A brief conversation with Michael Czysz

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Last week, I went over the 2012 Motoczysz E1pc with Michael Czysz himself. I met him in Boston at the launch of SolidWorks 2013, which is the latest version of the software that Motoczysz uses to design their bikes and spent a few minutes talking design and aerodynamics. Here’s that conversation.

Update: full, 40-minute audio interview added.

MotoCzysz uses SolidWorks for an astounding range of tasks, from the initial design to refining the bike in a virtual wind tunnel with computational fluid dynamics, which can simulate aerodynamic flows and calculate heat transfer from the radiator, brakes, and motor. Experimental parts needn’t be built and sent to an actual wind tunnel. The parts are also stress-tested virtually with finite element analysis (FEA). Still not amazed? SolidWorks can figure out the shapes of the molds for the parts and send them to a program that can work out in SolidWorks, mold shapes for the carbon parts can be calculated and sent to CNC machines for manufacturing. It’s a far faster process than that of decade ago.

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Nick: “So many motorcycles are styled just to look great, but the aerodynamics bits on this one are functional and that in itself makes it look good.”

Michael: “That’s the nature of styling, it’s the exercise of just… style. In this case, there was an aesthetic I put on everything, but we had very little time to do styling. We were focusing on the packaging and doing aerodynamics. The biggest thing was moving the radiator to the rear of the bike, and trying to balance the pressure at the front of the bike and the rear of the bike.”

Nick: “Balancing the air pressure?”

Michael: “Yeah. Between the front and rear of the bike. That’s in fact, how you address aerodynamics.”

Nick: “Because with equal pressure there would be no pressure drag?”

Michael: “Ideally yes. So we have significantly higher pressure in the front and significantly lower in the back, and the faster we go the more extreme that gets, and it’s much more costly to overcome that high pressure in the front. So we’re trying to reduce that high pressure and elevate the low pressure in the back.You want to do that as directly as possible, and you have to be careful because sometimes you start going down these paths to a goal, but it would be easy to add as much resistance or friction in the process of trying to balance the pressures than [the gains that they’d give the bike]. It is a good step in the right direction, but I think there is further work to do. It is not easy dealing with [the air] and also trying to put as many batteries in as possible, because batteries are relatively dense and opaque. They’re a dense, solid, opaque material. You’re trying to shove as many things that block the air into the bike as possible, while still maintaining air through the bike. So there are obviously some conflicts.”

Nick: “It’s funny to think of doing aerodynamics by trying to make the bike transparent to the air and equalizing pressures versus making it slippery. Ultimately you’re trying to equalize pressure and make the bike invisible.”

Michael: “Well, invisible or transparent is a word I used a lot while designing the bike, because the rider is dynamic. If you’re just going to Bonneville and had the rider in a fixed position, you could build elements around him that tried to equalize the pressure or streamline the bike. But in roadracing, the minute he sticks out his knee, or slides off the saddle, or drops his head, everything changes. What I didn’t want to do was present new barriers or new walls when the rider was out of position. That’s why some of the wings have different looks. When the rider is the right spot, that’s good, but when he opens his knee, we don’t present anything new. We may lose the aero benefit, but we don’t add additional aero drag.”

Nick: “And you’re shielding his knee?”

Michael: “No. For example, in the rear, when he’s all tucked in, the rear and the wings all make sense. He slides off that to go around a corner, and he slides off the seat and he’s opened his knee up, if all that would have been…”

Nick: “You lose the wing.”

Michael: “Well, you lose the wing, but what’s more important, if this were a typical streamliner, that would be all solid through the tail. This would be all solid through here. When the rider is tucked in it all makes sense, but as soon as he slides off and opens up his knee, this would be presenting new walls. So what I wanted to do is not add or present any new barriers through his normal dynamics.”

“In this case back here, the best example are his legs. Try to take off the leg, return the air to the lowest pressure, with all these shapes. When he opens up his knee, we lost some of that ability, but we haven’t presented any new surfaces. That’s why it looks like things are attached, and why it doesn’t have that integrated look that I could have given it. Then we would have introduced a lot more perpendicularity and a lot more high pressure.”

Listen to the full, 40-minute audio interview here.

Nick Goddard’s a longtime HFL contributor and friend and runs Metzeler’s bike blog.

  • rohorn

    Glad to see someone taking on the biggest problem with e-bike range and speed: Aerodynamic drag.

    And the other related problem: Rider gymnastics.

  • Coreyvwc

    This man really makes me feel stupid. Always impressive.

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

      absolutely. I worked with SolidWorks in college and can only dream of coming up with those kind of parts.

      That swingarm is insane-pockets cut out everywhere! I should go change my underwear now…

  • http://www.cdavisdesigns.com Chris Davis

    As a long time Solidworks (and before that Pro/E) user, I’d have to characterize the integration of CFD and FEA as the more impressive aspects of the program. Creating CNC tooling paths from the product geometry has been going on routinely for at least 15 years.
    As for the swing arm pocket cut outs, think of it the other way, as shelling it and adding ribs.

