Where's The Innovation? Why Moto2 Churns Out Identikit Bikes

After the initial disappointment at the death of the 250cc two strokes, the advent of the Moto2 class raised hopes that Grand Prix racing would enter a new era of chassis innovation, as the teams spent the money saved on engine development on exploring novel solutions to the problem of hustling a motorcycle around a circuit is the shortest time possible. The first set of designs unveiled did little to feed that hope, with most bikes being of the aluminium twin beam variety which is standard in most sports and racing machinery, with a couple of tubular trellis frames thrown in for good measure.

Even that variety did not last. The trellis frames were the first to go - mostly as a result of the extra weight the design created - and the number of chassis manufacturers dropped from 13 in the first year to 6 in 2013. Even that figure gives an inflated picture of the variety in the paddock: 28 out of the 32 permanent entries form Moto2 this year use either the Kalex, Suter or Speed Up chassis. The bikes vary in stiffness, in aerodynamic detail and in aesthetics, but other than that, they are virtually identical.

So why is there no real innovation in the Moto2 paddock - or MotoGP or Moto3, for that matter? The answer is simple, and has been discussed here many times before. The attitude which characterizes the paddock in technical terms is not one of the fearless pursuit of knowledge and innovation. It is not a hotbed of blue sky thinking and adventurous engineering. It is a place of conservative evolution, of cautious refinement, where proven concepts are polished to as near perfection as possible. 

Why the conservatism? Surely a gamble on a radical new approach could end up paying big dividends? That is certainly true, but major changes often take a lot of work to get right. With teams struggling for sponsorship contracts year on year, they simply cannot afford to risk a year (or two, or three) of terrible results, as they work to iron out the flaws and bugs in their radical new concepts. It is better to stick with what you know, working on perfecting a set up, and put pressure on your rider to find the extra tenth in their riding. The chances of that path paying off spectacularly may not be large - unless you happen to find an undiscovered talent, which is rare enough in itself - but at least if you fail, you will not fail badly. At worse, you end up running around at the back of the pack, a second or so off the pace. You can then try and remedy that by picking up a new rider, and maybe a new crew chief into the bargain.

This aversion to innovation has come to pervade the paddock to such an extent that even relatively small changes are feared. In 2010, chassis builder FTR tried to persuade Moto2 teams to use their stemless headstock design, which swapped the stem joining the top and bottom of the triple clamps for a much stronger set of bearings at the top and bottom of the headstock. This removed the stem from the air intake for the airbox, creating a much cleaner and less turbulent flow of air to the inlets, something which offered a significant advantage in terms of fueling. The teams were not interested, not even to try and test the bike. It was not what they were used to racing with, and they feared the difference in feel such a construction might create.

Since then, that conservatism has only grown. It has been fueled by Ducati's problems, as they have struggled since the departure of Casey Stoner with both the carbon fiber frameless chassis, and then with the aluminium twin spar chassis which has replaced it. If a major manufacturer like Ducati is having such problems, the thinking goes, then what chance does anyone else have of making a new chassis design work? As one chassis designer said to me recently, "Ducati’s current woes have set us back to almost post-Elf like aversion to innovation." If the teams feared innovation before, they are in absolute terror of it at the moment.

The pursuit of alternative chassis technologies is also made much harder by the use of a spec tire. With everyone constrained by a single stiffness and construction, handling flex and road irregularities has to be found in chassis and suspension design. It is not possible to simply ask your tire manufacturer for a tire with a softer carcass or a different profile, you have to design your bike around the tire, rather than the other way around.

The other major factor in limiting innovation is what is affectionately termed 'the nut between the handlebars'. To be able to go as fast as possible, riders depend on the feedback they get from the tires. They use that feedback to determine how close to the limit they are, and then respond appropriately. If the front is pushing, they know they can't turn much faster. If the rear is starting to step out, they know they can't get on the gas much harder. I once asked Tech 3 crew chief and technical guru Guy Coulon why we don't see any unconventional front fork designs, and he pointed at the ground and then at his head, saying "because you do not want anything getting in the way of the information traveling from here to here." Every rider currently in Grand Prix has grown up racing bikes with a completely conventional design, and they have many years' experience with the feedback such a design provides. Unconventional designs usually provide different feedback, and riders have to spend more time relearning a skill set they thought they had already mastered.

The only area in which there is any real progress being made is in electronics, but such progress is invisible to the spectators. Where previously, a design like the Elf Honda might have gathered a group of admiring fans to wonder at the technology, Honda's latest software algorithm optimizing fuel conservation during engine braking is invisble to the naked eye. There is literally nothing for the fans to see. Even the changing electronics strategies are only accepted because most engineers have no need to fully understand just what has been changed. After all, all the electronics systems are doing is controlling vehicle dynamics in a number of directions, the precise details are not directly relevant. Crew chiefs merely need to tell the electronics engineers that they need a little less wheelie in this section, or a little less torque in that section, the ingenuity of the code which actually manages this is beyond the scope of their interest. 

