Motorcycles

Up to a second faster per corner? Motorcycle Innovation's futuristic front end

Up to a second faster per corn...
Motoinno TS3: could this be the machine that finally relegates telescopic forks to second place on the racetrack and in the showroom?
Motoinno TS3: could this be the machine that finally relegates telescopic forks to second place on the racetrack and in the showroom?
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Motoinno TS3: extremely stable and confidence-inspiring under brakes
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Motoinno TS3: extremely stable and confidence-inspiring under brakes
Isle of Man champion Cameron Donald tests the Motoinno bike on track at the Sydney Motorsport Park
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Isle of Man champion Cameron Donald tests the Motoinno bike on track at the Sydney Motorsport Park
Isle of Man champion Cameron Donald tests the Motoinno bike on track at the Sydney Motorsport Park
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Isle of Man champion Cameron Donald tests the Motoinno bike on track at the Sydney Motorsport Park
Isle of Man champion Cameron Donald tests the Motoinno bike on track at the Sydney Motorsport Park
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Isle of Man champion Cameron Donald tests the Motoinno bike on track at the Sydney Motorsport Park
Isle of Man champion Cameron Donald knee down in turn 2 at the Sydney Motorsport Park
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Isle of Man champion Cameron Donald knee down in turn 2 at the Sydney Motorsport Park
Motoinno TS3: a hub-centre steering setup with none of the usual drawbacks
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Motoinno TS3: a hub-centre steering setup with none of the usual drawbacks
Motoinno TS3: AU$300,000 prototype paves the way for an upcoming Moto2 race bike
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Motoinno TS3: AU$300,000 prototype paves the way for an upcoming Moto2 race bike
Motoinno TS3: could this be the machine that finally relegates telescopic forks to second place on the racetrack and in the showroom?
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Motoinno TS3: could this be the machine that finally relegates telescopic forks to second place on the racetrack and in the showroom?
Motoinno TS3: could this be the machine that finally relegates telescopic forks to second place on the racetrack and in the showroom?
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Motoinno TS3: could this be the machine that finally relegates telescopic forks to second place on the racetrack and in the showroom?
Cameron Donald discovers how tightly the Motoinno front end can turn
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Cameron Donald discovers how tightly the Motoinno front end can turn
The Motoinno TS3 demonstrates a hub-centre steered front end that can actually turn tighter than many forked bikes
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The Motoinno TS3 demonstrates a hub-centre steered front end that can actually turn tighter than many forked bikes
Isle of Man champion Cam Donald comes to grips with the eye-popping Motoinno TS3
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Isle of Man champion Cam Donald comes to grips with the eye-popping Motoinno TS3
Motoinno TS3: parallelogram suspension with scissor-link steering
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Motoinno TS3: parallelogram suspension with scissor-link steering
Motoinno TS3: brake calipers are mounted on the bottom of the discs, where the force can be most directly sent to the contact patch. This may allow some road grit into the pads, though
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Motoinno TS3: brake calipers are mounted on the bottom of the discs, where the force can be most directly sent to the contact patch. This may allow some road grit into the pads, though
Motoinno TS3: the frame and front suspension look like a leaping cheetah from the side. It's not an unattractive motorcycle design
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Motoinno TS3: the frame and front suspension look like a leaping cheetah from the side. It's not an unattractive motorcycle design
Motoinno TS3: front wheel steers without moving the horizontal suspension arms
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Motoinno TS3: front wheel steers without moving the horizontal suspension arms
Motoinno TS3: front wheel steers without moving the horizontal suspension arms
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Motoinno TS3: front wheel steers without moving the horizontal suspension arms
Motoinno TS3: front wheel pivots within the hub on a virtual kingpin
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Motoinno TS3: front wheel pivots within the hub on a virtual kingpin
Motoinno TS3: feels surprisingly conventinal to ride, but adds extraordinary braking and cornering capabilities
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Motoinno TS3: feels surprisingly conventinal to ride, but adds extraordinary braking and cornering capabilities
Motoinno TS3: front aspect is quite slim and won't drag on the ground like many hub-centre swingarms
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Motoinno TS3: front aspect is quite slim and won't drag on the ground like many hub-centre swingarms
Motoinno TS3: the whole system actually ends up lighter than a forked setup, because you don't need a heavy reinforced steering stem
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Motoinno TS3: the whole system actually ends up lighter than a forked setup, because you don't need a heavy reinforced steering stem
Motoinno TS3: monoshocks at the front and rear of the bike control damping
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Motoinno TS3: monoshocks at the front and rear of the bike control damping
Motoinno TS3: visually confusing but very effective
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Motoinno TS3: visually confusing but very effective
Motoinno TS3: Australian company shows some very innovative thinking to solve the hundred-year-old inherent problems surrounding telescopic forks
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Motoinno TS3: Australian company shows some very innovative thinking to solve the hundred-year-old inherent problems surrounding telescopic forks
Motoinno TS3: suspension operates as a parallelogram
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Motoinno TS3: suspension operates as a parallelogram
Motoinno TS3: coming soon to a Moto2 bike near you
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Motoinno TS3: coming soon to a Moto2 bike near you
BMW S1000R with its thick, upside down telescopic forks and reinforced steering head.
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BMW S1000R with its thick, upside down telescopic forks and reinforced steering head.
Vyrus 987 3 4V, showing front swingarm and tiller-style steering linkage that goes all the way back to the frame of the bike. Steering lock is limited so the front swingarm doesn't drag on the ground while cornering
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Vyrus 987 3 4V, showing front swingarm and tiller-style steering linkage that goes all the way back to the frame of the bike. Steering lock is limited so the front swingarm doesn't drag on the ground while cornering

