGrandPrix rules are very similar, differing in the following areas:

TTXGP: Bodywork may not protrude further forward than 50mm in front of the front wheel
FIM: Streamlining may not protrude further than 100mm in front of the front wheel.

TTXGP: No part of the bodywork may come in contact with the ground when driven at normal racing speeds.
TTXGP: It must be possible for the unloaded machine to be inclined to an angle of 30 degrees from the vertical without any part, other than the tyre, coming into contact with the ground.
FIM: The minimum angle of inclination: 45°
Streamlining represents a clear benefit to electric motorcycle racing.
Unlike MotoGP or SBK racers, which can make up for their lack of
aerodynamic efficiency with excessive power, electrics are still
exceptionally short on power and on the ability to store enough power
to complete long distances at high speed. By exponentially reducing the
effects of aerodynamic drag, streamlined bikes will have a clear
advantage in making the most of the limited power and capacity

With the re-introduction of streamlining to motorcycle racing, we’re
adding a technology from which we could see real benefits on road
bikes. Vetter’s already seen 470mpg from 125cc bikes at highway speeds,
compound that with the exceptional efficiency of electric motorcycles
and we could see even better economy figures while massively increasing
the useful range of existing electric platforms.

Craig Vetter

  • HW Pfabe

    Can someone explain to me why they are trying to control this so stringently? Why would they care if bodywork exceeds 1000mm? If everyone can do it, then why not allow it and see what people come up with? It’s still an even playing field.
    “No movable aerodynamic devices are permitted.”
    Couldn’t this lead to some interesting innovations?

  • phil

    On the other hand, do speeds really NEED to increase? I as understand it, one of the reasons the old ‘dustbin’ fairings were outlawed was their instability in cross-winds.

    I agree wide-open rules might lead to innovations, but that raises the entire issue of whether racing exists to ‘reflect’ the sport or ‘lead’ motorcycling in general. LSR racing has numerous classes for ‘even’ competition but it seems unlikely that professional motorcycle racing could economically support all those classes. Rules have become a way to heighten entertainment value (to increase paid attendance) in racing more than to stimulate innovation.

    • Wes Siler

      Instability was used as an excuse, riders who didn’t have competitive streamlined machines made those claims, riders who were winning with fairings sounded pretty happy with them.

  • deckard

    Dustbin fairings were banned in the 50s. If there is any basis to the ‘crosswind instability’ claims, let’s all remember that they didn’t even have hand calculators back then, much less anything that could do aerodynamic modeling.

    Having this rule in place for 50 years is an absolute joke, and makes the FIM and Dorna look like a bunch of Luddites.

    • Shrike

      Crosswind stability is a real facto even with the current subdued fairings. Just take a look at the ducati farings when they are at Philip Island and check out the matrix of holes drilled to soften the effect.

      • Sean Smith

        Actually, those holes are there more to keep the rider cool. The duc runs a really hot pressurized cooling system, and try’s real hard to cook whoever is riding it.

    • vic

      they managed to put stuff in space in the 1950′s.. develop jet powered aircraft..and all kinds of aero/hidrodynamic thingies…all without hand calculators

      but on the subject,i think the straightline speeds reached in moto gp at the moment are more than enough,if they wanted more speed they would have stuck to the 990cc engines

      • carlos

        yes…wasn’t the drop to the 800cc class in response to a series of accidents including the ill-fated crash at Suzuka, Japan where Daijiro Kato died?

  • the_doctor

    I remember in Faster, John Hopkins tested some funky streamline-ish Yamaha, and he was slower. Granted, it was not a full-on streamline bike, but I have my reservations about it.

    I agree with phil, on the first point. Does motorcycle racing (MotoGP) need to get faster? I don’t dismiss innovation, but I like to see something familiar on the track, and not a sperm-like object blasting around at 250mph.

    • Thomas Lewis

      In every type of racing, sometimes the speed becomes a problem,whether its the vehicles fault or the design of the track,the driver’s complain and changes are made.Aerodynamics would allow the same speeds with a lot less horsepower and fuel, and for making the crashes a lot safer.I have hit the pavement at 70 plus,I’d rather have the motorcycle around me and not my skin scraping the pavement.In the end,it would be faster ,safer,more economical and could make it more affordable for everybody.Even the factories complain about the incredible cost it takes to be competitive nowadays .

  • pdub

    Electric bikes? Streamlining? Can you say Tron lightcycle racing? Then streetbikes? You know you want it. Make mine in yellow.

