Thursday, December 4, 2008

Funny Front: Tier Motorsports’ Yamaha R1 concept

Fork off: Tier Motorsports' Yamaha R1 concept, with a single-sided front swingarm
Pics: The Biker Gene

Over the last few decades, some manufacturers and independent specialists have tried to break away from the ubiquitous telescopic front fork, and tried various kinds of alternative front suspension on motorcycles. However, BMW seem to be the only bike manufacturers who’ve ever had any significant commercial success with bikes that had alternative front ends, while the Britten V1000 is probably the only successful racebike that did not use the conventional fork.

In theory, some alternative front ends – the front swingarm for example – can separately deal with the forces generated by braking, steering and cornering a motorcycle, and thus offer significantly better handling. In practice, however, very few of these systems seem to have worked.

In any case, there is no dearth of people who keep trying to find a suspension solution that’s better than the good old telescopic fork, and that’s where Tier Motorsports come in. This company has designed a concept motorcycle, based on the Yamaha R1, that’s fitted with a single-side swingarm and a monoshock in place of the regular USD fork.

Among a dozen other things, the Tier Motorsports’ front end uses a completely vertical steering axis, instead of the tilted steering axis that telescopic forks have to use because of their rake. Claimed advantages are adjustable dive under braking, more consistent steering, increased high speed stability, better ride comfort, full-range adjustability and an increase in braking performance.

The claimed advantages all sound good, but we wonder if this single-sided front swingarm will ever make to production reality. Given how good USD forks on modern sportsbikes have become, the possibility for alternative front suspension being accepted on mainstream bikes looks bleak. That is, unless this kind of suspension is backed up by some other pathbreaking technology, like two-wheel-drive perhaps. A 2WD Yamaha R1 with single-sided front and rear swingarms? Hmmm… now that would be interesting!
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