Front suspension on a motorcycle has always been a matter of compromise. Telescopic forks have stuck around for nearly a hundred years because they're the least bad solution we've found so far - but an Australian team believes it's finally built the front end that could relegate forks to the history books. It might look bizarre, but the Motoinno system is lighter, it maintains constant geometry, it turns tighter and you can dial in whatever rake, trail, and degree of brake dive you want at the turn of a spanner. It's so stable under braking and into a corner that Motoinno says it's up to a whole second faster through a single corner than the same rider on a GSX-R750. Too good to be true? Loz flew to Sydney to find out.

On the front end of just about every motorcycle these days you'll find a pair of telescopic forks. There have been a bunch of alternatives over the years, but they've all had their drawbacks, and until now, forks have prevailed - even though they've got problems of their own. So for a bit of background, let's see what those problems are.

The problems with telescopic forks

Front suspension has to deal with a number of different forces when you're riding. First and foremost, it needs to keep the tire stuck to the ground through bumps. That's more or less an up and down force, unless the bike is leaned right over on its side in a corner, in which case there's a fair amount of sideways force as well.

Then there's braking forces - under hard braking, the tire generates a significant force that pushes straight backwards.

BMW S1000R with its thick, upside down telescopic forks and reinforced steering head.
BMW S1000R with its thick, upside down telescopic forks and reinforced steering head.

Telescopic forks join to the bike's frame at the steering head - so effectively they're a pair of 30-inch levers that amplify braking forces into that topmost front part of the frame. That means the headstock needs to be massively reinforced in metal - a significant weight penalty up high on the bike where you least want it.

Furthermore, even though most forks are now "upside down" with the thick outer tubes on top, and quite large at diameters up to 58 mm on some bikes, the fact is they still flex. They flex a little under braking, which can create stiction that makes it harder for the wheel to follow bumps - and they flex a little sideways as well, which can cause the front end to start wobbling when you're leaned right over in a corner - and sometimes leads to a lowside crash when the front wheel bounces itself off the road and loses traction.

Forks also "dive" under braking; the front end of the bike drops, sometimes all the way to the bottom of the suspension travel - and as the bike tilts forward, this changes the rake and trail steering geometry. A steeper rake can actually make the bike easier to turn, so sometimes this is an advantage on the racetrack - but it also makes the bike more unstable.

These problems are as old as forks themselves. As riders we simply ride around them, because no satisfactory alternative has popped up yet that didn't have bigger problems of its own.

The problems with hub-center steering

Case in point: hub-center steering like you can see on the current Bimota Tesi 3D and the Vyrus bike. This kind of arrangement sticks the front wheel onto a swingarm that runs straight back to the engine - which is wonderful for dealing with braking forces, and can completely eliminate brake dive - and steers the front wheel by tilting it on its axle.

