The two-wheel-drive R1200GS

Front-wheel drive added to latest R1200GS for first time

Posted: 29 December 2015
by Visordown News
Wunderlich 2WD R1200GS
Wunderlich 2WD R1200GS

GERMAN firm Wunderlich has developed what it says is the first two-wheel drive liquid-cooled BMW R1200GS by adding an 'electrical front-wheel gearbox' to the latest version of the adventure bike.

The BMW accessory specialist says the system produces 10 kilowatts (13.6hp) of front-wheel drive which gives the bike 'more propulsion on the ground and also draws the GS through curves on the road more quickly'.

Energy produced while braking is used to recharge a battery and the front wheel is able to pull the bike at up to 12.5mph even with the engine turned off. 

It can help with low-speed manoeuvres and provides reverse drive at up to 2mph. 

Wunderlich says it's a concept 'for now' - but it's hard to see why the firm would go to the lengths of developing it without some intention to sell it.   

Wunderlich CEO Frank Hoffmann did little to clarify the point by saying in a press release: 'We want to show what is going on and establish standards.'

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Discuss this story

This is ridiculous

Posted: 29/12/2015 at 15:06

Why is it ridiculous?

Posted: 29/12/2015 at 15:12

So instead of buying an actual off road bike that's light enough to be perfectly happy being powered by one wheel you'd rather buy a behemoth that needs two wheel drive? Nothing about it makes sense.

It will make maneuvering around car parks easier for old people though. And lets face it that's the GS's real target audience.

Posted: 29/12/2015 at 16:01

This technology is not limited to the GS ImperialManiac.

Posted: 29/12/2015 at 18:05

So over 12.5mph it does nothing?

Posted: 29/12/2015 at 18:12

+1, what if the GS is going through curves on the road more quickly than 12.5 mph? Does it still 'help,' or does it disengage?

Posted: 29/12/2015 at 18:28

I would think it augments the ICE motor at speeds above 12.5 mph, providing additional drive to the front wheel, and increasing traction.
I think it's a great idea,like BMW's answer to the Toyota Prius, maybe it could be used in heavy traffic or with stop start technology etc. Reverse gear would certainly be useful on a heavily loaded GS halfway up a mountain, or backing out of your space at the local Tesco with a full months shopping in those big boxes.

Posted: 29/12/2015 at 19:08

I think it looks like a positive step in motorbike tech. It's not a game changer but could certainly have it uses, like duck51 said, adding reverse would be an awesome addition to heavy bikes. IMO it's a damn sight more useful than G sensors, lean angle indicators and all them other over the top rider electronics.

Posted: 29/12/2015 at 19:29

Any idea what is the extra weight penalty?

Posted: 29/12/2015 at 21:45

So many negative pricks on this site live to hate on motorcycle innovation. This is a good sign that more companies are getting in on front wheel drive technology for bikes.

Posted: 29/12/2015 at 23:53

Been waiting for years for a credible AWD solution for motorcycles. The GS is a sensible platform to try it on because it's already huge, heavy and powerful enough to provide the electricity, and also because the fancy front and incredible handling will probably disguise a lot of the initial strangeness and difference that front wheel drive gives (not to mention unsprung weight penalty).

I'm willing to bet that it really doesn't take a lot of power to the front to make a massive difference to traction, too.

Posted: 30/12/2015 at 00:40

Although using a different method, 2WD on bikes is nothing new - Yamaha did this years ago, with a hydraulic drive to the front wheel on their WR450 enduro - and that went on sale to the public. But, it wasn't any sort of game changer - it added weight and complexity and the bike was no faster over a given distance than a standard WR450. When the dirt bikes mags at the time tested it, they thought it was an 'interesting' idea and different to ride, but couldn't see why anyone would actually want to buy one, given the price difference to the standard WR. A big part of the fun off-roading is hanging the back out round corners and deliberately breaking traction at the rear to tighten a turn - being 'pulled' round the corner with the help of 2WD takes that away - which is why that version of the WR was a sales flop.

Posted: 30/12/2015 at 08:23

Exactly...ever since the concept of AWD systems for cars people have been trying to come up with ways to drive the front wheel of bikes...mostly this has been dismissed as over complex, heavy or expensive, as you say...this is the latest & uses none of the tech from the Yamaha & is on a very different bike. The GS is already heavy & expensive & considering the reputation of owners adding everything but the kitchen sink in extras this could sell...whether it work is to be seen but it's just an idea at the moment.

Posted: 30/12/2015 at 09:29

We dont have the hate on technical innovation. We have a the `hate` on technical `innovation` that is impractical, irrelevant, over-complicated, or simply not good enough for the job it purports to be for.

