Feet forwards motorcycle

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Quasar, an early FF motorcycle

A Feet First (FF) Motorcycle is a class of motorcycle design that seeks to look at the two-wheeled concept afresh, and create a new form of practical personal transport. The name "feet first" (also referred to as "feet forward") was first used by Royce Creasey[1] and refers to the rider's seating position, with feet ahead in a position (like a car), rather than below and astride, as with conventional bikes. As there are other types of motorcycle (e.g. choppers) that have a 'feet forward' position, an alternative term sometimes used is Advanced Single Track Vehicle.

To be classed as an FF the originators of the 'modern' FF - Malcolm Newell and Royce Creasey - came up with the definition that:[2]

  • an FF would have a seat base less than 20 in (500 mm) from the ground, at normal ride height

In practice this is not strictly adhered to, and this has developed into:

  • an FF two-wheeler is defined as a single track vehicle where the rider(s) sit in tandem in much the same attitude and at much the same height as car passengers. The seat provided is similar, and sometimes identical, to a car seat

and that:

  • a feet first two-wheeler has a low-mounted seat and seat back like a car

The Feet Forward motorcycle differs significantly from the conventional scooter (e.g. the Piaggio Vespa), and the maxi scooter (e.g. the Suzuki Burgman), in that the expectation of the design is that it should outmatch a conventional motorcycle in terms of handling and performance, as well as in rider comfort.

History[edit]

Designers have experimented with the feet forward riding position since the early days of motorcycling.

In 1909 P.G Tacchi designed a four cylinder machine with a 700cc 'L' head air cooled engine, an enclosed shaft drive and a bucket seat. The machine was known as a TAC-Wilkinson, and was manufactured by the Wilkinson Sword Company [3]

Ten years later in America Carl A. Neracher designed the Ner-a-Car[3] It had a feet-forward riding position, a pressed steel frame and hub centre steering[4] but in other respects was somewhat similar to a conventional motorcycle.[5]

Designed by Sir Alliot Verdon Roe in 1926, the Ro-Monocar used a 250cc Villiers two stroke engine, and featured a high degree of enclosure for the rider and a bucket seat. This seating position provided a high degree of comfort for the rider[3]

The Fred Wood designed Whitwood monocar used OEC duplex steering, retractable outriggers, and tandem bucket seats,[6] and was offered with engine sizes ranging from 250-996cc between 1933 and 1935.

In the 1950s NSU produced a feet forward fully enclosed monocoque construction "Flying Hammock" record breaker. The feet forward riding position allowed an exceptionally small frontal area. The consequent low wind resistance made it possible for H.P. "Happy" Mueller to achieve 150 mph (241 km/h) from a 150cc engine at the Utah Salt flats in 1956.[4]

The first recognisably modern design was the 1975 Quasar, built by Malcolm Newell and Ken Leaman. The design was not a great commercial success - just 22 examples were sold up until 1982 - but it generated a great deal of interest, and started others thinking about the FF concept.[7] Thomas Engelbach's own design of a feet forward motorcycle came in 1980, with the innovative patent for an automatic stabilizing system that incorporated outrigger wheels. The design was successfully tested but proved that the market was not ready for this model.

Since 1984 Swiss manufacturer "Peraves" has produced small series of feet forward cabin motorcycles; 95 Ecomobiles were built from 1984 to 2005 and the Monotracer went into production in 2007. Following the outstanding successes of the all-electric E-Tracer, X-Tracers and ZeroTracer the MonoTracer-E is due to go into production in 2012.[8]

In 1989 the Royce Creasey designed Voyager[9] achieved a pre-production run of five prototypes made by SCL Ltd in Powys South Wales

In 2002, Dan Gurney's All American Racers produced a limited run of 36 Alligator models.

In 2006, the first Acabion prototype was presented at the Geneva Motor Show, a feet first cabin motorcycle.

In 2008, the Buddfab Streamliner set the speed record for a 50cc engine at 145 mph (233 km/h) with 20+ hp, then in 2009 the 125cc speed record at 186 mph (299 km/h).[10] The Honda RS125 engine used produces 44 ps.[11]

In 2010, Dutchman Allert Jacobs, creator of the Quest velomobile, streamlined a Honda Innova underbone motorcycle to more than double the fuel economy from 1 liter per 48 km (113 mpg) to 1 per 101 (237mpg).[12]

In 2013, Suprine Machinery, Inc and designer John Chelen, introduced the EXODUS, a 1200cc BMW flat four with five speeds and reverse, where the rider is safely surrounded by a roll cage and a skid plate. Only weighing 680 pounds, with a full 8 gallon gas tank, the EXODUS exceeds speeds of 155 MPH with over 80 MPG at 55MPH.[13]