Vyrus 987 3 4V, showing front swingarm and tiller-style steering linkage that goes all the way back to the frame of the bike. Steering lock is limited so the front swingarm doesn't drag on the ground while cornering
Vyrus 987 3 4V, showing front swingarm and tiller-style steering linkage that goes all the way back to the frame of the bike. Steering lock is limited so the front swingarm doesn't drag on the ground while cornering

Trouble is, the wheel has to tilt inside that front swingarm. So either you get a very narrow steering lock, or you get a wide front swingarm that can drag on the ground when you're cornering and lift the front tire off the deck. What's more, these bikes have long, angular and complicated connections between the handlebars and the front wheel, so you can end up with a dangerous degree of slop in the steering, and a very poor sense of connection to the front tire for the rider. It's not uncommon to be able to move the handlebar end up to a centimeter before the wheel starts moving.

There's other ideas out there, but that's enough background to understand the problems. And this crazy-looking jigger might just be the solution: the Motorcycle Innovations TS3.

The solution: Motorcycle Innovations' crazy-looking TS3 suspension system

Motoinno TS3: a hub-centre steering setup with none of the usual drawbacks
Motoinno TS3: a hub-centre steering setup with none of the usual drawbacks

In true and hilarious Australian style, co-founders Ray Van Steenwyk and Colin Oddy have shortened their company name to "Motoinno," so that's how we'll refer to them from here on.

Motoinno's solution is not a simple one. In fact, it takes a fair bit of time to get your head around. It's an entire motorcycle frame designed around a suspension idea that appears to eliminate the major problems of telescopic forks, while introducing none of the usual problems that crop up with hub center front ends. The Motoinno guys say it can be designed around pretty much any motor.

Looked at purely as a suspension system, the Motoinno front end operates as a parallelogram. The triangle that holds the wheel on stays at a constant angle, and there's two more arms from the top and bottom of that triangle that go straight back to pivot points at the top and bottom of the frame. That provides your direct brace against braking forces, and it makes for a bizarre thing to watch, as my brother Chris will demonstrate below, in a glorious motion that gives us an idea of what to expect on his upcoming wedding night:

MotoInno TS3: suspension action

The next step is to steer that front wheel. The Motoinno design tilts the forward beam of the wheel holding triangle to steer the wheel - the lower beam and the parallelogram suspension stays firm while the wheel steers. The handlebars connect to the steering mechanism via a simple pair of scissor links that isolate suspension action from the handlebars themselves. Again, it's easiest just to watch it in action.

MotoInno TS3: steering action

You can tune your rake and trail to a wide degree, and also dial in whatever degree of brake dive you're comfortable with - including no dive at all, or even reverse dive, where the front end actually lifts under braking if you really want to bake your own noodle.

Finally, let's make Chris work both the suspension and steering at the same time, until he realizes how silly he looks:

MotoInno TS3: suspension and steering action at once

You can think of the system as something like a MacPherson strut car suspension system. So, what we've got here is:

  • a very direct connection between the steering and the front axle;
  • excellent braking force management through to the frame;
  • total control over brake dive or rise, without affecting steering geometry at all;
  • minimal sideways flex and zero front-to-back flex;
  • tuneable rake and trail geometry;
  • no large swingarm that might drag on the ground when leaned over;
  • a total frame and suspension system that actually comes out lighter than a forked bike, because it doesn't need a massively reinforced steering stem;
  • and, a nice, wide steering lock that allows tight u-turns.

When we arrived at Sydney Motorsports park to test the Motoinno prototype, the guys had the front end tuned to dive a little under brakes - mainly because that's part of the feedback riders are conditioned to use to feel how hard they're braking. The system was set such that it would dive to no more than about 25 percent of the available suspension travel on the front monoshock, allowing the rest of the travel to deal with bumps in the braking zone.

What's it like to ride?

Riding it around at slow speed in the car park, the most noticeable thing about the Motoinno bike was … that it just felt like a regular forked bike. That's actually a big deal; there isn't a millimeter of slop in the steering, feel from the front wheel through the bars is excellent, and the steering lock allows you to turn very tightly, much tighter than you'd expect from a hub-steered bike and in fact even tighter than some forked bikes.

The dialled-in brake dive feels very natural, and the bike is so smooth and stable under brakes that I quickly found myself lifting the back end with confidence and ease. At slow speeds, it handles great.

Motoinno TS3: extremely stable and confidence-inspiring under brakes
Motoinno TS3: extremely stable and confidence-inspiring under brakes

At faster speeds … well, due to a scheduling stuff-up, I didn't get the chance to ride the Motoinno bike in anger on the racetrack. That sucks. But Isle of Man champion Cameron Donald did get three quick laps in at a tentative pace, feeling the bike out, and he was kind enough to give us a few comments.