  • Campisi

    Experimental parts needn’t be built and sent to an actual wind tunnel.

    I cannot help but think of Virgin/Marussia Virgin Racing back in the 2010-2011 seasons and be sceptical regarding this point. Computational fluid dynamics seem to be most effective when paired with some sort of wind tunnel testing to confirm theoretical gains.

    • IAimToMisbehave

      + 1 !!! Read my follow up

  • Scott-jay

    Thank-you for Metzeler bike blog link, too.

    Someday, I’ll have a robot to design, ‘print’, and ride my own personal motorcycle. : )

  • RocketSled

    This is why home hotrodders can’t really chop up modern motorcycles to make them their own. The creation tools, analysis knowledge, and fabrication techniques are currently WAY beyond what’s available to a home wrench.

    • rohorn

      No tool is sharper than the mind that uses it.

      • RocketSled

        That is profound!

    • http://www.racetrackstyle.com Racetrack Style

      Depends on the end-bike. e.g. Gregg’s R1 street tracker.

      Production bikes also have the cost of manufacture that leaves room for some improvements with dyi components or bolt-on, purchased components. A skilled welder can get close to an NCR type of a build if he/she spends some cash on titanium tubes and then purchases other components from the stellar after market industry.

  • IAimToMisbehave

    As any ‘ successful ‘ F1 team : as well as any other motorsports teams : along with every high performance auto – bicycle and M/C manufacture can tell you ;

    Relying solely on CFD , FEA ( as well as any other acronym Mr Czysz can come up with in his vain pretentious attempts to wow/blind you with his non existent knowledge )

    Is A Fools Paradise !

    e.g. What works on a computer Does Not work in the real World . It can give you a very basic starting point from which to proceed … but to assume for a minute any viable conclusions can be drawn solely from computer design is truly the path of a fool blinded by his/her own incompetence .

    Conclusion ? First and foremost , don’t let all the $10,000 words , terms and acronyms Mr Czysz bandies about fool/blind/impress you

    Second ? I’m more convinced than ever by this pant load of pretentious BS by Mr Czysz that much like his automotive counterparts : Elon Musk and Henrik Fisker : Mr Czysz is in fact a 21st Century Snake Oil Salesman … along with being the M/C version of John Z DeLorean

    • Glenngineer

      Anyone who thinks CFD and FEA are 10,000 words is probably not the foremost authority on mechanical product development. FEA is ubiquitous in undergrad institutions, and is built into even the most basic version of SW and many other CAD programs. CFD isn’t far behind, but is definately a level or two trickier than FEA.

      Very, very few organizations rely soley on computer modeling. Analysis lets you dramatically cut down on your prototyping and testing; that’s the real value.

      The only snake oil in the video is SW claiming that analysis took seconds. When I was an engineering consultant I was sitting on a workstation with 16 cores and 24 gigs of RAM and that analysis, with any granularity, would take half a day. They’re running so that it’s reading existing output files, the processing time we see is just rendering the information generated ahead of time.

    • richard gozinya

      Czysz is gonna give us the motorcycle equivalent of the GTO, Firebird and Grand Prix? Cool. Those cars, as well as the DMC-12, are iconic, Czysz should be so lucky.

      Tossing Elon Musk in there though, not sure I see why. Just because his company hasn’t become instantly profitable? If that’s the case, you clearly don’t understand the challenge of starting a business, especially one that involves actually making something.

      You seem upset that anybody’s trying to do anything to move technology forward, would you be happier if we went back to drum brakes, kick starters and carburetors? Maybe ditch swingarms, and go back to hardtail frames?

    • http://www.faster-faster.com fasterfaster

      I suppose the fact that it’s snake oil makes his wins at Isle of Man that much more impressive. Who knew snake oil was so damn fast?

    • zero

      Engineer here. The FEA used used in most of these programs are VERY stout and accurate tools for predicting the strength of a design. Frankly, the only reason for inaccuracies typically experienced with FEA revolve around the person doing the analysis not fully understanding the loads a piece is subjected to in the real world. The fault is rarely with the software.

      CFD is a little trickier. The thing is, in a clean uniform air stream and within certain speeds, the models can be extremely accurate. The problem is that these predictions tend to break down when you introduce turbulence, acceleration, dynamic yaw, interaction with the ground and other issues.

      CFD is great for planes and intake manifolds and the like, but it can be VERY hard to do a robust analysis of a car or bike, because they are much more aerodynamically complex. It can certainly get you started, but rarely paints a complete picture, as the low budget F1 teams have discovered.

  • http://www.racetrackstyle.com Racetrack Style

    Were any questions asked about the front and rear suspension?

    • nick2ny

      Howdy–I spoke with him briefly about the front suspension. the forks themselves have no seals, but they are telescopic. The force is transmitted through a linkage to the shock under the “gas tank.” The rear suspension transmits the force to another shock under the tank.

  • http://lightsoutknivesout.tumblr.com/ Scott Pargett

    Do the galleries ever work for anyone else?