The Search for Fuel Economy

Pages from a Designer's Notebook

Sept 7, 08, 2008

Chap. 17: The Truth and Motorcycle Design

(no Zen here)

I speak a lot about the truth in design. It is hard to see the truth because popular culture has veered so far from it.
For example, the truth is that the streamlined shape takes the least power to move through the air. But look around... Where do you see vehicles that are streamlined?
Only airplanes and speed record machines are streamlined. Don't you wonder why?
Reason 1: Streamlining is illegal

The biggest reason we don't have real streamlining on our street bikes is because fifty years ago, Real Streamlining was banned from road racing by the world sanctioning body for racing, the FIM. The arguments at that time were that real streamlining was dangerous. In addition, some riders complained that sidewinds were a problem. Here is what happened:

Real Streamlining
1957: FIM banned streamlining
Road racer today
In 1957, real streamlining was banned from track racing by the FIM. Development of streamlining came to a halt. No one addressed side wind problems. This is why racers now look like the Honda on the right, which is not streamlined at all. Addressing side winds has been a big subject for my Freedom Machine.
Street racer sare - not streamlined - just like real racers are not streamlined
How many of us understand that we are not streamlined? Don't feel bad. I have been designing for motorcycles since 1964 and had not made the connection myself. I believe it is time to allow real streamlining on the race track. Once racers are streamlined, street riders will want to look like racers and be streamlined too. Less fuel will be burned. We must begin with the FIM.
Here is the man I came to Bonneville to meet: Charlie Hennekam

Charlie is the Technical Coordinator of the FIM - Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme, Switzerland. What an honor to speak with him. Charlie listened to me respecfully and explained that this year, the rules for streamlining were already being relaxed. I had the distinct feeling that Charlie was way ahead of me in preparing for the new world of energy conservation. To my delight, Charlie offered to present my arguments to the appropriate committees at the FIM for eliminating all bans on real streamlining.

Eliminating bans on real streamlining could lead to the most significant change in motorcycle design in 50 years! Thank you, Charlie.

Reason 2: Streamlining is difficult.

While the streamlined shape is simple, making a streamlined shape is hard. Fifty years ago, the materials needed to streamline were heavy, fragile and expensive. They had only wood, fabric, steel, aluminum and fiberglass to work with.

Getting in and out of a streamlined body is equally difficult. Today, however, we can build things unimaginable 50 years ago. Today, we have lightweight plastics, foam and inflatables. The dreamers and inventors of the world need to be freed by FIM rules and allowed to streamline racers. I am absolutely certain we can solve whatever problems that bothered us 50 years ago.
Reason 3: Streamlining is mis-understood

Most people have no idea what real streamlining is. In fact, most people actually believe that streamlining is "pointed at the front." (The point belongs at the rear.) See demonstration of real streamlining. Look at this zippy sketch I found on the internet:

Real streamlining has the point at the rear, not at the front. This thing would probably go faster if it ran backwards.

For most of the past 100 years of motoring, we had had plenty of fuel. We could make our vehicles any shape we wanted and push them through the air with more horsepower. We had lots of gasoline and it was cheap. Americans have not needed to streamline.

Things have changed.

Today, we import 2 of every 3 gallons from foreigners. This is making us poor and making them rich.

The truth is streamlining will alow our energy to do more. We need to recognize what real streamlining really is. This is hard is hard when most people do not know there really is truth in motorcycle design.

Reason 4: We don't recognize truth

Our un awareness of the truth is the result of a much bigger problem called Post Modernism. Our Post Modern Culture does not believe in real truth. Everything is "relative" which means:

"My fuel guzzler is as valid as your fuel mizer. There is no truth"

Of course there is truth. My eyes were opened to this fact by a very bright man named Del Tackett:

Del Tackett, the Truth Project and Real Streamlining
Specifically, I began to see truth in motorcycle design and as a result, began building my Freedom Machine. Take a look at the "Truth Project" as offered by Focus on the Family. It could change your life.

It is hard to spot the truth. Sometimes the truth makes us mad. It is hard to spend weeks on an idea only to find that it doesn't work. However, the truth is absolutely necessary if we are to solve our nation's energy problems.

Next: Now that I have figured out how deal with winds, it is time to finish up the streamlining, closing up all the holes, making it all smooth. Then we shall see what is possible on the road, in real riding conditions.

Fred Hayes at Bonneville, 2008, setting Diesel speed records
A shining star in motorcycle fuel economy is Diesel Fred Hayes. Not only do his Diesels go fast, they sip fuel. He is the man to beat. Fred and I have been invited to ride to and display our machines at the upcoming Cycle World Shows. Of course, I would like to burn less fuel than Fred, stay warmer, dryer and carry more. But whatever the truth is, you will read it here.

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Page put up Sep 7, 2008

Updated Nov 22, 2009