"The bike amazingly feels quite conventional in the way it handles on the track, which is the biggest surprise to me. It's not what you'd expect, because it certainly doesn't look conventional. The way it turns into a corner, and the way it has some dive under brakes and whatnot, is actually very similar to a conventional forked motorcycle.

"I've had limited experience on center hub steered bikes, but what I saw as the big positive to this was the way that I could trail brake into the corner and hold a very tight line. You've still got an amount of dive, the way the boys have got it set up, but you can trail brake into the corner well past where you normally would on a conventional bike, and with a lot more brake pressure. That's something that will take some time to get used to, because it's so different to a conventional bike.

Cam Donald rides the MotoInno TS3

"It felt like it had good connection. In some of these hub steered bikes, with the amount of pivots and angles involved, you can lose that connection. There's none of that. The connection, the feel between the input to the handlebar and the response in the tire is very good.

"The big thing for me was how quick it gave me confidence, how much feel I had through the front tire, the connection between my input at the handlebars and the response from the tire was excellent, very much like a conventional motorbike. When you look at the amount of work in the linkage setup, you could easily think there'd be slop in there or you'd lose some feeling, but I didn't. It was very direct. That was a big positive.

"A race bike's the next step, to take it to that next level and push it harder and see how it responds. Like all bikes, the harder you push them, the more you learn about them, and that'll be the case with the TS3 as well."

In cases where testers have had enough time and laps to start extracting the most from the system, the Motoinno team claims the bike's deep braking chops and handling aptitude have given it an advantage of up to a whole second per corner over a GSX-R750 with the same rider. Not per lap, per corner, according to their telemetry. The cornering line is totally different, it brakes ridiculously deep into a corner while banked over, and the team says the bike turns tighter for a given lean angle than a regular bike as well.

The Motoinno TS3 demonstrates a hub-centre steered front end that can actually turn tighter than many forked bikes
The Motoinno TS3 demonstrates a hub-centre steered front end that can actually turn tighter than many forked bikes

Taking the Motoinno concept to the limit: going racing in Moto2

Either way, even a couple of tenths of a second per corner would be an absolutely massive advantage in racing terms, and the Motoinno team are so confident in their design that they're taking it straight to the top levels of competition.

While the current TS3 bike is an AU$300,000 prototype built around a 1993 Ducati Super Sport 900, the team is arranging finance and tooling up to build a Motoinno frame around a Honda CBR600 engine and take the whole thing racing in Moto2, the category just under MotoGP.

The suspension system is designed such that most of it can be built in carbon fiber to reduce weight even further. The Motoinno team has a promising young rider lined up, they're getting close on finance, they've already got their hands on a Honda-prepared Moto2 engine and other parts ready to go, and they're very confident they can make a splash and perhaps even take home some silverware in a racing category where engines, tires and electronics are standardized and chassis design can really shine.

This won't be the first time an alternative front end has gone out in Moto2 - the Vyrus team had a go at it last year with a hub-center steered bike, but didn't record better than 16th place over 7 races.

Motoinno TS3: front wheel pivots within the hub on a virtual kingpin
Motoinno TS3: front wheel pivots within the hub on a virtual kingpin

Initial plans are to enter just two or three Moto2 races later this season, but the ultimate goal for Motoinno is twofold. First, they want to license the suspension technology to volume manufacturers, and second, they want to manufacture their own high-end boutique superbikes built around the Ducati Testastretta 1200 motor out of the current Multistrada.

It remains to be seen how the Motoinno system performs in competition - and I haven't had a chance to experience the bike's vaunted abilities at speed yet. But I can attest it certainly seems to have successfully eliminated the biggest problems with other hub-center steering systems, those being steering slop, overly wide front swingarms, poor feel to the front tire and a narrow steering lock. If it can match the performance of a hub-center system under brakes and in a turn, and it looks like it should, this thing could set the racing world on fire.

Motoinno TS3: coming soon to a Moto2 bike near you
Motoinno TS3: coming soon to a Moto2 bike near you

The Motoinno frame looks great, if a little confusing at the front end. The rest of the frame looks like a leaping cheetah; it'd almost be a pity to hide it under Moto2 bodywork. But at the end of the day it's all about performance - making a better, safer, motorcycle that can get around a track faster. Racing is a logical and necessary next step, even if I'm not totally convinced they need to take it straight to the white-hot furnace of Moto2.

