Motorcycles

Moving forward on two wheels: Our 2018 motorcycle technology roundup

Moving forward on two wheels: ...
The best new technologies, riding gear, interviews, customs and electric motorcycles of 2018
The best new technologies, riding gear, interviews, customs and electric motorcycles of 2018
View 26 Images
The Comanche recumbent trike
1/26
The Comanche recumbent trike
Ural's drone-friendly sidecar
2/26
Ural's drone-friendly sidecar
BMW's riderless R1200GS
3/26
BMW's riderless R1200GS
BMW's 3D-printed, generatively designed motorcycle frame
4/26
BMW's 3D-printed, generatively designed motorcycle frame
Bosch's lowside-saving side thrusters
5/26
Bosch's lowside-saving side thrusters
KTM's adaptive cruise control prototype
6/26
KTM's adaptive cruise control prototype
MV Agusta's Turismo Veloce Lusso SCS, with its Rekluse cluch shining bringt red
7/26
MV Agusta's Turismo Veloce Lusso SCS, with its Rekluse cluch shining bringt red
The AGV SportModular carbon flip face: our gear of the year
8/26
The AGV SportModular carbon flip face: our gear of the year
The ALLight self-leveling projector headlight: a plug and play accessory that will make night riding much, much safer and more fun
9/26
The ALLight self-leveling projector headlight: a plug and play accessory that will make night riding much, much safer and more fun
The BluSnap: a US$29 jigger that clips on to your chin vent and air-conditions your helmet
10/26
The BluSnap: a US$29 jigger that clips on to your chin vent and air-conditions your helmet
The Feher ACH-1 air conditioned helmet
11/26
The Feher ACH-1 air conditioned helmet
"Electric Terry" Hershner
12/26
"Electric Terry" Hershner
Indian Motorcycle's head designer Rich Christoph
13/26
Indian Motorcycle's head designer Rich Christoph
Electric land speed racer Eva Haakanson
14/26
Electric land speed racer Eva Haakanson
Blechmann's BMW Chicken Bike
15/26
Blechmann's BMW Chicken Bike
The Watkins M001, made in Poland
16/26
The Watkins M001, made in Poland
Royal Enfield's Concept KX bobber
17/26
Royal Enfield's Concept KX bobber
The TMC Dumont, two 36-inch wheels and an aeroplane motor
18/26
The TMC Dumont, two 36-inch wheels and an aeroplane motor
Harley-Davidson's production electric LiveWire
19/26
Harley-Davidson's production electric LiveWire
The Arc Vector at EICMA
20/26
The Arc Vector at EICMA
The City Slicker electric commuter
21/26
The City Slicker electric commuter
The RMK E2 and its hubless rear wheel drive unit
22/26
The RMK E2 and its hubless rear wheel drive unit
The Sarolea Manx7
23/26
The Sarolea Manx7
Dennis Savic (left) with the Savic Alpha electric motorcycle prototype
24/26
Dennis Savic (left) with the Savic Alpha electric motorcycle prototype
The Sur-Ron Light Bee: taking trails by storm
25/26
The Sur-Ron Light Bee: taking trails by storm
The best new technologies, riding gear, interviews, customs and electric motorcycles of 2018
26/26
The best new technologies, riding gear, interviews, customs and electric motorcycles of 2018
View gallery - 26 images

The last 12 months have been pretty fascinating in the world of motorcycles, so we've gone through the archives to bring you the best new technologies, riding gear, interviews, customs and electric motorcycles of 2018.

We'll follow up in the next few days with our assessment of the more mainstream production bike market, but here's the stories that got us thinking this year.

The technology

Leaving aside the biggest technological revolution that's underway – electrification – 2018 was a bumper year for weird tech ideas trickling their way into the motorcycle world.

BMW's 3D-printed, generatively designed motorcycle frame
BMW's 3D-printed, generatively designed motorcycle frame

In April, we looked at BMW's experiments in additive manufacturing, with a 3D printed motorcycle frame whose skeletal shape suggested it was evolved through a generative design process.

