The Intermot motorcycle and bicycle fair rolled around in Cologne earlier this month with a lot of focus clearly beginning to shine on the area of electric bikes, scooters, bicycles and even smaller devices.
The Yikebike – the world’s first commercially available transportation applianceThe highlight for me was getting a ride on the Yikebike, a tiny electric mini-farthing which is the world’s first commercially available vehicle to be small enough to warrant a new category – I think it should be regarded as the first commercially-available "transportation appliance".
Just as the evolution of the computer has seen new categories defined (desktop, laptop, netbook, tablet, smartphone and no doubt, one day, implantable), transportation devices are certain to follow a similar path, causing us to rethink personal mobility. Whatsmore, personal mobility devices will definitely proliferate in the space between a pedestrian and a motorcycle.
Currently, there’s a lot of development activity going on in this area by mobility manufacturers across the world but very little has actually reached market just yet. Dean Kamen’s Segway will one day be seen as the very first of this entire wave of mobility devices, but the Segway weighs in at 50kg plus, and such devices will become increasingly compact and light weight and quite a few such devices will be available a decade from now at the extreme lightweight end of the market – my suggestion is that to qualify as an transportation appliance, a device must be 10kg or less and fold to a size manageable for carrying.
Honda’s U3-X (U3-X video here) and Toyota’s Winglet would both fit into the rough definition of this category above as they too weigh in at 10kg or less, but the big difference is that the Yikebike does 25 km/h, at least twice as fast as that celebrated duo, and the Yikebike is available NOW!
It weighs so little and folds so small it can be carried in one hand and can be easily managed on a train or bus by even a child – it weighs less than 10 kilograms thanks to its economical design and carbon fiber construction. Just how important the Yikebike becomes in the future is going to be interesting to watch. It is the smallest viable transportation device yet invented and it has the added advantage of being similar enough to the bicycle that 75% of the learning to ride it is already done. Noel McKeegan, Gizmag’s editorial director is featured in the video in his first two minutes on the Yikebike and apart from a quick wiggle as he rewired his brain to the steering, you’ll see how quickly he picked it up. In short though, this is a very significant product as it’s commercially available, you can buy direct from the manufacturers over the internet and we’ll have a lot more detail in a feature video in the next week.
The world’s fastest electric scooter, the 7100 watt ZEVI also rode the world’s fastest electric scooter, the 7100 watt ZEV, and I can tell you that it is a rocketship fast enough to safely get you through hostile urban traffic and more than quick enough to pull you clear of traffic at the stoplight Grand Prix. It and the top-of-the-line Vectrix which is only slightly slower, offer just about everything you need from an electric commuter. The ZEV has two stages of braking – the first offers regenerative braking from the rear wheel and essentially slows the bike quite rapidly, but a bigger handful of the brake lever brings in the front disk and ample enough stopping power for any situation.
The ZEV also has three speeds, operated by a sequential shift button on the throttle grip – 1-2-3-2-1 style just as in Formula One cars, though with a few less ratios available – and the combo offers better acceleration than almost any car. I spoke at length with ZEV founder and chief engineer Darus Zehrbach and Darus was quite clear about his intentions with the brand and future developments.
“We have the world’s fastest production electric scooter and I intend to keep it that way – if you build a faster one, I’ll build another that will be faster than yours.”
Darus was also clear on his intentions to eventually develop the brand into a full range with high-performance electric motorcycles at the high end, and electric bicycles and mountain bikes at the lower end. It was patently clear that more power and range on the way for his scooters too.
Aprilia’s Max Biaggi RSV4R Special APRC SEOn the pure motorcycling front, Aprilia showed a Max Biaggi Special to commemorate its 2010 World Superbike Championship for the RSV4R (see Gizmag's video review of the RSV4) which is undoubtedly the closest yet a road bike has come to a MotoGP bike in terms of adjustability, but next year’s APRC SE model comes with an array of rider aids more comprehensive than we’ve seen before too.
There’s an 8-stage Aprilia Traction Control system which is fully adjustable, even on the fly, using a small joystick on the left handlebar. So if you’re sharp enough, you can now choose the exact level of wheelspin for each corner on a racetrack, as you go. Back in the pits, you can choose the position of the engine in the frame, and rake and trail are also adjustable as is the length of the swinging arm It also comes with 3-stage Aprilia Wheelie Control system which we haven’t quite worked out yet, and a Launch Control system - another world first on a production roadbike. Launching a motorcycle is now a matter of engaging the electronics, holding the throttle wide open and doing your best with the clutch – it doesn’t really matter that much because the bike takes care of the rest to get you off the line optimally, and there’s also a quickshifter system that lets you bang your way up through the gears at full throttle without using the clutch.
