Three unconventional motorcycle suspension systems that surprisingly worked
These weird suspensions systems may shock you
When you think of a motorcycle, generically speaking, what springs up in your mind is the classic image of a bike: two wheels, a seat, bicycle-style front fork, and an engine to move all the parts from A to B.
In a development process that extended throughout most decades of the last century, manufacturers tried many designs and iterations of the “classic-shaped” motorcycle.
Since having a single-sided swing-arm for the rear end is not that uncommon, today I’m going to briefly present you some of the factory-made bikes that stood up in the crowd by not using conventional suspension for the front end. Here we go.
1. Yamaha GTS 1000 - The GTS1000 is a sport-touring motorcycle produced by Yamaha from 1993 to 1999. The forkless front suspension provided improved stability under hard braking compared to the classic telescopic design. Cost-wise, the added value to the final price brought by this piece of engineering was not justified to the consumer.
The FZR1000 engine-propelled model was doomed because it was not commercially successful. Besides the advanced suspension system, the GTS1000 featured an EFI system, ABS brakes, and a catalytic converter. Quite ahead of its time, I would say.
2. Gilera CX125 - This 2-stroker was presented as a prototype for the first time at the Milan Motor Show in 1989. The life span of this futuristically designed model was short: from 1991 until 1993 when Gilera shut the gates of the factory located in Arcore. Looking at it from the right side, you will have a spectacular image: both wheels are attached on only one side of the motorcycle.
The rear wheel is attached to a single sided swing-arm, and the front wheel is attached to a single-spoke fork manufactured by Paioli for Gilera. Contrary to popular opinion, the system used by Gilera is simple, and we can compare it with the landing gear of an airplane. To give you a better idea of the suspension, the wheel and braking system are attached to a single sided swing-arm that connects to a 45-mm telescopic shock absorber. Also, the mounting point of the front assembly is the traditional one in the frame’s “neck”. This system allows the bike to have a clean right side, granting a full view access to the car-like rims.
3. Bimota Tesi (1D / 2D / 3D) - In my view, this is one of the most futuristic motorcycles ever built. The Italian manufacturer developed the prototype in 1983, but the conveyor belts of the factory only started moving in 1990 with the release of the approved version for the road use: the Tesi 1/D. In 1994 a new model was released, the Tesi 2/D, followed in 2007 by Bimota Tesi 3/D. All of the models used Ducati V-Twins power plants.
The excellent engineering behind this motorcycle allowed the use of a front hub-steering swing arm instead of a “classic” telescopic fork. The hub center-steering system separated the steering and the suspension functions. This system drastically reduced the sinking/bottoming effect of the classic fork under hard-braking scenarios, allowing the bike to be more stable during road use.
Photo credits: https://www.wikimedia.org/
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