F1 designers re-invent the motorcycle

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Two top British Formula 1 designers have created the Ecosse-Spirit ES1 - a radical new superbike which promises to offer 220mph performance.

The new design goes back to the very first principles of motorcycle architecture – starting with a new riding position aimed at hugely improving aerodynamics, and then designing the rest of the bike to allow that riding position to work.

  • Check out the gallery on the right for all the detail shots of the bike and click the related article at the bottom to see an interview with the designers.

The bike might look unconventional, but the concept is little short of genius. On realising that the aerodynamic limitations of a bike are all defined by the shape of a tucked-in rider, Dick Glover – managing director of two newly-formed firms, Spirit Motorcycle Technology, which designed the bike, and ECOSSE-SPIRIT, which will make it – worked out that if he could make the rider sit lower, he could double the aerodynamic efficiency of a bike. Then it was a case of working out how to move the rider downwards.

The biggest limitation to moving the rider down is the footpegs. Lower them on a normal bike design, and you soon run out of cornering ground clearance. So, to move them down and still allow the bike to reach big lean angles, they needed to be much closer together.

On a normal design, it’s impossible to move the pegs closer together, as the width of the swingarm prevents it. By developing a new gearbox design, with the drive chain exiting from the centreline rather than the side, the swingarm can be made much narrower in front of the rear wheel. The first, central chain then has to run a shaft mounted inside the swingarm, powering a second drive sprocket and another chain which takes the drive to the rear wheel.

Redeveloped front suspension, using a single-sided front swingarm, means there’s no need for conventional forks, a headstock or even a frame – both front and rear swingarms are bolted straight to the engine. Along with the extensive use of carbon fibre, that also means the bike can be much lighter than a normal design. Computer predictions say it the 1000cc, four-cylinder machine – which is expected to make around 200bhp in production form – will weigh just 120kg.

The bike might not have been built yet, but already computers can even predict its aerodynamic efficiency. Thanks to its smaller frontal, the ECOSSE-SPIRIT ES1 is twice as aerodynamic as a normal machine. The computer says that with as little as 170bhp it could reach 220mph, and in tuned, 210bhp form, it would manage 240mph.

You can see video of Spirit’s MD Dick Glover and Technical Director Andy le Fleming explaining their concept on the related article below.

For the full story and technical details, see the June 6 edition of MCN.

For more on the bike check out www.ecossespirit.com

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Ben Purvis

By Ben Purvis