So if you want to see real innovation in chassis design this weekend, you will need to head to the Goodwood Festival of Speed, where John Keogh and Paul Taylor will be displaying their TaylorMade Moto2 prototype. The bike features an all-carbon fiber chassis, with integrated fuel tank and bodywork. The front suspension operates via a single wishbone and conventional fork tubes, much like BMW's telelever suspension. The advantage of this set up is that it allows air to flow freely into the airbox, the disadvantage is that it lacks a little bit of the feel of conventional telescopic forks under hard braking.

Below is a press release from TaylorMade with more details of their Moto2 machine:

TaylorMade All-Carbon Moto2 Prototype to debut at Goodwood

The sensational TaylorMade Carbon2 prototype will make its first public appearance at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in the UK in mid-July.

The unique Moto2 class racing bike features an all-carbon fibre monocoque chassis which integrates the fuel tank and bodywork in a single fabrication, cutting weight and increasing strength. The multi-adjustable chassis is a key innovation for the ultra-competitive 600cc Grand Prix series.

TaylorMade head Paul Taylor said: ‘Moto2 is meant to be a prototype class. While the racing is fantastic, the level of innovation has been frankly disappointing. Carbon2 aims to challenge that.’

Carbon2 has been developed by Paul Taylor and designer John Keogh, to produce a race bike with optimum strength and weight, but with exceptional ‘tunability’ to suit different riders, circuits and track conditions.

Carbon2 contains a range of cutting-edge design elements. The super-rigid swing arm is all carbon, while the radiator is positioned at the rear of the bike - the monocoque is only as wide as the engine - to minimize the bike’s frontal area.

The integral fuel cell is positioned just behind the engine, running vertically to below the swing arm, centralizing mass and maintaining a constant balance as the fuel level drops.

Front suspension is a highly-adjustable single wishbone, with conventional damping in the fork tubes.

Use of a wishbone and telescopic forks allows the air tunnel feeding the radiator to pass through the center of the bike, improving intake flow, yet retaining a familiar suspension feel for riders.

Carbon2 has been developed on-track over two years and is now ready to race

Paul Taylor said: ‘In a class as ultra competitive as Moto2 the chance of an advantage has got to be of interest. That’s what we’re here to prove.’

Taylor added: ‘Moto2 was introduced as a prototype class using a supplied Honda CBR 600 engine to limit costs, but with complete freedom for chassis design. As designers, this was a very exciting prospect as top level racing had become exclusively based around modified production bikes.

‘However, I’ve been disappointed in the way Moto2 has developed. It may be the best racing in Grand Prix, but the bikes do not have an ounce of distinction between them. Of course, the racing community is innately conservative, but we hope to prove to teams that thinking “outside the box”, combined with rigorous testing and development, can deliver a competitive advantage.’

Carbon2 has been invited to run at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in the UK from July 11-14 and will be demonstrated daily on the famous hillclimb track.

Carbon2 has been developed in the USA by former Buell factory rider Shawn Higbee and will be ridden at Goodwood by the bike’s designer John Keogh.

Taylormade Racing, based in Van Nuys, Los Angeles, California, USA, is a specialist in innovative design and manufacture of carbon-fibre components, to Formula One standards. It is a discreet supplier to the Yamaha, Honda and Buell race teams as well as producing its own range of hi-tech exhaust mufflers for street bikes, which have attracted much attention for their light weight and integrated design.

Englishman Paul Taylor has been responsible for many ground-breaking road and race bike designs; including the Saxon Laverdas. His Daytona-winning Triumph Triple Racer will also be demonstrated at Goodwood. John Keogh, who is another Brit, has long been associated with TaylorMade’s products, adding the stunning looks which stylishly integrate the company’s exhausts into the standard sportbike bodywork of Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha and Kawasaki.

Website: www.racetaylormade.com

Facebook: Facebook.com/TaylorMadeRacingUS

Web Links: Goodwood: http://www.goodwood.co.uk/festival-of-speed/welcome.aspx:

National Motorcycle Museum: http://www.nationalmotorcyclemuseum.co.uk/museum/

Photo credit: Taylormade Moto2/TotalSim USA

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Yes, the level of innovation in MotoGp and the smaller classes is truly disappointing.
I was hopeful the the new formulas in all classes would have produced at least a few stunning and exotic motorcycles but as you so eloquently explain, it is unlikely to happen in a few leaps and bounds.
We have been stuck in the current basic formula of twin beam aluminium chassis, conventional front suspension and link type rear suspension for over thirty years now!
Perhaps a class which bans conventional ideas and encourages innovation would help to drive progress forward to the point that riders would get comfortable with new ideas. They could then be released upon the unsuspecting hordes of conventional machines when they begin to show promise?

it usually is. I quite like it. It looks very Britten-like and integrated. I wonder how 'tuneable' the weight distribution and flex are. It should be very light and perhaps heavier riders can accept a different feel from the front if it gives them something elsewhere. The shape is, clearly, functional and aerodynamic to aid the rider/bike package.
If the teams aren't falling over themselves perhaps Dorna could buy one......

it certainly is hard to look at! haha but in all seriousness, great article. Seems like MotoGP mirrors Hollywood; don't make anything new just make what works. But if these TaylorMade boys have a competitive machine then get out there and race it! We need more competitive mom and pop machines in the series.

