Vyrus 986 M2: thinking outside Honda’s box

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How do you mechanically distinguish a bike in a racing class limited by spec engines and a minimum weight limit? So far, every Moto2 bike has been a variation on a theme — conventional perimeter frames and telescopic forks that seem to mimic the CBR600RR which donates its engine — with an air-intake through the headstock forming a notable technological innovation. Tiny Italian maker Vyrus’s solution? Oh, what will be the first use of hub-center steering in World Championship racing since ELF last tried the idea in the mid ‘80s. But why stop there? These new studio photos of and details on the Vyrus 986 M2 reveal radical aerodynamic solutions that locate the radiator under the engine and a horizontal rear shock which sits sideways, nearly as radical as that front suspension. The best part? Vyrus plans to offer a road-going version later this year for just $34,000.

Update: 6 more high-res photos added to the gallery, for a total of 16.

Update 2: Vyrus has re-confirmed official pricing.

What’s hub-center steering?

Conventional telescopic forks dominate motorcycle design because they’re easy to set up, cheap to make and everyone’s used to them. But that doesn’t mean they’re an ideal solution. Because the forks compress and extend under braking and acceleration respectively, the steering geometry changes too. Steering becomes quicker, sometimes nervous even, under braking and slower and vaguer under acceleration. The compression under braking also makes the suspension less able to cope with bumps. With the wheel necessarily mounted a long way from the head stock, forks are also subject to flex. But, because telescopic forks are so pervasive, most of these issues have been reduced to mere trivialities. That still doesn’t mean it’s an ideal solution.

In addition to separating braking, acceleration and steering forces, hub-center steering can reduce unsprung weight — meaning the suspension is better able to react quickly as the components below the spring have less inertia. Overall weight can be reduced as well. Check out how tiny the Vyrus’s omega frame is. The front swingarm bolts to the frame just ahead of the engine, eliminating the need for a frame that runs all the way to the top of the bike.

So, if hub-center steering is so great, why doesn’t every bike use it? Well, the complex system of linkages has traditionally removed rider feedback in the form of steering feel and proved immensely difficult to dial in to the right settings, enabling the bike to benefit from the theoretical advantages. This is where Vyrus’s expertise comes in. Its founder, Ascanio Rodorigo worked for Bimota developing the hub-center steered Tesi series of bikes and so has more experience with the technology than anyone else in the world. Reports of the company’s exotic road-going superbikes indicate that he’s found a way around all those problems.

The steering function takes place through an hydraulic ram which actuates rods on the left side of the 986 M2’s front wheel. This ram doubles as a steering damper, further reducing parts count.

Wait, the radiator is under the engine?

Look at the way the fairing pinches together behind the front wheel. No radiator there. It’s actually under the engine in that belly pan. While the 986 M2 benefits from significant wind tunnel time aimed at reducing its frontal area, it’s likely that the real advantage here comes in cooling efficiency. Where traditional radiators — stuck on the front of engine blocks — have trouble flowing air at high rates of speed because it hits that engine just inches behind, this setup takes advantage of a bike’s natural aerodynamics to increase airflow over and through the radiator. As a radiator is essentially and water-to-air heat exchanger, this means better cooling.

The 986 M2’s radiator is laid down horizontally in a V-arrangement and air is pulled over and through it via the ducts in that racing-mandatory bellypan (it catches fluids). High pressure air enters the front and is drawn through ducts which allow the low pressure air behind it to pull the air through.

Did Moto2 bikes have a problem with cooling because of their conventional radiators? No, but why do things the same way as everyone else?

Check out the exhaust

Dual exits that look kinda like Ascanio’s glasses are mounted on either side of the rear shock. The pipes themselves are titanium, but carbon covers protect the rider’s feet and that shock from their heat. Mounting the exhaust low and far-forward like this should improve mass centralization, making the bike quicker to turn as mass is concentrated near the center of gravity and therefore requiring less effort to move. Zard is making the silencers.

I’m shocked!

Us too! Not only is the rear shock mounted horizontally, but it sits at 90-degrees to the bike’s direction of travel and the typical shock orientation. It’s actuated through the rocker arm you can see below it and there’s no spring, both damping and springing duties are handled by the magical power of air.

This arrangement dramatically reduces weight and makes a wider range of adjustments easier. Want to increase ride height? Add more air!

Mounting the shock sideways brings packaging benefits. Typically, designers have to account for both the height and length of a vertical or diagonal shock while packaging the components, so this could lead to a shorter wheelbase. The distance between Vyrus’s wheels is just 1325mm, comparing favorably to competition like the FTR Moto2 racer, which has a 1390mm wheelbase.

Anything else crazy going on?

Well, the tank and front fairing are a single, self-supporting unit made from carbon fiber. The advantages of this arrangement are, again, a lower weight and reduced parts count, but we’d worry about the cost of replacing the whole damn thing after a crash. The seat, too, looks to be a self-supporting carbon fiber unit.

The lack of a conventional steering head means’s Vyrus can easily achieve a straight path for the air intake from the point of highest pressure — front and center — to the airbox without resorting to crazy stemless steering heads like Bottpower had to do.

