Highlights from the 2015 Geneva Motor Show

Midual's remarkable US$185,000 Type 1 takes its place among the world's most expensive motorcycles


September 1, 2014

New French company Midual joined the limited-edition hyper-priced motorcycle marketplace t...

New French company Midual joined the limited-edition hyper-priced motorcycle marketplace this month, with an ingenious redesign of the century-old boxer-twin motor, an aerospace-quality cast monocoque frame, a rethink on the cooling system, bespoke personalization, a we-come-to-you service model, a rare standard of detail and craftsmanship, and a EUR140,000 (US$185,400) price tag

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“Everything that can be invented, has been invented”, or at least that’s how the popular misquote goes. It is unquestionably untrue, but for devices that have been around as long as the motorcycle, with thousands of fertile minds having applied themselves to building a better mousetrap over the last 125 years, you’d think that all the viable configurations for achieving man-machine harmony would have been tried before now. Apparently not! An ingenious retake on the horizontally-opposed motor and chassis architecture has spawned a technological revelation in the form of the new French superbike, the Midual.

Before we get started, please be warned that the Midual is not for the faint of wallet. Production of the technological masterpiece will be limited to just 35 units, each with a price tag of €140,000 (US$185,400). If the price-tag isn't enough indication of Midual's intended hyper-elite marketplace, showing the company's two working Type 1 prototypes at Pebble Beach 2014 left no doubt.

Midual on the concept lawns of Pebble Beach earlier this month

Other companies to unveil machinery on the Pebble Beach Concept Lawn included Bentley, Hennessy, Lamborghini, Maserati, McLaren, Porsche, Renovo, Rolls-Royce, Saleen, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Infiniti, Toyota, Alfa Romeo, and Lincoln, a strong indication of the company this new French company hopes to keep.

The Midual's next public outing will be at the exclusive London Supercar show, Salon Prive.

The Midual Type 1 on the concept lawn at Pebble Beach 2014

As the sole motorcycle on display on the concept lawn at the world's most important upmarket automotive event, and one with a price tag equivalent to the median price of a home in the United States, Midual is the latest boutique manufacturer to address the needs of wealthy motorcycle enthusiasts seeking something more and different. These manufacturers produce limited edition two–wheelers and charge enough for each of them to create a viable business on small volumes.

The US$300,000 Ecosse Titanium RR (clockwise from top right), the $172,000 Icon Sheene, th...

At the pointy-end, this elite category now includes the likes of the US$300,000 Ecosse Titanium RR (clockwise from top right), the US$178,000 Icon Sheene, the US$175,000, 250 mph (402 km/h), 320 hp MTT Turbine Superbike and the latest Lauge Jensen Viking, which is designed by Henrik Fisker with a price tag anticipated between $50,000 and $55,000. That's a significant step down from the normal limited edition designer models from the Danish brand which usually run to US$100,000.

Lauge Jensen set an unofficial world record for the sale of a new motorcycle earlier this ...

Lauge Jensen recently sold the gold-plated, diamond-encrusted "Goldfinger" (pictured) for US$850,0000, which is believed to be a record price for a new road-going motorcycle. Realistically, it's more a piece of art than a practical conveyance, but it is no less likely to see road usage than many of the other bikes listed in this article. This is the domain of exquisite, hand-crafted motorcycles that are extremely desirable and close to unobtainable unless you have the wherewithal to drop US$200 grand on a whim.

Then there's the entire range of NCR, an Italian company located close to the Ducati factory in the Borgo Panigale district of Bologna. NCR was Ducati's original, albeit external, racing department and has been re-engineering Ducati's finest models for a third of a century. It is best known for having built the small batch of 25 homologation machines for the Formula 1 class of the 1978 Formula TT World Championships.

38-year-old Mike Hailwood on the NCR Ducati at the Isle of Man in 1978 in his legendary co...

Mike Hailwood rode one of this batch to his now-legendary comeback win at the Isle of Man in 1978, when he emerged from an 11-year self-imposed exile from mainstream motorcycle racing at the geriatric (at least in racing terms) age of 38 years. That small batch of machines enabled Ducati to take the first of its now 30 plus world titles and Hailwood his last. In early 2014, one of this batch (pictured below) was sold by the world's foremost rare motorcycle auctioneers (Bonhams) for US$175,500.