The problem I think is that there's no series anywhere any more that really allows experimentation. Except just possibly BEMSEE Powerbike where the Vyrus has some success. MotoGP costs too much and so encourages conservatism. Club racing costs too little so encourages production racing. For a while the only actual prototype racing was Supermono but that's all but disappeared. In theory, national Moto2/3 racing would provide a place for experiments, but if it's a feeder class for international racing, the kids won't want to take chances.

If Britten or Tularis built their bikes now, where would they race?

BTW, can we have at least one race series somewhere in the world that has only two rules.

1. Two wheels
2. Wheel powered (eg no jets,or rockets)

Recumbent, turbo-'busa, KERS, streamliner anyone? Round Mallory on a wed evening!

The Metiss FFE bike runs in the open class at the Bol d'Or and Le Mans 24 hours. For a bike running basically a 2008 stock GSXR 1000 motor, from an enthusiast team with no testing budget, it does very well.

But there's the catch. If the design has an advantage, it is of the "taking into account..." sort. It still gets beaten by Superstock spec bikes... so it's not the sort of advantage that leaps out and screams "this is better".

BTW, where did the Tularis race, other than US club races?

I have had a Taylormade exhaust on my 2008 CBR1000RR since I bought it and absolutely love it. It sounds insane, everyone complements the looks, and the power I picked up was quite noticeable.

Very happy to see this company making an appearance on the racing series.

Anyone looking for Carbon fiber work for their bike should check this place out. Top notch.

Dorna required a spec engine, handed to Honda on a silver platter.

If the engine spec had been open we would have seen a vast array of different chassis designs. BUT, that didn't happen since they all have to conform to the CBR600R mounting points. Hence, the more cookie cutter approach. As well, there will always be those weeded out though inability to perform.

Par for the course, really.


I agree with jbond, I used to partake in racing at BEMSEE, I watched the Vyrus race many times, and it was ridden by Phil Read jnr, he said it took a bit of getting used to but he found the real difference was it did not dip when you braked and he could turn much tighter and sharper, and he had much success in the Thunderbike class, before it moved onto powerbike class, unfortunately I think that unless a big benefactor or sponser comes forwards to fund the entry of a Taylormade bike in moto2 then you won't see it happen because of the time and money required, and riders and sponsers not wanting to lose or waste time not seeing results, because sponsers want wins and podiums to get there name out there and riders want wins and podiums, so that they don't lose there presence or money, it would need someone who loves the sport, and is doing it just to see if they can, a bit like VW/Bugatti with they veyron, they lost money but did it just to see if they could.

I appreciated David's observations on rider experience and it's influence on design. This is likely one of the hardest aspects for radial chassis/suspension designs to deal with, as it requires a rewiring of the riders sensory imputs and motor/muscle memory. Not the work of a moment.
Not only does a new design direction have to be quantitatively better than the dominate design solutions and do this very quickly, but it has to feel natural to the rider so he has the confidence to push to the edge, and past, the design envelope. Along with the mentioned financial struggle for teams it's no wonder that the well-developed and rider friendly twin spar and telescopic suspension design has not been surpassed, yet.

1. Why the focus on light weight when there is a weight limit?
2. Narrow is good, but not so narrow that the rider is exposed.
3. Why is an exhaust manufacturer using someone elses exhaust?
4. Ugly as hell

1. Because weight limits may not be forever, and with a combined rider/bike limit you could put fat bastards like me on the bike if you make it only weigh 35KGs
2. Someone like Pedrosa may not be exposed (that much). Furthermore, that may be part of the plan, to use the rider as part of the aerodynamic equation, if you have him sitting on the back of the bike anyways
3. They probably get some money for this
4. Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder. Furthermore, the point is to be functional as much as possible, achieving that is beatiful in itself

Sometimes, there is a best solution and everyone ends up using it. Like the crankcase reed valve V4 2-stroke 500, for example.

The way you break out of that is to change the environment: if you want people to try fancy materials, don't impose a minimum weight that removes any potential advantage.