Bosch's lowside-saving side thrusters
Bosch's lowside-saving side thrusters

In May, Bosch got really blue-sky with its rider assist technology ideas, proposing a set of side thruster rockets that a bike could use to push itself back into line as a lowside scenario is developing. Extraordinary.

MV Agusta's Turismo Veloce Lusso SCS, with its Rekluse cluch shining bringt red
MV Agusta's Turismo Veloce Lusso SCS, with its Rekluse cluch shining bringt red

By June, we were seeing MV Agusta taking a centrifugal Rekluse clutch, the kind you frequently see on dirt bikes, and adding it to a touring bike, thus giving riders the ability to zip around town without ever using the clutch, but retaining the full clutch capability should you want to use it. The bike in question, the Turismo Veloce Lusso SCS, seems to us a much more rider-friendly approach to getting rid of the clutch than the dual-clutch auto systems Honda has gone with, for example.

KTM's adaptive cruise control prototype
KTM's adaptive cruise control prototype

KTM released video around the same time of a 1290 Super Adventure S that was fitted with an adaptive cruise control system and blind spot warnings. While it hasn't hit the market yet, it's one of those bits of car technology that was always going to come to the motorcycle world – it's just a matter of when.

BMW's riderless R1200GS
BMW's riderless R1200GS

Speaking of car technology, autonomous cars are one of the most difficult and demanding technologies humans have ever tried to build. Motorcycles, too, are learning to ride themselves. And while last year's Yamaha Motobot had a cute little robot rider on board, this year's riderless BMW R1200GS was a ghostly apparition as it quietly zipped around a test track.

Ural's drone-friendly sidecar
Ural's drone-friendly sidecar

Ural, for its part, showed considerable spunk for a company peddling sidecars based on ancient WW2 technology. Not only did it release an electric concept, the company also designed and produced a limited edition sidecar outfit totally dedicated to drone pilots, for the seven people worldwide that share both those interests. It came with its own drone. And a wind sock. A wind sock! Marvelous.

The Comanche recumbent trike
The Comanche recumbent trike

Last but far from least, there's the Comanche. A recumbent trike powered by a range of different motor options and capable of hitting 70 mph (112 kmh), it packs in a couple of rear boxes and some outrigger wheels to stop you falling over when you come to a stop. Oh, and a pretty wild off-road independent suspension system. One of the wackiest bikes of the year for sure.

The gear

We don't cover a whole lot of riding gear here at New Atlas, as we're not a motorcycle specific publication. But when fun, innovative things catch our eye, we're happy to take a look. Here's some of the gear and accessories we found worthy of a closer look this year.

The Feher ACH-1 air conditioned helmet
The Feher ACH-1 air conditioned helmet

The Feher ACH-1 is an air-conditioned helmet invented by the fella that came up with air conditioned seats for luxury cars. It looks really nicely done, keeps your head 10-15 degrees cooler than the outside world, and never fogs up. It's also impressively light.

The BluSnap: a US$29 jigger that clips on to your chin vent and air-conditions your helmet
The BluSnap: a US$29 jigger that clips on to your chin vent and air-conditions your helmet

On the other end of the scale, but tackling the same task, is the US$29 BluSnap, a chunky little box that straps onto your helmet like a set of motocross goggles, and pumps cooled air into the chin vent. It looks absolutely ridiculous, but then not every day is hot enough for an air-con helmet, and at that price, if it works well, we can see them being a handy thing to keep in the cupboard.

The ALLight self-leveling projector headlight: a plug and play accessory that will make night riding much, much safer and more fun
The ALLight self-leveling projector headlight: a plug and play accessory that will make night riding much, much safer and more fun

One crowdfunding campaign we're particularly interested in is the ALLight, which is a simple replacement for your motorcycle headlight globe that turns it into a gimbal-stabilized, auto-levelling projector beam. Effectively, it should look around corners as well as the self-levelling lights on the BMW K1600GT, making night riding easier and a lot safer thanks to extra visibility.

