Students compete to build racing motorcycles from scratch
By Ben Coxworth
May 22, 2010
The challenge: to design and build a high speed road-racing motorcycle from scratch, with an eye towards cost-effective production. Could you do it? The folks at Spain’s Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) think that a team of their engineering students can. The team is competing in the Moto Student competition, which pits university teams from around Europe and the rest of the world against each other to see who can design the best commercially-viable bike.
The contest is being presented by the Moto Engineering Foundation (MEF). They supplied each team with a 125cc 2-stroke engine, shocks, brakes, tires, wheels and muffler. The teams then designed a prototype around those components, with a hypothetical production run of 500 bikes in mind. One catch: the projected manufacturing cost of those hypothetical bikes cannot not exceed 4,500 Euros (US$5,654) per unit. Teams can swap in components other than those supplied, except for the engine. The bike must be finished within three semesters.
The UC3M team started last year by observing production racing motorcycles, to understand their form and function. That was followed by brainstorming sessions and some initial sketches. Next the students used MEF-supplied 3D design software to create the chassis and swingarm of their bike, assemble everything, and see how it all might work together. Now, they have a real-world physical prototype, which they look forward to testing on the track... presumably their test rider is going to be wearing a lot of protective gear.
While taking part in the competition is a learning experience for the team, their fresh “outsider” approach could also lead to new insights into motorcycle design. "The main challenge has been to start from scratch, choosing an innovative design, without the constrictions of a traditional approach, with the goal of being able to unify the technical solutions which we think can offer us a competitive edge, and which on the other hand, allow us to learn the most possible," remarked Technical Director José G. Pérez Alonso.
The winner will be chosen at the Ciudad del Motor (Motor City) event in Aragón this October. Top prize is 6,000 Euros (US$7,537).