Also, don't under-estimate the effect of a spec engine on frame design. It's a reasonably upright inline 4, so the frame has to spread very rapidly behind the headstem to wrap around the cylinder head, which imposes all sorts of problems for ensuring adequate rigidity. The engine mounts are in fixed positions and the gearbox sticks up in the air.

In contrast, the Ducati 1198 had a trellis frame that worked well... with a narrow v-twin with low mounted gearbox. In fact, almost the same situation as... a KTM moto3. It worked less well with a V4. Might be a coincidence.

But blaming this on privateer moto2 teams is nonsense: innovation should be coming from the factories in MotoGP, but they have driven the rules to eliminate it.

What do you think all these rules are intended to do? The transformation from competition to entertainment is well underway and difficult to stop. Us motorcycle folks love to poke fun at NASCAR but what is Moto2 but NASCAR on 2 wheels so maybe those of you who like Moto2 should point a finger in the mirror and snicker instead. Spec engine and fixed gearing leads to nearly spec exhaust, cooling, and aero. Not too much difference from the Car of Tomorrow concept. The main distinction from NASCAR is that they are making a buck doing it while Moto2 is chock full of teams barely scraping along.

What surprises me is that anyone can even consider that Moto2 would encourage innovation. You have a spec engine with fixed gearing and spec tires. The design brief is basically to build a CBR600RR that works on the spec slick tires instead of the DOT tires it runs on in WSS. The CBR600 engine was specifically designed as part of the CBR600 bike (duh). As a in bike with an aluminum beam frame and telescopic forks. Cylinder angle, clutch, countershaft and C of G position, etc., have all been refined over the past 25 years to be as good as inexpensive production technologies can be. What a great basis for a GP bike! Ugh.

I met with Mike Webb at the IndyGP after the initial set of Moto2 rules were released (still available: http://www.fim-live.com/fileadmin/alfresco/Docs/f_6127.pdf) but before the spec engine had been finalized. I was trying to make a case to him that a spec engine was a bad choice but its hard to make a case when he was telling me that nobody including him wanted to do the spec engine but that's what was going to happen. They were toying with the idea of a rule requiring the use of permanent mold crankcases (production engine casting technology for a prototype series, nice) but in the end even that was not restrictive enough. I had financing ready and willing to develop and run a bike but they were not interested in doing so around one of the most common engines in existence.

In the end, doing something radical yet still wanting performance requires major design decisions, such as engine geometry, to be optimized for that specific case. Without that design freedom it is difficult to make an overall package better than the mass produced bike the engine is sourced from. I wish I could be satisfied making wild looking bikes that can't get out of their own way like a lot of custom builders but that's not my cup of tea.


In the early days of drag racing (cars, not bikes), nobody really knew what the best solution to getting down a quarter mile of pavement was. Some people tilted the car forward, others tilted it back. There were single-engine cars, double-engine cars, even cars with an engine at each of the four wheels. One guy, I forget his name, used a jack system to hold his driving wheels off the ground until the flagman (no christmas-tree lights yet) waved them off, when the guy would descend the jacks with the driving wheels already spinning.

Innovation was necessary--until people started recognizing what worked and what didn't. Fast forward a half a century, and dragsters are all basically the same. The cream rose to the top, and the chaff fell to the wayside, to mix a couple of metaphors. It's what happens in every discipline, whether a person is building racing machines or houses.

In racing, as with all disciplines, it's not that we've found the best solutions, it's that we've decided on the best solutions that have been tried. It takes guts and a fat wallet to try something new. There's always going to be something that advances the species, but the longer a discipline exists, the harder it is to take large steps forward.

Entertainment? Even that is increasingly hard to see. Look at the classes where spec equipment was supposed to generate close racing. Moto2 is becoming a class where not only the equipment is spec, but the results are predictable. Every Moto2 race is basically a two-rider contest for the win.

And I keep pointing to what is happening in British Superbike - not because I dislike the series, but every TD&H keeps saying, see, they went to a spec ECU and look how good it is! In 2013 in BSB, there have been 10 Superbike races (30 podiums). So far, Byrne has won 70 percent of the races and has 23 of the 30 podiums. One other racer has two wins and one other has one. In Race Two of the last round, the first two riders had a seven-second gap over third. In both races, there was virtually no passing.

Not only that, at the last round, only 23 Superbikes started Race One and only 20 started Race Two.

Spec racing does not equal closer racing.

Competition is like water and spec equipment rules are like trying to hold water tightly in your hand: its futile as the water will always find a way out. Open your hands into a cup and cradle the water and it will happily stay put.

>>what is happening in British Superbike....Spec racing does not equal closer racing.

The same thing is happening in AMA. Chase the factories out and prevent teams from having the ability to make and bolt on a part and now we yearn for the days where were there were at least 2 riders who could win and the suspense was to see how close Jamie Hacking could get to them. Now its the Josh Hayes show and the only question is will he do the double, get pole, and lead the most laps each weekend or will he only get pole and the double.