Either way, we wish the team the best of luck and look forward to seeing how the project develops.

To read Cam Donald's full thoughts on the TS3, check out the next issue of Motorcycle Trader.

More information: Motorcycle Innovation

20 comments
Forest Fab
Not a new design (we tinkered at school with a similar design, but with the linkages higher up) but the execution looks rather fantastic! I'm just wondering how long it takes to remove the front wheel though? And positioning the brake calipers at the bottom does nothing. The force exerted by the calipers on the disc create a torque around the front wheel axle, which translates to a braking force at the tyre contact patch with the ground. So please put them on the uprights :-) All the best with Moto2, I will actually watch it when this bike is ready.
ioneyes
Love your bike reviews Loz, great splash of Aussie humour always. I had to re-read the article to make sure, I don't think you commented on the new mounting position for the brake callipers that this fantastic new suspension development appears to allow. Right down low, go go go .......lowering the overall centre of gravity particularly where rubber meets road. I see they have the same great design feature transferred to the rear end as well. If it rides as well as they claim it will revolutionise motorcycle design and we'll say F to the fork other than low end cheapies. There is no substitute for great design, it looks highly possible MotoInno (great name, wish I had thought of it) are riding a winner and its just a great F'ing (F to the fork) bonus that their concept bike looks Freakin' amazing. Imagine a torquey electric motor and high end next gen battery/ultra-capacitor tech sitting amidships and you have my dream bike. Thanks for the great reviews mate.
Peter Kelly
There's an old adage that says 'good design looks right' and I think it's demonstrated here perfectly. The 'Hub-centre' steered bike looks a hideous monstrosity, whereas this new design looks balanced and spectacular. I'm not a motorcyclist, or even a fan, but I can see that this is going to cause major waves in the industry. The designers deserve to reap a considerable reward if my perception is correct.
KirkHarrington
I'm not a fan of the brake caliper location. If they leave it in that position it's vulnerable being ripped from it's carrier in the event of an accident. Overall, I like the concept but tire changes do not look straight forward. If you are in a race situation and need a tire change that could be an issue. It's certainly an issue in endurance racing. I suppose that Moto2 is a good test bed. Looking forward to the follow up.
tress_972@hotmail.fr
Nice concept, similar to the french concept GECO (http://www.progecomoto.fr/) started around 10 years ago by Eric OFFENSTADT.
Bob Stuart
Brake dive is mostly due to weight transfer, as illustrated by a stoppie. Telescopic forks make it worse by having deceleration add to the motion by partly compressing the forks. To eliminate it, you have to make the wheel move forward as much as it moves up, which feels harsh on bumps. The old F1 Cooper was very quick off the line because it used similar principles to minimize squat on acceleration.
ThomasJackson
So what happens when this bike is in a corner with 5 bikes running telescopic forks?
BillHarmen
I'm no expert and I realize this is a prototype. But the bike's size seems very small compared to what the rider looks like in size. It looks as if it would be uncomfortable on any long ride. Or is it that the rider is 6' 4/5" at 230/40 lbs?
chidrbmt
Great write up,as always. Loz,you're the best biker journalist out there. Just don't tell the boss that.:-) A second gained every corner-wow! Always wondered why it took a 100 years to come up with something better than the antiquated junk forks. Usually it's the small,independent guys that think outside of the box. Looks cool too!
steveraxx
Given the propensity of negative comments, stating from the beginning this is an observation. Stating the obvious, there is not similarity, racing to riding in the everyday world. For starters, racing teams will spare no expense in gaining a win. Formula One once used brake calipers which were highly effective, even though there cost was amazingly expensive. Were the calipers not made of material that was highly cancerous. There use would have continued. So, racers spare no expense. Production vehicles though, well being driven on the street is a far harsher environment. Whilst this design appears to have solved a multitude of issues. The amount of pivot points is amazing. Each pivot point represents a very expensive cost to manufacture. Also, the reason there is no slop in the system is also due to the newness of said pivot-points. What will happen to such a design in the real world? A world full of grit, and rain. Imagine the cost or replacement. The prohibitive cost, assuming this design ever gained mass appeal may well render this design to the same boutique standard as Biomoto.