The frame is incredibly sexy — milled from billet aluminum — but also incredibly simple, effective serving as connecting points for the two swingarms.

Is Vyrus entering a Moto2 team themselves?

It doesn’t look like it. Instead they hope to sell the 986 M2 to teams which will then campaign the bike in the Championship. Ascanio says he expects the first units to be available in March and somehow plans to sell them for around €54,200, €90,000 less than some other bikes on the Moto2 grid. We have no idea how he’s making it so cheap.

So there’s going to be a road version that I’ll be able to buy, put in my garage and, when no one’s looking, lick?

Yes! Ascanio Rodorigo says sales of the production version will start in September and the price will be €24,925. He also plans a trackday version that will come sans engine for just €16,542.


Number of cylinders 4 in line 4 stroke
Bore: 67 mm
Stroke: 42.5 mm
Displacement: 599 cc
Rap. Compression: 12,2:1
Lubrication: Forced with pump
Cooling: Liquid Air Vacuum System VAS, CDR Racing Radiator
Power: 125 hp at 13000 rpm Maximum torque 66Nm at 11,250 rpm
Distribution: DOHC Double overhead camshaft axis
Clutch: multiple disk in oil bath
Transmission: 6 speed
Supply: electronic fuel injection EFI E4
Exhaust system: Zard Titanium silencer Vyrus

Front suspension: double rocker thrust
Rear Suspension: rocker double boost
Shock: Double Air System – Ohlins TTX46 (optional)
Chassis: Double Omega inverted structure
Steering: 18 ° to 24 ° hydraulic piston controlled by VSS Vyrus Steering System
Trail: 80 mm to 105 mm
Front brake: 310 mm double disc with T-Drive Brembo calipers 4-piston Brembo GP4RR
Postereriore brake: 210 mm single disc with twin-piston caliper Brembo opposed Racing
Front tire. 125 75 zr 17 – mt 3.75 Dunlop NTEC
Front wheel: 10 spoke Marchesini forged magnesium
Rear tire 195 75 zr 17 – j 6:00 Dunlop NTEC
Rear wheel: 10 spoke Marchesini forged magnesium

Dimensions and weights
Weight: 135 kg
Wheelbase: 1325 mm
Seat height: 830 mm
Fuel tank capacity: 16 liters
Maximum speed: NA

  • Johndo

    Just 34000$? I’ll have 2 please :) Bike just looks awesome. My only concern would be the tank. I wouldnt want to crash in the back of a car or something and be “hooked” on the tank…

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Eh, the tank just looks scary. Ever sat on a Benelli Tornado? Same shape and it doesn’t feel weird at all.

      • Kyle

        Great article Wes, I’ve been interested in learning more about this bike but I did have a chuckle at “just 34k”

      • http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=305107 stickfigure

        Doesn’t feel wierd… until a car pulls out in front of you and your crotch comes to a sudden stop from 40mph.

    • http://www.postpixel.com.au mugget

      I see alot of people mention that about the Benelli Tornado, but I was thinking about it – do you really ride with your arse 15-20cm off the seat? I can only speak for my own anatomy, but my balls etc. would fall on the bottom of the seat in that nice safe gap. So really it’s your abdomen that will be at the level of that pointy bit. If you can’t handle that I guess you gotta do more sit-ups or something.

      Regarding “wouldn’t want to crash…”
      My personal preference is just to avoid crashing altogether!

  • Thomas

    ..tank is actually no problem, the price for the conversion kit is 34’000$ – you still need a donating bike for the engine plus accessories as I understood! Tried the Vyrus with the Ducati-engine in it last year – very impressive chassis!!!

  • Glenngineer

    FYI, Vyrus uses a HCS design that steers only from the right. The red rod you see on the left is a control arm used to maintain the attitude of the steering head, such as it is in a HCS system.

    Hydraulic steering and air shocks both worry me, but this is easily my favorite race bike ever.

    • Devin

      This is the bike equivalent to the Citroen DS. Weirdo tech and an air-ride suspension.

      I am excited to see how this works out.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Ah, you’re right. Thanks. Just had a closer look at the pictures. Wrote this at like 3am…

  • http://www.damiengaudet.blogspot.com damien

    Dear god, I can’t wait to see these things in moto2!

    I see the future, and it’s bikes like this mashed up with an EV powerplant. The future is going to be awesome.

    • http://www.pedalgents.com holdingfast


  • Trev

    Hmm, why does that swing arm/exhaust system look kind of familiar…

  • aristurtle

    And you all said Moto2 would be boring!

    • http://www.ClevelandCycleWerks.com scottydigital

      This is shaping up to be the the most exciting thing in motorcycling.

  • http://www.firstgenerationmotors.blogspot.com Emmet

    sexiest exhaust ever??

    If only HCS had decades of refinement like telescopic forks did, we’d all be riding around on bikes like this. And I can’t really wrap my mind around that sticker price given all that innovation.