Superbike performance is relatively well controlled so the sport is counter-intuitive. The more modifications allowed under the rulebook, the more production equipment the manufacturers can replace with racing equipment. The production equipment is quite unequal but the racing equipment is relatively equal b/c the manufacturers are all quite competent. The drawback of an open rulebook is the cost.

Though BSB has a spec-ECU, the MCRCB have restricted the modifications, and the bikes are no longer equal. Furthermore, we could argue that spec electronics actually make things less equal b/c rider skills are unequal as well as the basic power delivery of the engines.

Therein lies the complexity of SBK. If they eliminate mods, the bikes are not equal. If the mods are too free, the costs get out of hand. If the electronics are spec, the riders make a big difference, perhaps more than the competence of the engineers, which may aggravate the manufacturers.

Its a bizarre time. Very limited rules/design parameters, but not very close racing (at the premier level). Rules and limited design constraints are OK if it makes for close racing. Super spread out racing is OK if it's driven by exciting and game changing innovation. We have neither of the good in either equation. Well, at least Rossi is competitive again

Don't mistake restrictive rule structures and commercial sponsorship pressures with technical shortcomings. From an engineering perspective a telescopic fork is a hugely unoptimized way to support the front wheel in its various needs. It is a long arm subject to bending forces and sliding friction. Bending forces are the least efficient way to load a structure. Sliding friction is the worst type of motion to have. But with decades and huge sums involved in development these shortcomings have been largely sidelined. Imagine how well an efficient design would benefit from 1/10 of that development effort.

>>I once asked Tech 3 crew chief and technical guru Guy Coulon why we don't see any unconventional front fork designs, and he pointed at the ground and then at his head, saying "because you do not want anything getting in the way of the information traveling from here to here."

Nobody has tried one in high level racing for decades so this is mere speculation. And as Guy has been in the paddock for a long time he is one of these risk adverse people who never stray too far from the status quo. His response does not even answer the question. With teles there is a whole bunch of stuff between the road and the rider's head. With a FFE there is a different bunch of stuff. Maybe Guy really means that all current crew chiefs only have experience with teles so think that is the best path to success. But to say that a telescopic fork is the only way to provide high quality feedback to a rider is pretty technically closed minded, not a surprise coming from a paddock veteran.

>>Every rider currently in Grand Prix has grown up racing bikes with a completely conventional design, and they have many years' experience with the feedback such a design provides. Unconventional designs usually provide different feedback, and riders have to spend more time relearning a skill set they thought they had already mastered.

From my experience with myself and several people competitively club racing (please don't laugh) a 125, 250, and a FFE single the difference in feel is more detail than wholesale. Any good rider will be able to adapt to the subtly different signals coming through. Especially if there is an advantage to be had, which others and myself think there is.


There is a point in making an extremely light motorcycle when you have riders like Redding still 12kg above the combined weight limit. If the new design is light enough, one can even work with finding the best spot to put ballast, to optimize weight distribution.
About being too narrow and leaving the rider exposed, I would like to see a picture of it,taken from the front, going on a straigh line, because those recesses for the rider's arms and legs look much deeper than the ones seen on conventional bikes, so maybe the rider can tuck in enough to make good use of the narrow profile.
At first glance I thought it was ugly, but I'm too much of a gearhead so the more I look at it, the more functional every detail looks, so now it just looks beautiful. Taylor should beg Redding to ride it after a GP. the combination of light weight and those big hiding places for the rider just cry for him to try it out. Now people say it's ugly. If it's proven fast, the beauty standard will certainly start to change.

I'd love to know. It appears we're following formula racing. The mantra of the governing body should be to create as few rules as possible, while still maintaining safety and a competitive field. As far as I can tell we should be racing 2-strokes, 4-strokes, rotaries, electric etc etc, so long as they comply with basic pre-requisites of safety and competitiveness.

Google may sponsor an electric bike... They'll never come near a bike developed using a Honda motor and aluminium twin spar... the world is changing but those running the show are my age - and that's not young. Does anyone think that the information age businesses are going sponsor fossil fuel age machines? Dornia should see it as chance to test these new technologies against these proven speed machines, if they're good enough?

that taylormade is one steep & short wheelbased motorcycle. reminds me of the buell firebolt i had years ago - i bet its a wild thrill to ride hard!

Actually there is a project to run a non-conventional Moto2 bike, which we may see as a wild-card this year at Brno: the "Transfiormer", built by Christian Boudinot based on the ideas of Claude Fior.

The first version of the bike was ridden in the last round of the CEV last year and achieved a very creditable 10th. I think that, along with the Metiss in endurance, constitutes the best results seen for FFE bikes in recent times (back to the ELF 500GP).