Kawasaki’s ZX10-R – 210 bhp rocketshipThe biggest announcement of the show was probably Kawasaki’s ZX10R. Every now and again, Kawasaki likes to make a huge leap forward in motorcycle development – and the Ninja ZX10R is undoubtedly the new king of the castle. Ripping out a terrifying 210 horsepower and weighing just 198 kg full of fuel and fluids, the 2011 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R has more power and a better power-to-weight ratio than anything in its class. A completely redesigned chassis and a traction control/ABS setup that all focused on making you faster than ever before on the road or track.
The last few horsepower are available thanks to additional pressure from the ram air - that is, the bike uses aerodynamics to force extra air down the engine's throat at high speeds – the total 210 horsepower is a new record from a stock production motorcycle, beating the BMW S1000RR, and exotica such as the Ducati Desmosedici and MV Agustas.
Suzuki's Gixxer sheds nine kilogramsThe attention to detail evident in constantly refining models has seen Suzuki manage to pare 9 kg from its next model GSX-R 750 and eight kilograms from its 600. Small and lighter … well, everything. Every part has been worked over to get a stunning result.
BMW's Six Cylinder MasterpeiceBMW’s six cylinder engine required all the ingenuity BMW could muster to build a 1600cc six cylinder engine so small. It’s an in-line across the frame engine weighs just 102.6 kilograms yet produces 118 kW (160 bhp) and 175 Nm of torque.
The engine size is a result of using a 72 mm cylinder bore with just 5 mm between the cylinder sleeves, a design that squeezes the 6 cylinders into a 555 mm wide block. Experiencing a six cylinder scream at peak torque of 175 Nm at 5,250 rpm will be worth waiting for, and the suitability of the beastie for effortless top gear turbine-smooth touring is indicated by the flat torque curve which serves up 70 per cent of that torque from 1,500 rpm upwards.
The engine was just the start of the wizardry though, and there were several other firsts on the BMW sixers such as adaptive headlights, and electronic Suspension Adjustment, both of which are pointers to the future of motorcycle development.
BMW’s Electronic suspension adjustment means the rider can adjust the rebound damping properties of the front and rear spring strut and the spring preload and spring rate of the rear strut on the fly – you can finally adapt a bike’s suspension to suit the conditions as you go without setting foot on terra firma.
BMW’s Adaptive headlight system - a world first for two-wheeled safetyPerhaps even more relevant to the average motorcyclist was the other BMW first. Motorcyclists have had to put up with lights that don’t point where you are going since motorcycles were invented. BMW’s Adaptive headlight directs the main headlamp in relation to the angle of the motorcycle, which will no doubt delight those who like or need to ride at night. This will be much safer.
The Horex VR6 - V6 with the mostestBMW was able to claim it had the lightest and most compact serial production 6-cylinder engine in a motorcycle over 1000 cc in history until later that day when Horex astounded us by putting six cylinders in the smallest space yet with an ingenious offset piston 15 degree V6 1200. There's a lot more detail on the Horex VR6 in Gizmag's feature on the bike.
The 1200cc six-cylinder engine also has a belt-drive supercharger and develops a meaty 200 horsepower, putting it right up with Yamaha's V-Max in the musclebike category.
The Ducati V8Even those two launches did not fully prepare me for coming across the Ducati V8 of German engineer Dieter Hartmann-Wirthwein, who is very much a “can do” kinda guy.
Just four years ago, Dieter undertook his first motorcycle project – creating a four valve-head for a vintage R50 BMW racer – people who know the bike will know the problems. It worked. Next up, Dieter had an idea for creating a compact four cylinder engine from a single cylinder engine using just one conrod. The video contains an animation of his fascinating system which I can guarantee will fascinate anyone who has ever had grease under their fingernails. The system is ingenious, and his next step was to build one
So he took a Honda single cylinder 125 engine, and made it a four cylinder 125, which he installed in a monkey bike for testing. once the engine had worked reliably and powerfully, he decided to take concept and doing something very cool with it - like taking a Ducati 900 V-twin and turning it into a V-8.
The name of the motor is a derivative of the Ford Mustang GT 500 in the film “Gone in 60 seconds" and the entire motorcycle is now nearing completion as an 868cc V8 Ducati – the engine looks a treat, but it’s the workings that mesmerize me. The system he uses to achieve such an astonishingly compact road bike is just fascinating and I am certain these pages will review further engineering astonishment from Dieter in the year's to come.
The desmodromic valve system has been lost, and Dieter says he's not seeking massive horsepower from the bike - his aim is to build a fine roadbike, not a racetrack brute.