The AGV SportModular carbon flip face: our gear of the year
The AGV SportModular carbon flip face: our gear of the year

Gear of the Year, though, goes to a helmet that has rocked our world ever since it rolled up on the doorstep. AGV's SportModular is the sportiest modular helmet on the market, and the most modular sporty helmet on the market. This full-carbon flip face is a featherweight piece of luxury that feels like a privilege to put on each morning. It has stolen my heart.

The People

One of the biggest perks of this gig is the access we can get to some truly fascinating people. Here's three characters we hope you didn't miss this year!

Electric land speed racer Eva Haakanson
Electric land speed racer Eva Haakanson

Eva Håkansson is an obsessive electric vehicle promoter and a land-speed record holder that hates going fast. She's married to the wild man engineer that made the Killacycle electric drag bike - Bill Dubé - and working her way towards an attempt at breaking the overall motorcycle land speed record of 376 mph (605 kmh). Our conversation was frank, fiery and a heck of a lot of fun.

"Electric Terry" Hershner
"Electric Terry" Hershner

"Electric Terry" Hershner is another larger-than-life friend of New Atlas, based on the West Coast of the United States. He has been on board the electric revolution for decades, and has made long distances his specialty. He was the first to complete the grueling coast-to-coast trip across the USA on an electric motorcycle – a heck of a story in – as well as the first to do an electric Ironbutt (1000 miles in 24 hours). In more recent times, he's been forced to slow down a touch, since he now travels with a gigantic and extremely active Husky cross on his tank – called Charger, of course!

Indian Motorcycle's head designer Rich Christoph
Indian Motorcycle's head designer Rich Christoph

And finally, we had the chance to hang out with Indian Motorcycle's head designer Rich Christoph, who designed last year's "hottie of the year" – the FTR1200 Custom – as well as its road-legal production model the FTR1200. Rich is a man living his absolute dream life, and was a pleasure to speak to.

The Customs

This year, we had the good fortune to get to Intermot in Cologne, where the AMC world custom championships were held, featuring some absolutely wild and highly creative custom builds. Don't miss our full coverage of the AMC World Championships – there's some great stuff in there. But here are a few other customs that tickled us in 2018.

The TMC Dumont, two 36-inch wheels and an aeroplane motor
The TMC Dumont, two 36-inch wheels and an aeroplane motor

Top of the list has to go to the TMC Dumont. I mean, just look at this thing. Its two giant 36-inch hubless rims bookend a bike built around a 300-horsepower Rolls-Royce aircraft engine. Seriously wild.

Royal Enfield's Concept KX bobber
Royal Enfield's Concept KX bobber

Next up, we've gotta give some serious props to Royal Enfield for its Concept KX bobber. Not because it's a particularly wild custom, but because it's a beautiful v-twin design that the company should definitely put into production.

The Watkins M001, made in Poland
The Watkins M001, made in Poland

Then, there was Poland's Watkins M001, which we described back in March as an "epic engineering curiosity." Laser cut from sheet steel and featuring a BMW boxer motor and a hub-center steering arrangement, the M001 is a terrific piece of backyard engineering.

Blechmann's BMW Chicken Bike
Blechmann's BMW Chicken Bike

And finally, the BMW "Chicken Bike." From the twisted mind of a German designer known as "Blechmann" (tin man) comes this warped, post-apocalyptic extrapolation of BMW's well-known design tropes: chunky shutlines, bold angles, asymmetry, modularity. It becomes more infuriating to look at the closer you get, and gives us a vision of what BMW bike design might look like on some really good acid.

The electrics

Battery tech still isn't there yet, folks. Everyone seems convinced the revolutionary breakthroughs we've all been waiting for are just around the corner, but they're not here yet. So electric performance motorcycles are still eye-bleedingly expensive and out of reach of a market that feels like it'd be ready to get on board if the numbers made sense.