Story (in French, but with photos!):

When the divisions (MotoGP, Moto2, or Moto3) begin a new season with a different tire manufacturer? This sounds like it would be a lock for Bridgestone and Dunlop to remain as the sole tire supplier of their divisions in MotoGP.

If the manufacturers develop so much to the specific tire what happens when a new tire disrupts that? I'd think that the cost savings they wanted by using a single tire supplier would then be flushed down the toilet for a few years. Or the current tire supplier gives the new supplier their specs on the tires... I think not!

I recall reading that when you had Bridgestone, Michelin and Dunlop in MotoGP if they had a tire blowout or something of that nature they would send in their technicians to snatch up every tiny bit of tire so that the competitor couldn't use it to analyze the material for themselves.

David, has anyone every put an article together that lists all the different instances in which a rider got a different tire than the standard? i.e. Melandri getting Pedrosa's extra tires, which he used to go on to win that race in 2006 (Estoril?) or the late night batches that were shipped just in time for the race after getting new data on the track from the practice sessions... That would be an interesting bit of information.

It was Elias, not Melandri, at Estoril.

I'm not sure what point that proves: Elias had a bike that he was used to riding on "privateer" Michelins, his settings were for the lower spec tyres, and then when he put on the good ones he beat Rossi.

--'The front suspension operates via a single wishbone and conventional fork tubes, much like BMW's telelever suspension.' --

Just for clarity:

The Saxon front end on the TaylorMade Moto2 bike was originally designed by Nigel Hill and was then copied by BMW for the Telelever.
BMW promptly then copied the Norman Hossak design for their Duo-Lever.
No link available for Nigel Hill, he may have retired last year.
My point here is these men gave chunks of there lives towards innovation and i hate to see it even remotely go to BMW when the compensation and or recognition to these two great men was appalling.

There is a great article in Clubman Magazine, 1996, issue 3, showing the incredible craftmanship and engineering prowess of Nigell Hill / Saxon.


Back then,when the euphoria of Moto2 replacing 250 strokers was anounced, I said it would diminish into a factory manufacturer chassis class. It sure has.
All the way from M3 up to MGP, the tyre war needs to be resumed.
Its such an obvious deal. Remember Moriwaki's dominance anyone ? Results bring in the funding. Back then I said something to the effect that a single supplier engine rule would force the teams to run amock within exploiting chassis.
The cream will get factory(chassis) support and the rest ...well its come to pass.

Whatever the credit for the design, if anyone had the commercial motivation and resources to make a FFE work on the race-track, it was BMW.

They didn't. The ELF was not a success. The Britten chattered horribly at the IoM. Fior's bikes did not upset the factory bikes. The Bimota was a re-invented DiFazio (or 2 sided ELF) and despite years of opportunity has achieved... what?

So another way of looking at it is that all the alternatives have been tried and in all cases the disadvantages have at least equalled the advantages.

In that first picture of the bike being ridden it seems like it's
Alan Cathart , which is an excellent choice to ask an opinion.
Yet he is probably not fast enough to give the feedback needed.

Although i am fascinated with alternative suspension and frames
and would like to see alternative prototypes , it might be harder to accomplish then it would seem from the outset.

Look at Rossi , who's trait could be described as trail braking to the max , almost front wheel drifting going into a corner. ( Very evident in that last corner pass on Lorenzo @ Catalunya in 2009. ) And the problems he ( and others ) had (have) with the Ducati and it's front end. Then think about the philosophy of Furusawa about how the frame and suspension should be in harmony , especially when lent over and it's not about suspension travel anymore but lateral flex.
Take a look at the upper triple clamp of a Ducati , Yamaha Gp bike ( I suspect Honda has one with an alloy including brass looking at it's colour ) and it should be evident that this 'feedback issue' is not to be taken lightly , where claiming the acclimatisation of riders to conventional forks is not the whole story....maybe Stoner wouldn't be bothered much by a different kind of feedback seeing his succes with the Ducati when others couldn't get a grip with the Ducati.
Which would imply that some riders could benefit from such developments , and would even rejoice to have a bike others find 'hard to handle' a la Doohan on his screamer NSR 500.

Then looking at the way the current Bridgestones need to be 'loaded' to get grip , an optimal result would likely include involvement of a tire manufacturer to make use of the differing qualities of most alternative suspension options.

I do hope these 'irregular' concepts keep getting build and raced,
if only for the novelty and providing the opportunity to study pictures of them thinking "how the .... does that work !".

>>The Britten chattered horribly at the IoM.

The 2006 Yamaha M1 chattered horribly. The 2012 RV213V chattered horribly. We should get rid of these horrible telescopic forks..... The Britten guys were just starting to get an understanding of the handling issues when John passed away and the project was mothballed. From reading in between the lines it seemed that John was actually one of the obstacles to overcome when they were trying to fine tune stuff. His deteriorating health allowed the other team members to have some autonomy and make progress understanding what was actually happening. John always wanted to start from scratch instead of dig into the boring details whenever there was a problem. This is a great talent to have when generating new ideas but horrible when trying to optimize an existing one.