    • http://www.ClevelandCycleWerks.com scottydigital

      Motorcycles are affordable super cars. Not everyone can own a Ferrari, but a 2 year old world beating super bike is within the reach of many people if they desire enough to obtain it, and make the appropriate sacrifices..

      Thats why I love motorcycles, they run the full gamete.

      • http://www.brammofan.com Brammofan

        “they run the full gamete.”
        At first I was all “Doh, you mean ‘gamut’” and then I thought, “I’m a pedantic idiot.” And then I thought, “maybe he’s making a subtle reference to sex, a common theme in this and other articles about motorcycles” and then I thought, “he’s a clever one.”
        And then I thought – “I think too much.”
        And then I thought – “How many Motorcycle sites make me think too much?”
        And then I saw a squirrel and got distracted.
        This is what you have to look forward to in twenty years, Wes.

      • http://www.postpixel.com.au mugget

        Haha – I thought that was mis-spelt gamut as well.
        Now I get it.

  • http://greatjoballweek.blogspot.com/ Case

    I’m intrigued. Could be awesome. Could be a gimmicky pile of shit. I am guessing he wouldn’t have built it without at least a handshake agreement from someone that wanted to buy and race it.

    • http://www.thisblueheaven.com Mark D

      …or is the price so low because a handshake agreement fell through late in the production cycle? Fire sale on Moto2 bikes!

  • Ducky

    You know, there’s a couple of 600RR engines in our Formula SAE room…

    It took me a couple of seconds of staring at the rear suspension linkage to understand how it works. Now that I see it, it makes absolute sense- beyond the possibility of longitudinal stresses, I’m not sure why this hasn’t been used in more bikes (as modern motorcycles are all about reduction of wheelbase and teh polar moment of inertiaz). But the air shock looks huge, how much weight does it save?

    Speaking of weight, that rear swingarm looks huge!

    Also, because of the lower belly pan acting as an air scoop of sorts, were Vyrus able to reduce the size of the rad? Is it just me or is just sticking sideways in the belly pan? I’m guessing that the airflow flowing sideways over one side of the rad creates a pressure differential which suck air through the rad (because otherwise I don’t see how it will work)?

    I’m also curious how they made the front hub assembly, because it looks pretty complex

    • Philip

      “But the air shock looks huge, how much weight does it save?”

      Go check out them Fox air shocks on mountain bikes and compare the weight with a regular coil-over shock. The difference is huge.

      “I’m also curious how they made the front hub assembly, because it looks pretty complex”

      It’s actually quite simple. There’s a king pin inside the front wheel which it rotates around and the right steering rod…er… steers it. The other 2 ties rods are stationary and together with the swingarm holds the assembly in place. Tony Foale explains it way better than I do: http://www.tonyfoale.com/Articles/Steer/STEER.htm

  • seanslides

    Looks like this is exactly the bike I need to keep me from ever growing a beer gut. I’ll bet it’s nice to hook your knee in the side too.

  • http://www.postpixel.com.au mugget

    Wow. Whoa. Cowabunga, dudes.
    This has got to be something like the beginning of the golden age of sports motorcycles. First of all we have the S1000RR bringing massive power and useful electronic aids to a factory bike, next the ZX-10R looks set to throw Kawasaki back in the spotlight with it’s excellent rider aids and great front-end feel. Then we have all other sort of “hybrid” type bikes like the Vyrus, available to the public. Just wow. Also we have Norton wanting to get back into racing… I can only hope for a production version of the NRV588. And what else is in the works? No doubt Ducati will bring out something very awesome as the L-twin has reached the end of it’s development cycle, the rest of the Jap manufacturers will play catch up (and maybe leapfrog) with everyone… game on!!

    Also the Vyrus swingarm looks massive? Well there is a minimum weight to meet.

    From the article text it sounded like they want the air flow to go over the surface of the radiator, not through it. Either way there will be alot more circulation. It’s gotta be better than sitting right in front of the exhaust headers.

  • Glenngineer

    I give up – the render in image 6 of the gallery – WTF is it?

    • http://rohorn.blogspot.com rohorn

      If you’re referring to what is now image 4/16, I’m guessing that is the handlebar spindle and hydraulic steering control unit (?). The hydraulic unit looks like it has 2 mirror image cams operating 2 pistons – that would operate the tandem steering actuator. I think.

      Otherwise, I’m wondering the same thing.

      • Glenngineer

        Yeah it moved…and you’re right, it’s the pump half of the hydraulics. I should have known, I spent half the day in meetings discussing hydraulic system design.

  • DoctorNine

    So much going on here…
    I’m in love with the exhaust.
    Seat/tank looks like it was made for dragons.
    I’ll bet she growls when she’s in heat.

  • Isaac

    22K+ with no engine, I’m pretty sure you can find a CBR600RR motor out there under a grand that was mounted on a bike some ‘squid’ wrecked. I was really exited about owning this peice of rolling art until my wife said no =o(.

  • jason

    I want one. Period.

  • TreMoto_Eddie

    “stemless steering heads like Bottpower” Anyone have a photo link or a diagram?

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      On my phone, but if you follow the link in the article you’ll find plenty of pics and info.