Two-wheel-drive motorcycles have some real advantages, but in the past they've tended to be highly complex systems that require significant re-plumbing of your motorcycle. That's what makes this concept from German Beemer tuners Wunderlich so appealing –using an electric hub motor in the front wheel, it looks like a relatively simple way to add electric 2WD, as well as a handy reverse gear, to a standard BMW R1200GS.
Most people who've tested them agree on the advantages offered by two-wheel-drive motorcycles over regular rear wheel drive bikes, particularly offroad. They're far less likely to get stuck in rocks or bogged in the really loose or sloppy stuff, and they pull harder out of corners. The front end doesn't wash out nearly as much under hard cornering, and the rear wheel doesn't tend to break away nearly as much as usual.
The trouble, of course, is how to get the power to that front wheel. You can't use a chain drive, because the bike needs to turn. So we've seen some interesting solutions – be it Christini's geared drive shaft system that runs down through the forks, or the kooky hydraulic systems that Yamaha and BMW have both flirted with.
German company Wunderlich, which translates loosely as "whimsical," has thrown another idea into the ring. Known as an aftermarket parts supplier for BMW machines, the Wunderlich team also enjoys making radical concept bikes to demonstrate what can be done with its extensive parts catalogue. And for EICMA 2015, it presented an R1200GS adventure bike kitted out with a hybrid electric 2-wheel-drive system.
The system appears very simple – the front wheel is kitted out with an electric 7.6-kilowatt (10.2 horsepower) hub motor that draws power from a small battery pack that lives under the front beak.
The system is hooked up to a sensor in the bike's throttle, and it runs through a switch on the tank that allows you to choose how much power it puts out, and in which direction. Because it runs with the bike's engine turned off, it gives you the capability to accelerate up to 20 km/h (12 mph) under electric front-wheel-drive alone, or to reverse the giant GS at up to 3 km/h, which will be handy if you park it in an awkward spot. We have no idea what happens if you put the front wheel in reverse and the rear wheel in first gear, but we'd sure like to watch. Regenerative braking helps recharge the battery.
Most of the electrics come from Italian company Evolt, but as part of the retrofit, Wunderlich has made its own chassis adjustments to account for the extra weight at the front end.
There's no word on the weight penalty for the AWD system – presumably it's a fair bit more than the 15-pound system Christini was selling back in 2007. But that was a race-focused system, where this is an enhancement to an already-heavy adventure machine, and this looks like a much simpler system and one that's easier to fit to an existing bike.
Right now, the R1200GS LC hybrid 2WD system is just a concept and Wunderlich hasn't revealed any plans to put it up for sale. But it looks like a great kit idea to us!