Watson On: The Future of Motorcycle Engineering

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Categories: Technology, HFL

To some extent it’s similar in motorcycle racing. Every MotoGP team has the same access to electronic technology and mechanical innovation to build faster and faster motorcycles. Yet, I am told by the experts that know the one area of motorcycle design that has yet to be fully explored and understood is aerodynamics.

If a MotoGP team can find two tenths of a second through working on a bike in a wind tunnel during a season that’s considered a major step forward. The problem is – and I’m no expert here – is that all you get is perhaps a redesigned tank or fairing that helps reduce wind resistance and maybe it can be adapted for use on a street motorcycle at a later date. But out on the road (I’m not including track days here) you’re never ever going to be fast enough to be able to really benefit from it.

I may well be wrong here too, but the one thing that I think will be a major influence in motorcycle design of the future is going to be the types materials used to make them and more importantly how they’re used. The really good stuff like carbon fiber for frames and bodywork and titanium for pistons is very expensive and costs a huge amount to develop and manufacture for use on bikes. The motorcycle industry as a whole is not even in the same league financially as the automotive world and is light years behind it in terms of resources for proper research and development work.

I am though really curious about what is going to be the next major milestone for bikes in the near future. Never mind 20 years, I’m looking five years ahead.

We’re already seeing heads-up displays on cars (there are systems being evaluated now for motorcycle helmets) and there are vehicles, which can drive and park themselves with absolutely no human interaction. None of that will make any difference to riding a motorcycle.

However, thanks in part to continually restrictive EPA legislation, powerful but much smaller capacity highly sophisticated turbocharged gasoline petrol engines are starting to being introduced on cars. Maybe this type of engineering is what we can expect to see next on motorcycles. Properly developed turbocharged motorcycles there’s a thought…

What’s your opinion? What do you think is going to be the most significant thing to happen in motorcycle design and engineering in the next few years?

Related Links:
Technology: An Insider’s Look At Aprilia Performance Ride Control
First Look: Bike HUD – Motorcycle Helmet Heads-Up Display
Concepts: Yamaha 2013 Tokyo Motor Show Concepts

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