One of the small batch of 25 homologation Ducati 900s built by NCR for the Formula 1 class...

NCR still makes extraordinary bikes based on existing Ducati models, such as the US$110,000+ Leggera Extreme and the US$220,000 Macchia Nera – 134 kg (295 lb) of titanium, magnesium and carbon with 187 rear-wheel horsepower – but the US$200,000+ M16 is the closest example of what the Midual will be competing with in terms of cost and rarity.

The NCR M16 is a carbon showpiece with MotoGP-level forks, rear shock, electronics and whe...

The NCR M16 is a carbon showpiece with MotoGP-level forks, rear shock, electronics and wheels and it weighs 144 kg (318 lbs) – 16 kg (35 lb) lighter than a 2014 MotoGP bike but with lights, turn indicators and a number plate – with its highly modified Desmosedici motor producing 200 rear-wheel horsepower. The price is actually US$159,000 PLUS a Desmosedici motor, if you can find one, but with those specs, it's the closest thing you can get to a real MotoGP bike for the road.

Heritage Replicas from Brough Superior and Crocker

There's also a heritage sub-category in the hyper-elite motorcycle price range which involves authentic replicas of Brough Superior and Crocker motorcycles. With 24 bikes in the top 100 auction prices ever fetched for a motorcycle, Brough Superior is the most sought-after collectible motorcycle in the world. Vincent, with 17 bikes is next, with several marques fighting out third spot on the podium: Harley-Davidson (10 bikes), Crocker (seven bikes) and BMW (seven bikes).

Both the Brough Superior and Crocker brands have now been successfully reincarnated and both have healthy businesses creating replacement parts for, and entire recreations of, the most sought-after models of yesteryear.

An example of the modern day craftsmanship which has gone into recreating the Crocker of y...

Crockers are extremely rare. While roughly 3,000 Brough Superiors were produced and around 1,000 are still known to exist, only 72 Crockers are still in existence, and whenever they reach auction, they invariably sell for more than US$200,000. Given that many concours Crockers predominantly contain parts manufactured by original processes at the Los Angeles workshops of the reincarnated Crocker Motorcycle company, the US$150,000 price tag for a complete replica (above) is seen by enthusiasts as a bargain.

Brough Superior has become regrded as the two-wheeled equivalent of the Bugatti as a colle...

Brough Superior has also taken the gamble of building a modern day motorcycle with the same brand values and plenty of heritage styling cues, with the price of the first 2015 production models to be somewhere between €50,000 and £50,000 (US$65,000 - US$83,000). This is considerably less than an almost atom-perfect replica of Lawrence of Arabia's 1925 Brough Superior SS100, plus it goes faster, handles better, stops quicker but ... it's not exactly the same as the bike the famous warrior often rode 500 miles in a day just for fun.

Brough Superior will build you an almost atom-perfect replica of Lawrence of Arabia's 1925...

Indeed, just as in days of yore, you can now have your bespoke Brough Superior made to your own period design and exact specifications, such as this 1283 cc, 1930’s Basel Brough, which was purchased by Ralph Lauren Paris for advertising purposes. There is no price list for such bespoke wares, but count on spending upwards of US$150,000 for the privilege. That's less, by the way, than you'd pay at auction for one made 80 years ago.

In terms of appreciating assets, the replicas being hand-crafted by Brough Superior and Crocker are almost certain to hold their value better than any contemporary two-wheeler you can purchase for road usage.

The evolution of the Midual

Hence there's definitely a marketplace for genuine exotica, and Midual's Type 1 already appears to be just the first of a series of technologically fascinating motorcycles the new marque has planned (a search of patents indicates a V-twin and an electric motorcycle are in development).

Glynn Kerr's styling sketches of the original Midual/Douglas from 1999, courtesy of Kerr's...

The Type 1 has been mooted for 15 years with the styling of the first Midual having been done by highly respected L.A.-based motorcycle designer Glynn Kerr. Kerr was commissioned by Midual principal Oliver Midy to develop a series of concept sketches for his horizontally-opposed twin in the late 1990s.

The 1999 front cover of France's most prestigious motorcycle magazine scooped the arrival ...

As can be seen from the sketches of the time, Midy had hoped to use the name Douglas (more on the famous British marque later in this article), but efforts to secure the rights to the name failed and some publicity was garnered in the name Midual and some in the name Douglas. The boxer-twin debuted as a 900 (though some earlier mock-ups show an 860 logo) at the 1999 "Mondial de l'Automobile" show in Paris. The new Midual Type 1 displaces 1036 cc.

