Is it really only 12 months since 2016 started? This year has seen some seismic shifts in global politics, some outrageous upsets in sports, and some of the worst pop music since Milli Vanilli. But it's also seen a whole lot of weird and wonderful developments in the motorcycle world. Well, some of them just weird. Here are our favorite bikes from around the world that pushed the envelope in 2016.
To celebrate the lifting of France's heinous 100 horsepower restriction on streetbikes, Ludovic Lazareth built a tilting four-wheel monstrosity called the Lazareth LM847. Built around a 470-horsepower, 4.7 liter Maserati engine, this bike featured four single-sided swingarms, rim-mounts brakes, dual hub-center steering and so many other bizarre touches that we're still bewildered nine months after its launch.
Australian student Oscar Fehlberg took the concept of a Dutch style cargo bike, and electrified it. The EsCargo can carry up to 150 kg (331 lb) of deliveries , all mounted forward of the rider so you can see and manage things as you go. It also features a very odd double knuckle steering system to turn the front wheel, which around a meter (3.3 ft) in front of the rider – making it the weirdest-handling thing we threw a leg over all year.
Texan James "Wes" Abbott has been working on his Terracraft tilting three-wheeler design for years; this year, he announced he's ready to start taking orders. As a partially enclosed trike, the Terracraft uses sophisticated sensor systems and a "co-pilot" computer to calculate what lean angle you need, 1,000 times per second. "It's like it's alive, like you have an organic being controlling your front suspension," Wes told us back in April. And though it currently only leans to a maximum of 30 degrees, we'd love to ride the thing.
It's foldable. It fits in the trunk of a car. Its giant, puffy fat tires hold so much air you can float the thing on water. With two-wheel drive, this wacky Russian ag-bike can get through all the mud and slush of a Siberian summer. There's no way the Taurus 2x2 falls off our "Weird" list.
As fans of funny front-end suspension, we were rapt to get a chance to test Australian company MotoInno's extraordinary parallelogram suspension system. Delivering all the braking and cornering advantages of a hub-center steering system, this prototype system was much lighter, and gave us a turning circle and steering response that was indistinguishable from a regular forked bike. It's a tough one to explain in a paragraph; check out the main MotoInno TS3 article to see it in motion!
Thrustcycle self-balancing GyroCycle
It has been well established in the last century and a bit that motorcycles are superior to horses. On the other hand, they can't hold themselves upright, and tend to fall over if you don't go fast enough. The Thrustcycle self-balancing GyroCycle aims to remedy this shortcoming using a whopping big gyroscopic flywheel that holds the bike vertical even if the rider steps off. While this sounds like it spells doom for the bike's handling capabilities on the move, a self-balancing bike could be just the ticket for injured or disabled riders who want the freedom of a two-wheeler but can't get a leg down to hold it up at the lights.
Airbus and Divergent's 3D printed motorcycles
3D printing opens up all kinds of design options that are simply too difficult to manufacture using conventional casting and machining methods. This is going to mean great things, initially for the custom motorcycle building scene. And two examples this year gave an indication of what might be coming. Airbus went featherweight, skeletal and electric with its H.R. Geiger-inspired Light Rider (pictured above), while Divergent showed off an elegantly complex 3-D take on a trellis frame with its Dagger superbike concept (below). Watch this space, things are going to get crazy in the next few years.
Over 150 horsepower and under 150 kg (331 lb), Spanish company Bottpower's take on the old Buell XB12 turned the iconic American streetbike into a featherweight flat-tracker with a hell of an attitude. The Bottpower XR1R is a performance bike built around an anachronistic 1200cc Harley pushrod engine. Catch it if you can, at Pike's Peak in 2017.
Britain's Spirit Motorcycles waited until November to drop one of the bombs of the year – the closest thing you can get to a Moto2 bike for the road. Weighing in at just 140 kg (309 lb) and producing in excess of 180 hp from a highly tuned Triumph Daytona engine that's stroked out to 749cc, the Spirit GP Sport R is an outrageously extreme crotch rocket with GP-level chassis adjustability and some ridiculously amazing electronics – including a Motec ECU with a 4G connection that lets your mechanic monitor and fine-tune every aspect of engine management, from anywhere in the world. These road/track scalpels will see action in next year's British Supersport race series, albeit without the ability to score points.
No list of the craziest bikes of the year would be complete without mentioning the Kawasaki H2. While it was released by a major manufacturer, there's very little else mainstream about this consummate widowmaker of a thing. From its mirror-finish paint job to its 200-plus horsepower, supercharged 1000cc engine, the H2 is designed to stand out in any crowd. And yes, sure, this is a 2015 bike, but it took us until 2016 to get hold of one and produce one of our most hair-raising review videos ever.