Michael Czysz on streamlining and electric racing

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Dustbin_Fairing.jpgIn 1957 dustbin fairings were banned from road racing, now some people think it’s a good idea to bring them back- They are seriously mistaken.

Editor’s note: Michael Czysz is the man behind MotoCzysz, one of the chief innovators in electric motorcycle racing. The dustbin fairings have been made a part of the TTXGP racing rules which were stolen by the FIM for e-Power and, as such, will be used in TT Zero. They include the limited use of dustbin fairings, the first time the devices have been on racing rulebooks since 1957.

Update: Michael’s written more about streamlining, check it out here.
There are many debates about why the dustbin (AKA “garbage can”) fairing
was ruled illegal in ’57. The reasons range from aesthetics to politics
but one of the undisputed reasons is that several crashes were
attributed to the dustbins and their negative effect on handling- and
that was on a 1957 motorcycle! What made the dustbin fairing dangerous
for 50′s era racing motorcycles makes it suicidal for 2010 era racing


From my office desk I can see my Grandfathers (Circa early 1960′s)
125cc Grand Prix motorcycle, this race machine was state of the art for
the era. Though 125′s have the slowest top speed they often achieve the
highest apex speed. 125′s are designed with very aggressive geometry to
be the quickest steering and best handling bikes on the grid. Want to
understand the ultimate handling abilities of motorcycles from a by-gone
era? Look to 125′s.
My Grandfather’s 125 looks old, old tires, old steering angle, old Cg,
old suspension everything looks old- because it is. The steering rake is
26.5 degrees the trail is more than 100mm, the tires have virtually no
profile and the Cg looks lower than any modern motorcycle I have ever
seen and this was one of the best handling motorcycles of the era. This
“razor sharp” 1960′s Grand Prix motorcycle would be considered a slow
steering street bike by today standards- it is all relevant to speed.


As motorcycles become faster, so must steering. The faster you ride a
motorcycle the less time you have to do… well… everything. Speed
compresses time. For a given bike to go thru a series of corners faster
it must brake harder, steer quicker, transition faster and do so ideally
with the same amount of rider input as before. Since the beginning of
motorcycling every part of the motorcycle has evolved to allow the
motorcycle to turn faster with less effort. Since the 1957 ban, rake has
steepened, trail decreased, Cg raised, wheelbase shortened and tires
profiles optimized. Modern motorcycles turn significantly quicker with
less input than they did “back in the day”.


Racers push the limit, that’s what racers do and the “race line”
is no exception. Racers enter a typical corner inches from the outside
edge of the track, ride an arch to the apex then again to the outside
edge of the track on exit. They do not just steer this arch changing
trajectory at will like you do in your family car, this is the
consequence of carrying the maximum speed possible thru a corner. This
optimum line is duplicated by nearly every racer, ever corner, every
race, it is the limit and there are only millimeters of cushion between
being on line and running off the track.

1994_Fireblade.jpgWhen the best racers in the world arrive at a track with winds in the
15-25+mph range a modified fairing can be fitted to their bike. This
fairing has less surface area, often achieved by drilling a series of
holes in it. The holes reduce the overall area and help balance the
Delta P (pressure drop) across the fairing caused by a side wind. This
pressure differential creates a very noticeable force on the motorcycle
sucking the fairing into the low pressure area opposite the direction of

Remember motorcycles turn by leaning and modern motorcycles turn/lean
very easily. Take a modern motorcycle and add a large side area or
fairing to it and it will be subjected to forces beyond the rider’s
control. Stretch that fairing fore and aft the wheels and you have now
increased the leverage of that force and effect. Add additional height
and now the fairing is subject to even higher wind speeds that have an
even greater lever to lean and pull the motorcycle. More freighting, the
rider can only overcome the unwanted change in direction by turning the
motorcycle towards its new trajectory as to counter the lean initiated
by the wind. This is a very counter intuitive maneuver that takes
additional time and real estate most racers do not have.

Cigars and Toothpicks

Even straight line instability can be the
experienced (no need for side winds) if the motorcycles center of
pressure is too far forward ahead of the Cg which is typical to dustbin
style fairings (with no tail). There is a great simple explanation of
this in the “Worlds Fastest Indian” (highly recommended). The
instability caused by this miscalculation is even an issue at Bonneville
where riders only go straight, have miles of course and can’t even find
anything to hit. If Bonneville was 24′ wide and lined with stone walls
streamlining would be banned- and so it should be at the IOM.