>>The Bimota was a

The Bimota was a student design project, not an engineering design project. It is largely unchanged since its inception and is only rolled out from time to time to show that Bimota makes exotic bikes.

>>So another way of looking at it is that all the alternatives have been tried and in all cases the disadvantages have at least equalled the advantages.

Yes, its not like a technology that at one point in history did not work the best will not make a reappearance as other technologies make it relevant again.

And when in the last 20 years has there been a well-funded effort for a FFE? When you consider the resources behind all of the conventional factory designs, including getting tire manufacturers to tailor the many variables of tire construction to work in harmony with their design, I think it is amazing that the very small efforts put towards FFE design have produced the performance that they do. A small amount of effort towards these designs, especially by tire manufacturers, could produce a noticable improvement in braking and handling performance.


"And when in the last 20 years has there been a well-funded effort for a FFE?"

I'd have said when BMW were trying to get into racing. As I recall they did a lot of testing with the duo-lever before finally giving up and slapping on a pair of forks. They immediately had a bike that was competitive on track, for the first time since... the /90 ?

Look, I'm all for people trying different stuff. But there is a tendency to conspiracy theories... "the factories don't want anything new". No, they probably don't, for the most part. But Yamaha did build the GTS (and some funky sprung/damped GP bike frames). BMW bet the business on the Hossack (and won, for touring purposes). The Rosset ELF was not so badly funded, they could afford Ron Haslam, they had a big sponsor... Hossack says the engineering was bad, but that's a cheap excuse.

The Tési was indeed a student thesis, but it was then built and sold commercially. Bimota was a racing company, their whole credibility was about building frames that worked better than those of their donor engines. Yet they never chose to pursue it... why?

In fact your argument about the compromises in a telescopic fork are correct... but the "long arm" problem also applies to the Hossack design (which I'm pretty sure was around well before Hossack). The sort of chatter Bruce Anstey describes on the Britten sounded not like the M1 type, but much worse than the conventional bikes were experiencing. It is just possible that the compromised dynamics of a sliding fork effectively damp some of that... or not.

There are almost certainly advantages in having steering geometry (rake & trail) independent of pro/anti dive, but if they were enormous, the alternative bikes that have shown up on the track would have wiped the floor with the others. Where are all the endurance racing victories of the Duo-lever bikes? Because BMW have certainly been racking them up with the S1000RR.

Then, look at the other end. When Yamaha adopted the monocross suspension onto their road-racers, the rest of the field followed them within a year or two. Even though it was a funky looking thing which completely changed the look of the bikes, they marketed it and it sold... and there hasn't been a successful twin-shock road-race bike since. The advantage in terms of swingarm rigidity, and of the way suspension loads are transferred into the frame, are far superior, even though initially the shocks struggled to deal with the much higher loads. The same sort of advantages that are touted for the FFE's, with the same sort of hypothetical reasons for the factories to not touch them.

So it remains that in the last few years, the only top-10 finishes at international level (I include the CEV) by FFE bikes are by the Boudinot-Fior in CEV Moto2, and the Bruneau-Metiss in endurance. I know JBB would love to build a Moto2 bike, but is realistic that no team is going to invest (and that the CBR motor is not an ideal starting point). His design is however open source: every detail of construction of the endurance bikes is available publicly. The same is true of the yours, of course :) The Boudinot bike should appear at Brno, if all goes well: they were accepted for a wild-card at Mugello, but the newer version of the frame wasn't ready in time. It will be a very, very tough debut, but if it finishes in the top 20, people should take notice.

BMW was looking to enter in the traditional sportbike market and sell big numbers. They didn't want to reinvent it and alienate customers. I would have much more respect for them as a company if they had tried a FFE, even if it took a while to break into the top 10. As it is they still took 3 years to get the first win with a conventional bike.

I never mentioned any conspiracy theories but it is no secret that manufacturers like manufacturing what they already know how to unless given a really good reason to change. I've also never said the benefits of an FFE are enormous, just that there are some and in a field where 1% is the difference between a win and 7th place a small advantage is all one needs. The main problem is that tires are hugely important and having spec tires limits what one can do differently.

>>but the "long arm" problem also applies to the Hossack design

Yes but it can be mitigated much more effectively by being able to have tapered fork legs that don't have to contain a sliding element bushing.

>>which I'm pretty sure was around well before Hossack

From an engineering perspective the Elf, Hossack, Fior, Parker, McKagen, etc are all mathematically the same design: a 4 bar linkage. Hossack was the first guy that popularized this upright style design so I give him the props he deserves.