Midual redefines the horizontally-opposed twin

The horizontally-opposed motor of the Midual Type 1

Midual's choice of the boxer twin motor, and the ingenuity of its engineering require a look back in history to fully understand how cleverly it has sidestepped the engine layout's disadvantages, while retaining its strongest features.

The virtues of the horizontally-opposed motor (primarily excellent primary balance and a low center of gravity), have been evident to motorcycle, car and aeronautical engineers since Karl Benz first patented the design in 1896. In cars, they have become the signature engine of such landmark creations as the Volkswagen Beetle, Porsche 911 and the entire Subaru range. In aircraft, the opposing cylinders were ideal for air-cooling and the primary balance made for excellent reliability, a mandatory quality in an aero engine.

In the motorcycle arena, the boxer-twin has become synonymous with BMW motorcycles, but many other marques have used the configuration, and in the beginning, the horizontally-opposed motor was usually fitted lengthways in the frame.

BMW's now signature transverse boxer-twin engine configuration dates back to 1923, but it was by no means the first manufacturer to use the boxer twin – it was not even the first to use it in the across-the-frame orientation, with the British ABC motorcycle of 1916 preceding it by a full seven years.

There's a wonderful 'fairy story here' about the origins of first horizontally-opposed mot...

There's a wonderful "fairy story here" about the origins of first horizontally-opposed motorcycle engine (the 1905 Fée nee Fairy motor cycle above), and how it led directly to the Douglas motorcycle range of the same configuration, the success of which spawned many other similar motorcycles.

The 1925 Douglas 2¾HP (350cc) Model CW. This particular machine failed to meet reserve des...

The Douglas twins built a fine reputation and helped the company become one of the first mainstream motorcycle manufacturers, building 70,000 military motorcycles for the British war effort during WWI.

Immediately post-WWI, BMW's engine designer Max Friz was faced with designing a motorcycle engine as the German aircraft company was forbidden from producing aircraft engines due to the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles and the company quickly had to find new commercial endeavors. Luckily, BMW's foreman, Martin Stolle, had a 1914 Douglas 500cc flat twin motorcycle and Friz, according to legend, stripped the bike down and copied the horizontally-opposed twin.

As a result of this plagiarism, which to be fair was rampant in the industry at the time, the BMW M2 B15 500 cc side-valve engine was born and sold to numerous German motorcycle manufacturers of the day to power their motorcycles. Motorcycles that employed BMW's M2B15 included Bison, Corona, Victoria, SMW, SBD and the Helios. The Helios was built by Bayerische Flugzeugwerke, a company which was later merged into BMW AG, so it could be argued that it was indeed BMW's first motorcycle (using the same logic which accredits the pre-1926 racing exploits of DMG and Benz & Cie to the company they merged to become: Mercedes-Benz).

The 1920 Helios was one of many motorcycles made using BMW's M2B15 500 cc side-valve engin...

The 1920 Helios (pictured above) was one of many motorcycles made using BMW's M2B15 500 cc side-valve engine that had borrowed heavily from the Douglas flat twin.

Manufacturing BMW's R32 in the beginning was very much a hand-built process. Image courtes...

When BMW finally decided to build entire motorcycles, Friz used all the know-how he'd accumulated in building aircraft engines, plus no doubt valuable feedback resulting from supplying the M2B 15 to other makers, to create an entirely new engine, turning it 90 degrees in the process.

The beginning of a dynasty. BMW's R32 of 1923. Image courtesy BMW archives.

In 1923, he took all those lessons and produced the R32, which became the first of an unbroken lineage of boxer twins that have been deeply loved by motorcyclists across the world for the nine decades since.

It's interesting that, despite such seemingly wonderful personality traits as a low center of gravity and great balance, the design has never lent itself particularly well to the motorcycle form factor, mainly due to the problem of fitting such an inconveniently-shaped motor into a motorcycle frame without compromising one of the key aspects of riding.

Mount it lengthways in the frame and it will provide a wheelbase that's simply too long, making the motorcycle a handful around town and compromising the sweetness of the motor. Those early horizontally-opposed motorcycles engines that had their cylinders mounted in-line with the frame often suffered from the rear cylinder overheating.