That doesn't mean people aren't pushing things forward in preparation, though. This year saw a number of fascinating prototypes and small production runs at the premium end, and a few genuinely exciting bits and pieces of affordable electric gear that won't break the bank. Here's our picks:

The Sarolea Manx7
The Sarolea Manx7

The Sarolea Manx 7 is stupidly expensive, but this 150-mph beauty has some fascinating ideas behind it, like chain adjustment by moving the motor, instead of having to alter your wheelbase. And that frees up some interesting space on the bike.

The Arc Vector at EICMA
The Arc Vector at EICMA

The Arc Vector surfaced at EICMA in November, and instantly became one of the most ambitious technology projects in the electric space, with its connected HUD helmet and haptic feedback jacket working in concert with sensors all over the bike to deliver an extra sensory dimension to your ride.

Harley-Davidson's production electric LiveWire
Harley-Davidson's production electric LiveWire

Harley-Davidson is gearing up for the fight of its life, as management try desperately to rejuvenate the brand to appeal to younger buyers and combat a fast-aging demographic curve. And the company is swinging for the fences with bikes like the production LiveWire, on sale next year, which looks terrific and should be the first really cool electric streetbike any of the major brands have put out. Harley's distribution network and customer experience are second to none, so this could be a very important bike for the electric revolution.

The RMK E2 and its hubless rear wheel drive unit
The RMK E2 and its hubless rear wheel drive unit

A Finnish team called RMK has been working away on a really nice looking project that's a lot further along than it looks in the renders. The RMK E2 uses a very cool hubless rear wheel drive system, and we'll be hearing more about it in the coming months.

Dennis Savic (left) with the Savic Alpha electric motorcycle prototype
Dennis Savic (left) with the Savic Alpha electric motorcycle prototype

26-year-old Australian engineer and MBA Dennis Savic is one driven young man, and he made a surprise unveiling at the Melbourne Motorcycle Expo: the Savic Alpha, an 80-horsepower, early stage electric prototype he's working to bring to the market at some fairly impressive prices. Another young brand we're hoping to hear a lot more from in the new year.

The Sur-Ron Light Bee: taking trails by storm
The Sur-Ron Light Bee: taking trails by storm

When it comes to affordable electric motorcycles, one brand really set the world alight in 2018 – although it wasn't the motorcycle world, it was the eBike world. But the Sur-Ron Light Bee is a motorcycle, there's no mistaking it. A featherweight dirt machine with a 6-kilowatt (8-hp) motor that packs enough torque to ride alongside 100cc ICE bikes. At US$3,475 (and cheaper if you go straight from China), it's a very affordable toy and has caused quite a stir among off-road eBikers.

The City Slicker electric commuter
The City Slicker electric commuter

And we've saved the cheapest for last. The City Slicker is basically a battery-powered Chinese Grom of a thing, custom tailored to knock off short commutes in style with a bit of fun thrown in. And for US$1,995, it's definitely priced to compete with the scooter market –mind you, prices may have changed since the US-China tariff war got underway.

Now, of course, there's also a bunch of significant production bikes actually in showrooms you can buy, and we'll return in the next few days with our 2018 Motorcycles of the Year to run through what happened where the rubber meets the road. Stay tuned!

View gallery - 26 images
2 comments
guzmanchinky
Imagine someday we have a little fusion power source. Electric motorcycle with 12 month refueling? Electric yacht that needs topped off once a year? Someday this will be a reality and the world will shrink even more. I love my little WR250R and my helmet that I've modified to fit a Bose Noise Canceling headset. I would love a Zero FX but like you guys said, the range just ain't there yet...
Mzungu_Mkubwa
There is a lot to love about the execution and price of the Sur-Ron Light Bee! I would love to see this same simplicity + flexibility + affordability implemented into a street (legal) version! There would be very little to change, perhaps going more in a scrambler or cafe racer styling direction, but keeping it svelte and focused on light weight and durability. This would be simply fantastic for the U.S. market and would crash the current (fugly) scooter/grom demog to bits! (Be sure to have the option of an extra battery pack - removable, of course, like the LB!)