  • deckard

    No one said crosswind stability is not a problem. But banning certain types of fairings will most certainly never produce a solution.

  • HW Pfabe

    Let the teams decide for themselves. If crosswinds are an issue, don’t ban fairings. Let teams come up with their own solutions.

  • DoctorNine

    Minor point. Hand calculators aren’t really all that helpful in aerodynamic modeling. The basics can be worked fairly easily with slide rules. I remember the one my dad gave me when I got into college. A good slide rule is fine for rough drag interpolation and such. You don’t really need microprocessors unless you are doing fairly advanced flow analysis.

  • Isaac

    I hope that bike is not going to e adopted. It looks hiteous! Maybe something along the lines of the 1955 Guzzi GP500 V-8, modernized of course. If that is what they want with that full frontal Boeing 747 cowl.

  • Julian Bond

    It’s criminal that real streamlining has been banned from racing for 50 years. Just as it is that recumbent bicycles are banned from mainstream bicycle racing. I’m not saying that MotoGP should be unlimited in this way, but there really should be some branch of racing where these kinds of rules are left out and we can see some real innovation in comfort and performance. Perhaps then we might be rushing around in comfort inside high speed pod racers rather than contorting ourselves and exposed to the wind and rain on current sports bikes.

    Electric racing is a struggle of converting limited stored energy into limited power. It’s a prime candidate for reducing aerodynamic losses. I really hope that somebody, anybody builds a bike with some serious work on aeros, rather than simply converting a conventional racing design to electric.

    What’s a bit sad is that fully enclosed has been outlawed. The Electric Monotracer is already producing performance and Brno lap times that would make it competitive. I was really hoping for an electric version of the NSU Hammock from the 50s but apparently that’s not going to happen.

    BTW. Love that photo. It gives a hint of what might have been. To see a lot more Recumbent Motorcycles (or FFs), take a look at which I host.

    • carboncanyon

      I think “fully enclosed” is super-convenient when you don’t want to bother with a traditional casket. ;)

      If it’s fully enclosed, I want crumple zones. It needs airbags on the outside so it doesn’t kill other racers on real motorcycles. And for chrissake, at $70k make it at least not fugly.

      I dunno where you live, but where I live I like being able to enjoy the weather. And you can rush around “in comfort inside high speed pod racers” right now: they’re called cars.

      • Thomas

        BMW built a concept vehicle the Clever,while it was a 3 wheeled tilter,it did prove that you could build a safe two wheeled enclosed motorcycle. ,Using a simple and cost effective truss frame[Peraves Monotracer uses a monocoque Carbon ,Kevlar design] combined with hub center steering,airbags and sufficient deformation room[13 inches of movement ?].it proved to be very safe.The paper is available to read on the internet and is a must read for those that insist,a streamlined motorcycle’s are dangerous.Even the subject of crosswinds,most insist that streamlined motorcycles are dangerous when they encounter side winds.Yes it does happen,blow over’s,crashes ,but careful design and settings to the alignment all but eliminate most of the adverse effects.Alert Jacobs built a 221 mpg Honda 125 cc Innova of his own design,he claims that even in 40 mph crosswinds,the motorcycle handles just fine.Even Monotracer owners,I’ve yet to read about anyone complaining about crosswinds and or crashing one.So most of all the negativity with streamlined motorcycles is unfounded,as far as i’m concerned.I doubt the oil companies like the word streamlining,because it equates to lost revue and lots of it.Motorcycles getting double the mileage,Airflow trucking’s streamlined semi tractor trailer saves the average trucker driving 120,000 miles annually,50,000 US dollars in fuel costs annually,now picture a fleet of these trucks,how about world wide,billions and billions in lost revue.Picture motorcycles,millions of them,all getting 200 plus mile per gallon,starting to see the picture ?Streamlining is like finding a cure for cancer,aids,a whole industry would be affected,with billions and billions of lost revue.I want to say know,but I can’t.

  • Thomas

    Eventually someone will see the advantages of streamlining motorcycles and break the mold for traditional motorcycle design. Those who should know about the incredible advantages to streamlining motorcycles,seemingly don’t know or care to know.I can only imagine where F1 racing would be today without the use of aerodynamics.I for one would love to walk in a dealer in the near future and see a few streamlined motorcycles[see Alert Jacobs 221 mpg Honda 125cc] mixed in with traditional motorcycles,to be able to buy a full or partial streamliner would be incredible experience and a dream come true for me.