Unit Skycraft Concept Drops FMX Weight To Just 165 lbs — AIMExpo 2013

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The trickest bike at AIMExpo? Not the 2014 EBR 1190RX or 2014 Suzuki V-Strom 1000, it’s this all-carbon freestyle motocross bike from fashion brand Unit. Weighing in at just 165 lbs, the Unit Skycraft concept aims to utterly reinvent the sport.

Until now, FMX athletes have been saddled with bikes designed to win supercross races, not perform backflips, supermans and all the other in-air tricks the sport is famous for. Up there, in the sky, you don’t need crazy power or fancy clutches or big fuel tanks, you need a light, maneuverable, manageable bike. It’s those traits the Skycraft seeks to maximize.

Unit Skycraft gas tank and front suspension.

“We felt that weight reduction represented the best characteristic to provide riders in their quest for bigger tricks as well as helping them innovate new maneuvers,” said Unit co-founder Ian Everest at AIMExpo.

In pursuit of weight reduction, nearly the entire bike has been fabricated from carbon fiber. And, if it’s not carbon, it’s titanium. A reduced parts count also helps. The fuel — around 1/3 the capacity of a regular motocross bike and only enough for 20 minutes of operation — is stored in the monocoque frame. The all-carbon swingarm doubles as the exhaust silencer. The seat/tail is an incredibly dainty, one-piece carbon affair which integrates the grab handles necessary for FMX stunts.

Unit Skycraft rear swingarm.

Unit is an Australian brand which uses surf, FMX and similar action sports athletes to promote its t-shirts and skinny jeans. Its success in that world is what enabled Everest to concept Skycraft, who then commissioned FMX specialist Triple Eight to produce the bike. Right now, it’s a one-off concept, but Unit plans to build several of the KTM two-stroke-powered bikes and campaign them internationally.

Rather than pursue commercialization of Skycraft, Everest simply hopes that it will elevate FMX to new levels. The hope is that the drastically light bike will facilitate the innovation of new tricks or maybe even an entirely new style of riding. Everest was frank — he hopes a major manufacturer may one day emulate his work on a production machine, he simply wants to lead the way.

FMX Highlights Video

  • Brian

    DROOOL!!…that is just sexy fun. Put some Supermoto wheels/tires on and take it to the go-kart track too for some more fun.

    • Brian

      although, from a curiousity of engineering “how they did it” P.O.V. , I want to know how they connect that exhaust to the motor with it being a pivoting assembly and all.

      • Mark D
        • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

          Yup. Just in Ti.

      • Corey Cook

        Its funny and not surprising at all that Erik Buell actually filed a patent for this years ago. I would have to guess that it’s part of HD’s “intellectual property” now though…

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

      Supermoto seems to be a good spot for this bike (w. a bigger tank)

  • John

    I was just thinking in this the other day. Carbon fiber has become much less expensive and much faster to create, now getting close to the cost of fabricating aluminum, I believe, so it could be a huge deal for motorcycle weight reduction, product wide. Why even have a subframe, if you can make the whole rear cowling into the subframe?

    • Justin McClintock

      No, creating structural carbon fiber parts is still many times more expensive than doing the same from aluminum.

  • Matt C

    Likely to be the next big innovation for motorcycles, awesome!

  • Justin McClintock

    While I admire their effort, I have some doubts. For one, FMX riders crash….a LOT. Carbon fiber doesn’t handle shock loads particularly well. And fixing a cracked carbon fiber frame…..well, it’d be easier and cheaper to just buy a new one.

    The other place where I question how successful they’ll be is from an economics standpoint. To the best of my knowledge, every single FMX rider I’ve seen on TV has been sponsored by a factory. I can’t imagine these guys are going to be able to offer the same kinds of sponsorship money that Honda/Suzuki/Kawasaki/Yamaha can and do. So that limits their market to amateurs….very few of whom are going to have the money to set aside for a dedicated FMX. Particularly one that is probably very expensive and without the track record of the other manufactures.

    All that said, I hope they prove me wrong on all accounts. But as stated before, I have my doubts.

    • Maverick

      to address your first issue. These parts are small, modular and relatively inexpensive (for huge FMX teams that would be interested in this). Broken? Replace it.

      I compare this to composite sticks in the NHL. The athletes use the top 5% of the sticks available to the average consumer (around $350+ per stick). These break easily, and some athletes won’t play a second game with the same stick. However, the technology has made its way to the ‘commercial’ side of the sport – and nearly 90% of youth hockey players now use composite sticks (costing between $60-$100 on average).