Electric racing is still racing

There is a place for streamlining. Our
joint venture with Bajaj has identified aerodynamics as a project
priority and one of the best methods to achieving greater efficiency and
range in our project. The original C1 spent time in CFD and actual wind
tunnel testing, by no means am I opposed to improved aerodynamics. As
efficiency is such a component to electric racing it is easy to see why
someone may think this is a good idea but I am certain this same person
has no modern day racing experience.

Personally I have ridden at pace at, Willow Springs, Las Vegas and
Miller Motorsports; tracks that get periodic winds. I have been blown of
track several times, sometimes from a tailwind at the end of the
straight, other times at corner exit. I can personally attest that in
every case the bike would have been more out of control if it had a
larger fairing- suicidal with a dustbin.
I hope the other manufactures and team owners will stand with me and
personally elect not to race the IOM with the antiquated dustbin
fairings. As our rider Mark Miller recently said: It’s war out there,
this is not some college HPV project.”

– MC


  • spectator

    Is it b/c “dustbins” are un-adaptable to the task at hand or b/c you don’t want to use more R&D money figuring out how to make them work?

    Unconvincing argument – 1950′s style dustbins probably were terrible for race bikes – these guys didn’t have Inventor or Solidworks or probably even wind-tunnel time. 2010+ full fairings needn’t be so limited/limiting.

    I thought that the idea is to use a dustbin-like fairing which has been refined to be useful in racing. Put some spoilers on it, put rapidly changing flaps/canards etc. on it. Control them with servo-motors and the laptop guts that are already in all these bikes. Make a recumbent motorcycle… Why be limited by the conventions of the past? Also, wouldn’t giant flat sides give you better ad placement?

    • Sean Smith

      It’s surface area. Plain and simple. If you have X surface area, you will get raped (with no lube) by the wind.

      Oh, and moveable aerodynamic aids aren’t allowed. At least the last time I looked through the rules they weren’t…

  • Swagger

    I haven’t read anything here that makes me think there’s any real information and certainly no experience behind this odd diatribe.
    It seems like a no-brainer to me……bikes are much advanced since Dustbins were commonplace (relatively) and I can only imagine that any ‘dustbin’ style fairing would also be of a much more advanced design. If you toss a giant 1954 fairing on your bike…well….yeah you get what you get. However as noted above, it wouldn’t take much to make it work. Think of all the slam sided bikes that have been on the road, hell any sportbike presents a fairly large surface area perpendicular to axis of motion. Take a look at a Hayabusa…..tons of landscape careening down the highway and there’s a fairly substantial beak on that bird.

    I think a dustbin redesigned accordingly with the far superior knowledge of aerodynamics we have now would be an interesting option for squeaking out more speed on less power.

  • http://www.emotorules.com Harry Mallin

    @spectator: Although the TTXGP Technical Rules currently allow for streamlining along the lines of the “dustbin” type, they do not allow for “apidly changing flaps/canards etc. on it. Control them with servo-motors and the laptop guts that are already in all these bikes.” However, if you think they should allow for that sort of innovation, I’d like to invite you to contribute to TTXGP’s Technical Rules Wiki, which will shape the rules for next year’s races. Anyone can contribute, edit, change, etc.: wiki.egrandprix.com

  • http://cohobot.blogspot.com/ coho

    While I have great respect for Michael Czysz and I’m certain he knows a thing or two about motorcycle dynamics, this sounds an awful lot like “it can’t be done perfectly right now so it’s not worth doing ever.”

    Having ridden the entire length of Nevada north to south in a straight line leaning 20-odd degrees into a side wind I get what he’s saying (especially with the blunt tail on the bike in the photo), but there’s no reason except for nostalgia (and the deeply ingrained conservatism of American motorcycle buyers) that the “bike of tomorrow” has to look anything at all like the bike of yesterday.

    The rules say no flaps or canards or other such things now, that doesn’t mean that they won’t be required safety and control features at some point in the future, it’s not like racing rules are graven in stone or something. Czysz found that out when his 1000cc C1 was suddenly too big for the big leagues. Soon that will change again.
    Somebody with the skills, resources and balls (not that Czysz lacks any of those) to build first a 3D simulation and then a real working machine can still appear and show the rest of us how it’s done.

    Things are only impossible until they are not.