Rationale[edit]

Modern motorcycles are simply well-developed motorized bicycles, and as such have drawbacks. Chief among these are:

  • Safety - riders involved in an accident are at significantly higher risk of injury or death compared with car drivers.
  • Weather - motorcycles do not offer the advantages of an enclosed car in poor weather.
  • Convenience - conventional motorcycle riders need to wear a helmet and protective clothing.
  • Efficiency - motorcycles have a relatively tall profile that reduces aerodynamic performance.
  • Skill - motorcycles riders need training and practice to become skilled at riding.

Likewise, in dense urban environments, the car has a number of drawbacks:

  • Road occupancy - a car takes up much more space than a single person, and most cars transport only one person. Similarly the area occupied when parked consumes considerable space.
  • Environment - a car uses more fuel than a motorcycle for the same journey. It is also more expensive in terms of resources to build in the first place.
  • Journey times - a car is generally a lot slower than a motorcycle for city journeys due to congestion.

The FF motorcycle is an attempt to marry the advantages of bikes and cars, while avoiding the drawbacks of either. However any FF STV has no roll stability so actual benefits are overstated by some proponents when comparing a FF motorcycle with a motorcar. In addressing these issues, most FF designs arrive at a low-slung faired body, with the rider in a reclining position.

1924 Ner-A-Car
Newell-designed Gold wing FF
Newell-designed Kawasaki Z1 FF

A number of FF concepts have been tried, but so far a commercially successful design has not appeared. There has been a revival of interest in the motor scooter as a means of personal transportation, and in some respects these vehicles have some features in common with FF motorcycles.

Problems faced[edit]

The problems faced by the designer or marketer of an FF motorcycle are many.[14] While to some the advantages of such a design are self-evident, there are a number of problems to be overcome. Some of these are perceptual - existing motorcyclists tend to be resistant to the idea, arguing that it's not a "proper" bike, and there is nothing wrong with the standard form of motorcycle. To car drivers, many of the disadvantages of the car are either not recognised or simply put up with and the overall convenience is hard to give up. Many car drivers would not consider a conventional motorcycle or scooter as an alternative, seeing it as a far less convenient and less safe option. To these people, an FF motorcycle needs to be seen (and hence marketed) as a two-wheeled car rather than an enclosed motorcycle. As the FF design moves the rider from an upright or Head First (HF) posture to a recumbent position (as in the Quasar and Dan Gurney's Alligator), the machine becomes lower and may make it harder to see in traffic. However, most FFs have seat which is no lower than the average car, and much higher than many sports cars. Those who ride them regularly say that the problems of having a seat at this height are largely in the minds of those who have never tried one.

There are some engineering issues too, though experimental designs so far built show that these can be overcome. Chief among these is the problem of stability when stationary. Designs such as the Quasar require the rider/driver to use one foot to stabilise the machine when stationary, by putting his foot out of the open side onto the road. This approach precludes the use of a fully enclosed body. The fully enclosed Peraves Ecomobiles and MonoTracers use rider-deployed stabiliser wheels, which are operated when the machine is travelling very slowly, or even just as it becomes stationary.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Hi-tech, R. Creasey, Bike Magazine October 1979
  2. ^ "feet first two wheelers (FFs)". January 2003. Retrieved 2007-01-16. 
  3. ^ a b c Motor Cycles - a historical survey by C.F Caunter, Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1982
  4. ^ a b Motorcycle chassis design: the theory and practice by T. Foale and V. Willoughby, Osprey Books, 1984
  5. ^ "Ner-a-car". Retrieved 2007-01-16. 
  6. ^ Motorcycling in the 1930s by B.Currie, Hamlyn Books, 1981
  7. ^ "Quasar". Retrieved 2007-01-16. 
  8. ^ "History of Peraves AG (in german)". Retrieved 2010-07-31. 
  9. ^ "Voyager". Retrieved 2009-01-27. 
  10. ^ "Buddfab Streamliner". 
  11. ^ "RS125R specifications". Honda. 
  12. ^ Allert Jacobs. "feetforward motorbike". 
  13. ^ Paul Crowe. "Suprine Exodus BMW Powered Recumbent Motorcycle". 
  14. ^ The Virtual Motorcycle Factory by N Tucker and D Turner, Motorcycle Sport and Leisure, Vol 38, No. 8, September 1997, pp878-880

External links[edit]