Motorcycles

Polish designer drops jaws with unique hub-steered custom motorcycle

Watkins M001: started life as a BMW R1150RT but is now a wacky hub-steered custom creation
Watkins M001: started life as a BMW R1150RT but is now a wacky hub-steered custom creation
View 19 Images
The Watkins M001: exploded view
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The Watkins M001: exploded view
Watkins M001: frame design
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Watkins M001: frame design
Watkins M001: CAD renders show how tightly this build was planned
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Watkins M001: CAD renders show how tightly this build was planned
The Mysterious "Jack Watkins" rides the M001
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The Mysterious "Jack Watkins" rides the M001
Watkins M001: we hope there's an M002.
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Watkins M001: we hope there's an M002.
Watkins M001: on the move
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Watkins M001: on the move
"Jack Watkins" has a twinkle in his eye as he stands by his wild custom creation
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"Jack Watkins" has a twinkle in his eye as he stands by his wild custom creation
Watkins M001: rear fins help hide the underseat fuel tank
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Watkins M001: rear fins help hide the underseat fuel tank
Watkins M001: an absolute head scratcher
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Watkins M001: an absolute head scratcher
Watkins M001: hub-steered front end reminiscent of the Vyrus bike
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Watkins M001: hub-steered front end reminiscent of the Vyrus bike
Watkins M001: started life as a BMW R1150RT but is now a wacky hub-steered custom creation
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Watkins M001: started life as a BMW R1150RT but is now a wacky hub-steered custom creation
Watkins M001: she's a boxer alright
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Watkins M001: she's a boxer alright
Watkins M001: full length wheelbase and wide boxer engine at the bottom, tiny compact minibike structure up top
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Watkins M001: full length wheelbase and wide boxer engine at the bottom, tiny compact minibike structure up top
Watkins M001: hub steered front end with Brembo brakes
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Watkins M001: hub steered front end with Brembo brakes
Watkins M001: Front wheel from a Yamaha XJ6, rear wheel appears to be a spoked one from a R1200GS, perhaps?
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Watkins M001: Front wheel from a Yamaha XJ6, rear wheel appears to be a spoked one from a R1200GS, perhaps?
Watkins M001: shaft driven rear wheel
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Watkins M001: shaft driven rear wheel
Watkins M001: nobody's going to mistake that for a Ducati
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Watkins M001: nobody's going to mistake that for a Ducati
Watkins M001: chrome bucket headlight
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Watkins M001: chrome bucket headlight
Watkins M001: one of the most unique and technical custom creations we've laid eyes on
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Watkins M001: one of the most unique and technical custom creations we've laid eyes on

If the goal of building a custom motorcycle is to create something unique, then "Jack Watkins" (not his real name), of Poland, can tick that box. A hub-steered head-scratcher with a Beemer Boxer motor and laser-cut sheet steel frame, the Watkins M001 is an epic engineering curiosity.

The work of an anonymous Mechanical Design Ph.D who runs a team of 30 designers at an industrial company in Gdansk, the M001 starts out with the engine and drivetrain of a 2002 BMW R1150RT, and strikes out in several curious directions.

First up is the hub-center-steered front end – more or less the inspiration for the whole project. Hub steered motorcycles lose some directness in the steering, but in return they don't suffer from the brake dive and geometry changes that telescopic forks do, allowing stronger braking in corners without stopping the suspension from doing its optimal work.

The Mysterious "Jack Watkins" rides the M001
The Mysterious "Jack Watkins" rides the M001

Mind you, if these handling characteristics were what Watkins was after, he could just as well have left the R1150RT in one piece; its Telelever front suspension was designed to deal with those self same issues, and it does a terrific job.

It doesn't have the crouching cheetah look of a hub-steer unit, though, so Watkins pressed ahead and executed a very complex steering design including a yellow Yamaha XJ6 front wheel, the only splash of color on the bike. It's got a milled hub arrangement in the middle that allows it to steer in between the confines of two suspended horizontal front swingarms.

The hub steering system allowed Watkins to run a very compact top layer to the bike. It almost looks like a minibike sitting on top of a full size motorcycle. Using 3D scanning to ascertain the exact mount points, Watkins used laser cut and bent sheet steel for the frame and bodywork. A fin-like arrangement at the back serves no practical purpose except as a good place to stick the license plate and a visual accent.

Watkins M001: rear fins help hide the underseat fuel tank
Watkins M001: rear fins help hide the underseat fuel tank

The headlight is a round chrome bucket. The seat is a few whispers of padding sat atop the steel. The fuel tank is hidden away under the seat, contributing to the surreal compact look of the front end, but somehow still holds a decent 16 liters (4.2 gallons). The tank also has structural elements inside it, as Watkins needed it to carry load from the seat down into the rear shock.

Fully custom twin exhausts exit the Boxer engine's cylinders and curl around to the underside of the bike in front of the rear wheel, where they meet in a two-layered stainless steel box that Watkins says uses 84 screws and took almost five hours to assemble.

Two things are for certain: nobody's mistaking this bike for anything else, and its mysterious creator has one heck of a twinkle in his eye. We've seen that kind of twinkle before – there goes a happy engineer.

"Jack Watkins" has a twinkle in his eye as he stands by his wild custom creation
"Jack Watkins" has a twinkle in his eye as he stands by his wild custom creation

Jump into the gallery for some neat design images that show just how throughly planned this build was, right down to that yellow front wheel.

Source: Watkins via BikeEXIF (which has more details and an interview with the creator)

7 comments
Mzungu_Mkubwa
That thing looks great, despite giving such a seemingly simplified profile! Fingers crossed that you'll get a chance to ride it, Loz, and post one of your awesome video reviews! Just think of all the crotch-related jokes you'll be able to squeeze in (pun intended!) on that one! ☺ (Didn't visit his page, any plans for production?)
Mr T
A missed opportunity, something as interesting as this is screaming out to be electric, faster, quieter, more efficient, smarter in general, putting an ICE in it is bizarre, spending all that time engineering it and then shoving in an engine from last century.
Tom Lee Mullins
It is nice but I think it would be nicer if it had some kind of body on it. I think a body would make it even more aerodynamic.
dougspair
...Doesn't appear to have much steering movement...
ljaques
Wow, all the engineering wonders of a Yugo, a Lada, and a Greeves together in one package. Amazing! ;)
wilko
This guy is nearly 45 years out of date....check outout "Nessie" at the Barcelona 24 hours. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mead_%26_Tomkinson_racing
possum1
Monocoque body, like a 1948 Vespa, centre hub steering like the 24 Hr racers referred to by 'wilko' below. Could have put the fuel cell under the engine like the Honda 24 Hr racers. As a styling exercise it is interesting, as something innovative - not so much.
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