  • steve781

    Let the racing decide which approach is better. If bikes with full enclosure fairings have unpredictable handling then that will make them less likely to win races, and the teams that use them will lose. If the teams that use them find the speed or energy conservation advantage outweights any unsolvable handling disadvantages then the technology deserves to win. Any single race is not a good test, but a multi-race series will tell us which is the better path. Isn’t that the reason for a relatively open spec race series?

  • Scheffy

    While I agree with the comments above that dustbins could probably be made to work with modern technology and testing methods, it may end up being another thing that eventually gets taken out in the interest of cost-cutting. If people are already trying to develop a new technology, throwing uber-expensive aero simulation/prototyping/testing may cripple anybody but the biggest companies.
    Here’s hoping it gets left in though. With such a big emphasis on efficiency in everything automotive these days, it’s a shame these things were never allowed to fully develop previously because of the ban.

  • http://www.tanshanomi.com Tanshanomi

    Just for reference, here is a link to Craig Vetter’s opposite viewpoint:


  • spectator

    I get what the main obstacles are when applied to a jockey-position motorcycle. And I didn’t consult the rule-book before suggesting the active-aero pieces.

    Bicycle racing is another example where more efficient designs (recumbents, beam frames etc.) have been outlawed despite their advantages.

    I know that the primary problem facing everyone in e-racing is the battery tech. Kudos to those who have gotten bikes rolling and racing. I’m pumped that everyone is trying hard to innovate in that department, but hey, I’m greedy. I WANT MOAR INNOVATION! GIVE ME TRON CYCLES!!

  • Emmet

    The notion of implementing dustbin fairings for today’s race motorcycles is a farfetched idea. I believe it to actually be a reconsideration for streamlined bodywork. Some of you mention surface area but this isn’t a direct correlation to better aerodynamic performance. For example, a wire has minimal surface area but terrible drag. Early airplane designs had wire supported wings (given the lack of aerodynamic knowledge, this was feasible). But it gave way to contoured struts that resulted with less disrupted flow. For an object to move fast through a fluid, it must make a minimal presence, yes, so surface area holds some value here. But fluid dynamics is more complicated than that. How flow is manipulated around a body is key to improving aerodynamic characteristics.

    I don’t know if this idea is correct, but wouldn’t a greater surface force translate to greater downforce on tires, promoting traction? regarding straight line stability, drag racers make 200+ mph passes down a narrow, wall lined road. World speed runners go at such great speeds that the motorcycle hits massive wind force and countersteering disappears. Streamline acts to make it easier to push forward to higher speeds but instability exists regardless.

    It would be interesting to revisit the application of dustbin fairings, but with all we know about aerodynamics today, I doubt anything useful will be learned.

  • deckard

    Uh, that is 1957.

    An analogy. In 1957, flying wings were unstable as hell; in 1980, they were being used successfully for the B1 bomber.

    If you don’t think something can be done, fine. But don’t stand in the way of others willing to innovate.

    • Sean Smith

      That’s B2 there. The B1 looked a lot more like a condor mixed with a jet fighter. It’s not a pretty plane.

      And the flying wing is still unstable today; now we just use a gigantic pile of computers to quietly make rapid adjustments of the ailerons to keep things pointed in the right direction.

  • Bob

    Does the rule say you have to run “dust bin” type fairings? Would they not let you run a “naked” bike if you chose to? Don’t we need more rules that allow for innovation? Do we want rules to make all the bikes “cookie cutter” creations? At the end of the day the best configured bike for the conditions with the best rider and some luck thrown in should win. I think that more restrictive rules lead to more “rule stretching”, cheating and protests and does nothing to promote more science.

    Bob in FL

    • http://www.emotorules.com Harry Mallin

      The TTXGP rules allow the use of streamlining but do not mandate it. If you wanted to run a “naked” bike, you could, as long as it met the other technical rules (emergency shut off, number placement, etc.)

      Feet-forward design is also permitted. These are all divisive issues, apparently, but it’s a new sport (or at least a new version of an old sport) and time will tell which design works in various situations.

  • W

    Czysz is one of the very few of the EV MC designers who is credible at speed and rides his own protos….

    History says Dustbins are likely to be dangerous to the rider and those around him. Czysz is right, current design will only exacerbate the issues they pose.

    Dustbins are a crutch to cover a lack of EV powertrain development.