      Give it a couple years.

      • Justin McClintock

        How is a monocoque frame with an integrated fuel tank small or inexpensive? Or a swingarm with an integrated exhaust? They’re not. Not even close.

        • Maverick

          Well, the frame is probably going to be very, very strong – and unlikely to break even in a motocross FMX crash. The swingarm is modular, easy to replace, and moderately inexpensive for “huge FMX teams”. Again, look at the composite stick comparison. Give it a couple years.

          • Justin McClintock

            The frame may very well be very, very strong. That doesn’t mean it’s necessarily very, very impact resistant…which these will see plenty of with use in FMX. And God forbid you start talking about fatigue life of parts. Then you’re completely hosed if you’re talking carbon fiber.

            As for the swingarm, yes, that’s far more easily replaceable. However, it still won’t be cheap, particularly if its designed to be used as an exhaust as well. That part has to be hand land by skilled workers every time. Metal parts have to have their tooling set up by skilled workers…once. Beyond that, machines can do the job. So you’re got a fragile, hand made part vying for a market segment ruled by a tougher, cheaper part. And as far as the cost being moderately inexpensive for “huge FMX teams”….those teams are factory sponsored. Do you really think Honda’s going to keep giving money to a team using somebody else’s bike? And do you really think a fashion company is going to be able to provide the kind of backing a company like Honda is?

            Better still, do you really think there’s a market for this kind of bike? A machine so unique that it’s no longer good for anything but FMX? And that a fashion company has their finger on the pulse of the motorcycle market moreso than KTM, Honda, Kawasaki, Husaberg, Husqvarna, Yamaha, and Suzuki? And even further, that they have the engineering support to pull that off (yes, I know 888 Racing Australia helped, but they’re no production house). I just think there are too many unanswered questions here to get too terribly exciting about the idea of a new bike that is, thus far, completely unproven.

            • Ken Lindsay

              Its FMX we are talking about. They already have huge $$ invested in frames, motors and suspensions. One off custom frames aren’t already out of the question. This is just another frame, albeit, one that is for a KTM motor. You still can slap on a KTM sticker and have it factory backed. Another frame could be made for Honda or any other competitor’s motor. Slap on some stickers from all the sponsors and you’ll never see the frame anyway. Will it hit the mainstream, noooo….

              • Justin McClintock

                Well, honestly, if they can get the manufacturers on board with that, then yeah, it’d probably work…again, assuming it’s durable enough. It’d only be the top riders who’d get ‘em, but this isn’t something you’re likely to see running around your neighborhood anyway. So yeah, you may be on to something there. Definitely something I hadn’t considered anyway.

            • Piglet2010

              Substitute “Stefan Pierer” for “KTM, Husaberg, and Husqvarna”. For that matter, the Husaberg marque will likely disappear.

              Does seem more an ego trip for Herr Pierer than a sound business decision – at least Husqvarna complemented BMW’s lineup, while it only duplicates the existing KTM lineup.

    • cocoa classic

      You have very valid points, but I think a lot of the reason they did this was to show it could be done.

      I wouldn’t be surprised if a bike like this never makes it to production, for obvious reasons.. (cost being a huge factor); but this will probably inspire innovations in other areas from other manufacturers to push the limits of what is already on the market.

      Sparking innovation!

    • Mugget

      You know the best way to alleviate doubts is by gaining knowledge of the facts and a greater understanding of the topic at hand. ;)

      Check out this video of Santa Cruz testing one of their CF frames against the metal counterpart. The CF frame is stronger and much more durable!!

      Tell us again how CF doesn’t handle shock loads well…?

      • Justin McClintock

        Not very well, all things being equal. There are entire websites dedicated to carbon fiber part failures in the bicycle industry. Meanwhile, in MY industry, we generally avoid carbon fiber for load carrying applications. It’s used for closeout panels and whatnot. The one exception is the 787….which has seen its share of issues already, and doesn’t see NEARLY the loads that some of the stuff I’ve worked on does. If our materials guys decided to use CF, we would. But none of them trust it. And they seem to know what they’re talking about.

        • Mugget

          … Did you actually watch the video?? You’re really going to put more trust in second hand anecdotes rather than video evidence showing that carbon fibre has superior fatigue properties compared to metal?

          But the problem with the way people are thinking about this is that all things aren’t equal. Designing parts in metal or composite are two completely different things – you can’t really compare them. Yeah there are companies that make bad composite parts, just like there are companies that make bad metal parts. I guess that a company like Triple Eight Race Engineering mustn’t have a clue what they’re doing – how irresponsible to make motorcycle from carbon fibre!