>>The sort of chatter Bruce Anstey describes on the Britten sounded not like the M1 type, but much worse than the conventional bikes were experiencing. It is just possible that the compromised dynamics of a sliding fork effectively damp some of that... or not.

Yes, its called lack of development. I would think that having 2 rigid support arms with few constraints on shape would give many more tuning options than using round telescoping sections. And if damping is needed somewhere in the system then it should be easy to add some wherever you want as there is no sliding joing constraint. I think we have just started to scratch the surface of FFE design while forks are close to the end of their development potential.

It seems that we'll really have a FFE as a wildcard at Brno. I wish them the best and think a top 20 finish would be very respectible and hopefully dampen the criticizms of alternate designs.


It is well-proven motor-sport approach that allows the driver/rider skill to be more important. This is a Moto2 bike and is a refreshing change to the current recipe for success. Making things 'open rules' in these 'feeder' classes is possibly not the best route. However, MotoGP should definitely be more open and technical handicaps should be used to create competitive racing (if you accept that the core reason is people racing 'each other' and not 'mine is faster than yours')- but only once the technology has advanced to a consistently-winning level. MotoGP should be a leader in technology and other aspects and the trickle-down of machines etc. would hopefully benefit other racing classes.
If there were few rules the alternative engine/energy, and chassis etc. technologies could be tested. From a climate change perspective, if it is carbon use/CO2 that is causing current problems then the heat emissions of an IC motor are not a problem and liquid 'bio-fuels' could be the answer to some problems and a few prayers. With 2 stroke advantages and reduced emissions - they are more resource-efficient to produce etc., and could be the best option, as Lotus has championed. (A non-polluting Castrol R-type odour additive would be good!)
Electric bikes still have significant range/performance challenges to overcome and it will be a few years before racing becomes realistic/affordable. The TT and Pikes Peak have shown that they are getting a lot closer though, and the noise benefits may make them more acceptable to communities that share the space. The need to improve battery capacity/performance may attract a manufacturer back to a race series once the gap is manageable. But if the rules do not allow it…..

Will provide a reasonably fair competition (to me at least, a better rider is supposed to win) and be affordable for people/teams to enter.
No-one has said it is easy and huge effort is expended to try and achieve a fair competition. Sure, there are vested interests, but once the field is shrinking due to lack of entertainment or lack of entrants people soon remember what coffee smells like.
Racing has never been fair because there will always be people who cheat or use their resources ‘unfairly’ to gain advantage. Some superstock classes always have people who are suspected of running modified engines, slipper clutches, or whatever, but the effort/resources are not available to police it that tightly unless someone protests (and many just shrug and get on with it as they are doing it for fun not a job/politics). The national/world series may not have these exact problems but the problems are still there in the legal inequalities.
The issue is money, and Dorna are right (IMO) to address this basic block to wider participation. I can see that’s not easy to resolve but there must be a lot of people there with ideas that are at least workable/worth a try. It’s doing nothing that is not acceptable.
My understanding of Moto 2 was that Honda got it going by providing engines and then that evolved to someone else doing the engine work. I thought that eventually we would see an open engine choice as with the chassis. But unless you have a hopelessly complex set of rules it may remain a de facto 600 4 cyl/4 stroke series. A rear wheel power limit may be the answer, with the top finishers being dyno’d. That happens in some club classes and it works fine.

a part of the problem in modern racing? Whether it’s the TT, WSB, or MGP, in these, and some other, classes the bikes are, arguably, getting too fast for the tracks they use. This has two effects – the safety issues become problematic leading to cost or practical problems and de-classification for top-class racing, and the ‘shortening’ and ‘narrowing’ of straights and track width due to the speed/acceleration. These factors are compounded by better brakes and tyres, which further restrict the windows of sporting opportunity.
I do not like most of the implications of this observation, but is it time to call ‘enough’ on race-specific components that just add to the problem, or is it time to limit power output in some way?
This was driven home to me and got me thinking whilst watching some classic/historic races recently. Firstly (and I wouldn’t want to go back this far I don’t think!) because you could see overtakes on almost every part of the circuit because the speeds and available lines just made for more creative riding (it was the machinery that these circuits were designed for). Secondly, because the modern classics were still fast but seemed to use less-grippy rubber and were just less-powerful/trick.
We have lost some good circuits to top class racing because of these factors and we will lose more unless something is done. A bit off-subject I know, but if we want to be innovative perhaps it’s not just about constant record-breaking either.

are designed to be stiff to withstand braking forces but when the bike is at full lean this becomes a disadvantage as the suspension stops working and chatter can be induced.
This is very difficult to get rid of, usually requiring major frame modifications, especially now teams have to use a spec tyre construction. Surely this type of front end offers advantages in this respect in that it would be far easier to alter lateral stiffness to provide the right front end response the rider is looking for? Maybe Ducati should buy one and try it out? Can't be any worse than their current front end problems.