    Craig Vetter, really? If you still are listening after looking at his past body of work……

  • Shaswata Panja

    First thing first I congratulate you from the bottom of my heart ,for tackling this subject if effect of such fairings on aerodynamics. I wanted a thorugh read on this subject but even Tony Foale has not written anything on it..Secondly best of luck with your e-project but please donot abandon your staircase like inline petrol motor

  • http://www.moonlakevintage.com james

    Lets get the facts out: electric bike need full body work to maximize there power output. Great Aerodynamic equals free power or longer battery life because the motor isn’t working as hard . Plus a covering body work can lead to use of unconventional frame layouts instead of fork tubes and steering head. Looking at the electric bike race results, finishing would be an accomplishment so don’t limit the development of racing by making a bike less slippery. That being said, a discussion about EV racing means nothing as far as electric development. Until a MAJOR company finds the silver bullet in battery technology this is a stand still realm. You know steam is every powerful source of power lets have a race with steam powered bike but NO DUSTBINS. ….

  • erik

    I think its pretty simple, he wants to sell these bikes, and in his opinion, your not going to do that by looking like an egg (even a 2010 egg).

    No matter where you stand on the functionality of this type of fairing, it makes too different vrs its counterpart. The electric part already creates its own hurdles for true public acceptance (like you’d buy one). He wants you to see it as a bike not a science experiment, I think this is a bigger reason behind this move.

  • deckard

    I was wondering how long it would take someone to correct the B1/B2 typo….

    Flying wings are stable today because computers make rapid adjustments to air surfaces. That is exactly the point. What didn’t work in 1957, works now.

    Opposition to motorcycle aerodynamics based on experiences from over 50 years ago is borderline Luddism.

  • deckard

    To follow up, the rule prohibiting “rapidly changing flaps/canards” is shortsighted as well. How about a true prototype series where engineers can innovate without arbitrary restrictions..

    • http://www.emotorules.com Harry Mallin

      Deckard – if you feel strongly about allowing “rapidly changing flaps/canards” then you can change that rule. Just go to wiki.egrandprix.com to the “Streamlining” rule and edit it. You’ll have to register first. The power is yours (w/attribution to Captain Planet).

  • Zach

    When I read this I assumed that you had gotten Michael Czysz to write this for you, not that you had copied it from his blog. It’s a little deceptively presented. I didn’t even realize that it was copied until I saw a link to the blog on another site. Why didn’t you provide a summary and a link like you usually do for your sources?

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com/2009/05/motoczysz-e1pc-spied-testing-a.html Wes Siler

      Because we had permission.

  • http://bub.com Denis Manning

    Carbon Monoxide was the big problem with dustbins.

  • http://rohorn.blogspot.com ROHORN

    Mr. Czysz could have written a lot less FUD and said the same thing by saying: I know nothing about aerodynamics and am afraid that those who do will beat me.

    Want safety? Don’t race. That strategy has worked rather well for Czysz so far. I just lost a whole lot of respect for Mr. Czysz.

    On the other hand, maybe Czysz can get the e-Power and TT Zeros to revert back to the old streamlining rules and let the TTXGP remain as the sole racing organization that permits real innovation. That would also allow the FIM & IoM to keep e-Racing a dull sideshow and let it fade away. Maybe that’s what they want anyway.

  • Tom

    Why can there not be a Lamborghini of motorcycles? To hell with the rules! Ferrari makes race cars that are very advanced and then they translate that technology to their road cars. I find it hard to believe that if a motorcycle company makes a revolutionary design that is faster than a Hayabusa and can out corner a GSXR1000 that no one would buy it because this bike would look different. So long as the price is reasonable, people are crying out for innovation.

    Oh, and to the person saying that the B-1B Lancer is an ugly plane, LensCrafters is running a sale right now. You need to look into it. The B-1B is the sexist bomber and on of the sexiest jets of all time. It can and has neutralized targets with its engine alone.

  • Darth Lefty

    Even with a well-designed full fairing the weathercocking and stability would be huge issues. Just read up Vetter’s page on his “last fairing” project. I’d like to see someone try a fairing that gimballed into the wind or had active aerodynamic stability control. However I wouldn’t like to see it in racing. Such rules can’t help but provide loopholes for some modern equivalent of the sucker cars.

  • Foreigner1

    Michael Scysz is Old School after the fairings. He’s only afraid that he has to redesign his new bike all over again at great costs if full fairings are allowed again. The knowhow on aerodynamics has grown hugely, as has bike geometrics. So any full-faired modern bike will stand to the 1950′s bikes as the F22 fighter-jet would stand to any 1950′s jetfighter- no comparison whatsoever if you race each, totally different league.