Mount the engine sideways and the protruding cylinders immediately compromise ground clearance and expose the vulnerable cylinder heads to damage in the case of mishap. There's also the torque reaction that comes when a motor's crankshaft is in line with the wheels, though I've done a lot of miles on Beemer twins, and once you're accustomed to it, it's never the problem that theory suggests it might be.

Two of the best known horizontally-opposed twins that didn't turn the motor sideways as di...

The above illustration shows two of the best known early horizontally-opposed twins which used a longitudinal mounting: a 1919 Harley-Davidson 584cc Model W Sport at top left and right, and a 1925 Douglas 2¾HP (350cc) Model CW. Click the image for access to the photo library and more detailed images of each of the machines.

Once BMW began developing its boxer-twins and began winning hearts and races, other transverse flat-twin motorcycles followed, such as Germany's Zundapp, China's Chang Jiang and the mass-produced Russian marques Ural and Dnepr.

The ingenious canting of the Midual motor enables the rear cylinder to clear the swinging-...

The ingenuity behind Midual's new variation on the theme is that it has tilted the engine forward at a 25-degree angle, enabling the rear cylinder to clear the swinging arm pivot and enabling the wheelbase to be kept within compact dimensions, completely removing the torque reactions associated with the inline crankshaft of transverse boxers, and enabling the exceptionally-low center of gravity of the engine to be used to full benefit. Midual claims that the resultant handling "makes negotiating curves a delight" and it is confident enough of this new variation on the theme to have patented it.

Drawing of the Midual from the company's patent applications

According to Midual, the 1036 cc (63.2 cu in) flat-twin has been developed to produce strong torque at low engine speeds with a broad power spread, which the claimed figures of 106 hp @ 8,000 rpm and 100 Nm (74 lbf·ft) @ 5,300 rpm suggest has been achieved.

By comparison, the latest liquid-cooled 1170 cc BMW 1200GS performance figures come in at 123 hp @ 7,750 rpm and 125 Nm (92 lbf·ft) @ 6,500 rpm.

The Midual Type 1 displays a rare attention to detail

The Midual Frame

The cast aluminium monocoque frame of the Midual Type 1

The Midual Type 1 frame is the result of "several thousand hours" of design and development according to Midual's press documentation. It uses a unique single-piece aluminum chassis cast in a French aerospace foundry and then hand-shaped after numerous intermediate operations. The external double wall serves as a fuel tank and this too has been patented.

Detail, Personalization and SERVICE

While the price tag might seem very high for a motorcycle, the Midual is aiming at an entirely different marktplace than currently exists, with a level of service designed partially to overcome the lack of a dealer network, and partially to deliver amenity levels previously unheard of. The 35 machines available for delivery in 2016 are destined solely for the European marketplace.

That price includes a four-year contract for maintenance and warranty support, including collection of the motorcycle directly from the customer’s (European) home for delivery to the manufacturer’s workshops and back again. According to Midual, "in this way, full guarantee of careful, thorough after-sales maintenance can be assured."

All metallic components of this motorcycle show a level of detail far beyond the norm. From the press blurb, "the machine’s instrument panel and analogue gauges, all the leather trim, the handlebar controls, side plates, kickstand ... each element is specific, noble and refined. The finishing reveals the highly expertise of the most skilled French workers."

"A Midual is designed to be personalised to the point where each machine’s personality can be modified to be completely in tune with its owner. Thus, he will be able to choose between many different types of body finishing, from brushing and cap design to a polished/patina look. More than 45 types of leather are offered standard and can be matched to 25 sand casting shades, which can be applied even to the engine parts. Each machine is marked with its creation date, number and owner’s name."

Let's hope there's a proletarian version planned.

About the Author
Mike Hanlon After Editing or Managing over 50 print publications primarily in the role of a Magazine Doctor, Mike embraced the internet full-time in 1995 and became a "start-up all-rounder" – quite a few start-ups later, he founded Gizmag in 2002. Now he can write again.   All articles by Mike Hanlon

..yes, its a wonderful machine.. but an old internal combustion engine technology nonetheless.. regardless who made it, why buy these machines when you can get the same and even better performance by buying an all electric motorcycle instead.. like the Zero SR, the brammo impulse, mission R, energica, vectrix, and lets not forget the BMW & Harley Electric.. perhaps they should consider doing the same.. & why do you think the big manufacturers are going that path..? perhaps they want and need to be more relevant...