          The other point to keep in mind is that no motorcycle is designed to be crashed. So of course if you abuse any kind of machine or operate it beyond the design parameters then you’ll get problems.

          I knew that people are afraid of change, but this is just ridiculous. Structural composite parts have been used in motorcycling for a long time (carbon fibre wheels, anyone?) but as soon as something different is shown suddenly people bug out feel like they’re gotta tell everyone else “oh no, I’m scared!”

          • Justin McClintock

            Yes, I watched the video. A couple of points.

            1) There was no fatigue demonstration. There was a strength demonstration and an impact demonstration. No fatigue. But for what it’s worth, if I were really worried about fatigue life, I’d make the thing out of steel.

            2) I’m FULLY aware that the parts have to be designed differently. I actually have experience designing parts with each, and doing the strength and fatigue analysis. That experience is a big part of the reason WHY I don’t necessarily trust carbon fiber for something I’d want to hold up long term.

            3) Motocross bikes ARE designed to be crashed. Period. They’re limited in the severity of the crash they’re designed to handle, but they most definitely are designed to hit the ground during their lifetimes.

            4) I wouldn’t want carbon fiber wheels on my bike either. The failure modes of carbon fiber are rather drastic. While it’s unlikely that the same impact that damages an aluminum wheel would necessarily damage a carbon fiber wheel, the aluminum wheel will typically yield. A carbon fiber wheel, if it does suffer damage, is almost every time going to be much more severe damage. You’re looking at the difference between a wheel denting and a catastrophic failure. Additionally, I personally know 2 different people who have had carbon fiber wheels destroyed by a moron during a tire change. That’s not confidence inspiring.

            5) Most companies making carbon fiber parts don’t actually know what the material properties are that they’re dealing with. They haven’t tested the materials themselves. While this is also true of most metals they use, what they’re doing to the metals rarely changes the actual properties of the metal. Carbon fiber is a completely different story. They can take the carbon weave or strand manufacturer’s word on how strong the carbon fiber itself is, but that’s only part of the equation. Another huge component is the adhesive used. Then there’s the way the weave and/or strands are laid together. Then there’s the curing process. Each step along the way can do nothing to actually add to that base strength the manufacturer claimed, but it can certainly reduce the strength of the part. And worse yet, it can absolutely destroy the fatigue life of the part.

            6) Triple 8 engineering has been making race cars in Australia. Now they’re an expert in motorcycle frames? I’m gonna go with no here. If John Britten were still around and threw this together, I’d be more willing to buy in. But these guys have never built a motorcycle before, and all of a sudden they’re not only building one, but they’re trying to introduce a bunch of new technologies to something they have no background with whatsoever. You’ll have to forgive me if I’m a little bit skeptical about they’re ability to get everything just perfect the first time around. If this had been Honda or Yamaha or somebody of that nature, I’d be more willing to take their word for it. They have engineering departments larger than most entire companies, and in Honda’s case (and maybe Yamaha’s, but I really don’t know), a LOT of experience with carbon fiber and the ability to properly analyze the parts. Show me a FEA model of a carbon fiber part out of Triple 8 and we’ll talk. Better still, show me their loads and their fatigue analysis. But I’m pretty certain we’re not going to see that.

            • Mugget

              Regardless of what experience you have, fact is that you don’t have a clue about how these parts were constructed. But good point about wanting to see the FEA, by that logic you should keep your opinion to yourself until you’ve seen it as well!!

              The really sad thing about so many people immediately poo pooing the idea of a new technology is that it could really affect future development. If that attitude starts to spread it won’t matter how good something is because no one will be interested in developing it, and that would be a real shame.

              • Justin McClintock

                Hey, they can try whatever they want. I’m hardly the person to stop them. I’m expressing my doubts as to whether it will be successful. And as I’ve pointed out, I have really good reasons for those doubt. All they can do is try it. It may be the next big thing. Or it may disintegrate into a million piece the first time somebody lands badly on it. Only time will tell. But lets be honest….if this really were that great an innovation, why did it take a car parts builder and a fashion designer to do what the largest motorcycle engineering departments in the world couldn’t?

                • Mugget

                  Somehow I think there would have been an article on HFL/RideApart that answers that very question… but my memory fails me.

                  I suppose the short answer is that just because a company can do something, doesn’t mean they will. There have been plenty of breakthroughs made by individuals and small companies from outside an industry because they weren’t constrained by traditional thinking or the prevalent mindset of the time.

                  But yes, time will tell…