Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Al'turn'ative Tuesday

13 pounds (9.98 kg). 

That is how much James Parker's latest RADD front-end has cutout of the stock Suzuki GSXR-1000. (Rationally Advance Design Development)

Imagine you were the chief Engineer of Suzuki performance motorcycles and were required to drop the weight of the flagship GSX-R by nearly 5% while maintaining emission standards, reliability, and MSRP by next year. There is no time or budget for composites or expensive titanium.  The word "Rational" now becomes a key word; but only if you are willing to act on something right in front of you....

The power of performance motorcycle engines has grown exponentially with respect to other areas of motorcycle development. (e.g. a 1993 CBR900RR had 124 hp & weighed 408 lbs; a 2009 BMW 1000RR has 193 hp & weighs 403 lbs. This is a 55% increase in hp, while the weight has only been reduced 1.2%).  These engines now require trick electronics to keep the power within the majority's skill-level.  It can be argued that engineers are not only spending a disproportionate amount of time on an engine's outright power, but now they are spending time on electronics to control this power (it is almost like 'work for the sake of work').  This "culmination of power" over the last 16 years maybe the tipping point that prompts manufacturers to re-evaluate the entire motorcycle in order to improve performance. Engine development should still continue (as evidenced by the new Yamaha R1 cross-plane crankshaft, which, ironically has gained weight).

Cutting weight has been a goal for decades and Honda finally achieved an impressive figure in 1993, but that benchmark still stands today.*  In addition, current engine performance is already exceeding the operator's ability, so engineers can't just throw another 55% increase in hp over the coming years in order to improve performance.  If we continue to think with traditional design and use telescopic forks, performance improvements will continue at a slow pace, with small incremental improvements, and at higher costs (e.g. Ducati's recent patent for a carbon fiber frame).

The profound weight reduction achieved through the RADD front-end (6% weight loss) just might prompt an OEM to look into alternatives to the telescopic fork.  Is Ducati's cf frame necessary? Do they have to abandon their signature steel trellis construction? Not if they use an alternative to the telescopic fork.  They can cut weight affordably.  I'll bet production costs of designs like Parker's latest RADD front-end can still come in lower than other methods of weight reduction if an OEM continues to use telescopic forks.

Parker's design utilizes the same wheelbase, rake, and trail as the stock bike to allow Suzuki and anyone else to evaluate his design against the status quo tele. design.

Be sure to pick up the April-May 2010 issue of "Ultimate Motorcycling" magazine. It has an article with excellent photography and a welcomed write-up of this design.  The photos enclosed are from that issue.

* understandably, weight reduction can be more difficult than increasing hp, especially with retail reliability requirements; but that only emphasizes re-examining the status quo construction of performance motorcycles.
Related: here & here

Suzuki websites

click all photos to enlarge

note the reduction in frame mass, particularly high on the motorcycle

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