1st September, 2014 @ 05:44 am PDT

There are always going to people out there with more money then brains and most of the people that would buy something like that will put in their living room, never ride it and say gee look what I have.


Dan English
1st September, 2014 @ 08:52 am PDT

Interesting to see the old fore-and aft boxer making a comeback!

Here's my 1950 Douglas Mk V 350cc transverse twin.


Note the interesting Radiadraulic forks and complex rear suspension utilising torsion bars inside the lower frame rails, the actuating links are just visible descending from the swinging arm to the cranks just forward of the caps on the rear of the lower tubes. The four link ends are beautifully made custom spherical joints with individual balls, cups, spacers and spindles, no wonder Douglas suffered from financial trouble! Of course, this was in the days before off-the-shelf telescopic dampers, most bikes had rigid back ends and girder forks, so douglas were quite advanced.

With its low centre of gravity and good frame stiffness, the handling is very light and tight, and if you rev it, it goes very well for a 350 of that period. The brakes - in common with most machines of that period - are merely decorative, however!

1st September, 2014 @ 09:20 am PDT

If I was to buy a Boxer it would certainly be German. I have been riding M/C since I was 13 and I'm 63 now. The M/C will never fade. Even if we have to distill and run it on moonshine. Don't like crotch rockets doesn't matter who makes them. Electric may be nice but until you can match a real engine's distance it's best to stick with little girly scooters

Jimmie Hall
1st September, 2014 @ 09:46 am PDT

my Ducati looks better, and for a fraction of the cost,


Tony Moore
1st September, 2014 @ 12:01 pm PDT

You won't get the range or the power density of fuel. Sad as it is, electric just is not quite there yet. Also, as far as an enthusiast goes, you won't match the sound or some of the other qualities you get from ICE. I love electrics, but non-enthusiasts will never get it. This vehicles are built for enthusiasts.

Michael Wilson
1st September, 2014 @ 03:34 pm PDT

Clever engine layout. But I really don't like the 'screw on panel look' of the design, it is a great pity they did that, in my view.

Great article and great photos.

Many thanks.

Mark Eastaugh
1st September, 2014 @ 06:48 pm PDT

If you have that much hard-earned to spend on a bike then there is only one bike with a helicopter turbine engine.

The rest are just crap, really

1st September, 2014 @ 09:59 pm PDT

Does it seem there is a disturbing trend on gizmag to show obscene wealth toys with absolutely no intrinsic value?

A 200K motorcycle is just stupid and only the elitist toy of Middle Eastern Oil robbers or Russian exKGB billionaires. Who really cares since they offer nothing truly technologically interesting just bespoke snobbery?

Sherwin Kahn
1st September, 2014 @ 10:20 pm PDT

And the point of the tacho and gauges in front of your crutch is what?

No weight given? To have less grunt than a dirt bike surely it must be a featherweight.

Good story though.

1st September, 2014 @ 11:41 pm PDT

The Midual (and the other exotics you mention) make the price tag of the Motus sound relatively cheap!

Rex Brown
2nd September, 2014 @ 05:26 am PDT

It seems to me that the only thing that makes this bike newsworthy is its rediculous price tag. Certainly no technical innovations. And nothing about what it is like to ride.....

As for the only interesting part, the engine, it is more of a Ducati flattened out than a BMW turned sideways.

We should be rewarding true innovation here on Gizmag,, though I can appreciate Mike's love of bikes here.

Martin Hone
2nd September, 2014 @ 05:57 pm PDT

Disgusting, but I suppose there is always a mug when "Exclusivity" is mentioned. A good custom garage, $50,000 and a donor frame/engine of my choosing and I'd beat that for looks/performance/exclusivity.

I can't see the point in paying a "Unique" price tag then having 35 of them. I could have REAL unique if I use my own imagination. Again sorry £185k for this, looks like a Ducati M900 Monster Mk1, and a can old gold spray and a camp designer....but its just my personal opinion. Sure a few mugs will part with crazy cash for an ordinary bike, maybe not though, ask Bimota, always special, mostly great performing/beautiful and very exclusive. A lot cheaper than $185k and they can't make it work.....maybe these guys are billionaires son/daughter and have lots of very rich friends who say they'll buy them.

4th September, 2014 @ 05:11 pm PDT
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