In this case, nail, hit. Adding weight and unsprung mass to a rotating wheel in the form of an electric motor will upset the suspension, affect the steering, add unnecessary mass and complexity with no real proven gain in mud plugging capability - as proven by the previous iterations of 2WD.

This is really a vanity project designed, like so many of the Wunderlich offerings, to promote their business, not improve the motorcycle. A machine designed from the outset to utilise 2WD will exhibit noticeably different design elements to maximise the utilisation of such technology - reduced (yes reduced) mass centralisation, lower centre of gravity, change of front wheel spindle thrust line, ability to split drive front/rear in real time, etc...

This is just another expensive bolt-on for bragging rights. But hey, it's done what was expected of it. We're talking about it.

Posted: 30/12/2015 at 09:43

Even more weight on the unwieldy fashion accessory.

Posted: 30/12/2015 at 09:54

I seem to recall that it had application beyond mud-plugging according to the boffs. In wet conditions, cranked over, if the rear steps out and thus spins up, the front has to accelerate as well, which will automatically counteract the increasing speed of the rear and increase rear traction again. When the front starts to slide and lose traction, similarly, the rear has to accelerate, which does exactly the same thing; instead of stepping out or tucking, the bike is instead pulled into line.

So it remains to be seen if it can be made compact, light, and inexpensive enough to be worth having, especially as the latest bunch of electronic interventions already take care of rear traction.

I suppose until someone starts to win a lot of races using the tech, nobody will really pursue it further.

Posted: 30/12/2015 at 10:23

> I think it looks like a positive step in motorbike tech

> So many negative pricks on this site

I'm staying strictly neutral.

Honestly, it's such a ridiculous concept that you can really only laugh at it.

...which means there's probably some subcommittee in Brussels already planning to mandate it.

Posted: 30/12/2015 at 12:07

I imagine the panniers house the additional batteries and electronics to drive it :)

Posted: 30/12/2015 at 12:23

You're all still pidgeon holing the idea too narrowly. They've taken a 13hp engine and put in inside the hub of a motorcycle. They're playing with the size of electric engines, quite possibly the weight, and the use of them. You can call it ridiculous and a novelty as much as you like, and I don't see a particular need for it in its current guise, but it's how development and innovation works.

I don't imagine people who saw the first engine powered two wheeled vehicle thought it was a brilliant and necessary idea. And yet here we all are. Shit, apply this checklist per the brilliant Snave to motorcycles and see what nails are hit on the head: "impractical, irrelevant, over-complicated, or simply not good enough for the job it purports to be for"...

Posted: 30/12/2015 at 12:27

That is not about CRF1000L for sure 😬

It is super simple, not complicated but

Possible disadvantages :
- brings extra weight to the moving part for no obvious reason.
- It would kill the nimbleness of the bike.
- Why would I carry the battery and the combustion engine together on a two wheel vehicle, where weight of the vechile makes huge impact.
- hard to wheelie
- It would kill the drifting opportunities unless the front engine turns backwards :)

If it one wheel drive (front only) it makes hell a lot more sense.

Posted: 30/12/2015 at 12:58

First 2 x 2 bike developed was a 99 R1 in blue if i remember correctly... Better acceleration at low speed (& at all speeds in wet)... More ability to put power down when banked over... Gotta be useful on an off roader no matter what your skill level though id always go for a light weight off roader over this or any other lardy bike, something like a 400cc Yamaha :)

Posted: 30/12/2015 at 14:07

Doubt if the battery/alternator would power it for long. Probably better off with a detachable winch!

Posted: 30/12/2015 at 18:20

Fuck Me, just listen to you lot! again !

Posted: 30/12/2015 at 21:27

@Adrian 2 - Can you tell me what bike is NOT a fashion accessory of some kind? We all buy the bikes we like to ride and possess. Why did you buy yours? Because it was shit and looked crap?

Posted: 30/12/2015 at 22:37

Well, that's why I bought my GT550 all those years ago.

Posted: 31/12/2015 at 00:05

I tried a FWD electric bicycle once.  It was interesting, but perfectly fine for normal relaxed riding.  Low traction presents challenges, especially with "harvesting", but it has its own special kind of fun if you're paying attention.

I'd suggest the modern suites of full electronic control would be very useful here, and is really the only way it'd be truly effective (think Nissan GTR), not to mention safe.

A full electric bike is the natural choice for development, especially since 2WD is likely to be banned before anyone could even consider it in most forms of motorsport, and electric bikes get a lot of free reign still.

I'd love to try one, but not this heffalump.

Posted: 31/12/2015 at 09:02

The only practical solution for 2WD is with electric motors, driven from a unified power source, controlled by electrickery.
The weight added is then at least reduced (compared to a dual-drive ICE/Electric design), both weight and balance can be optimised to suit the different CG requirement for a dual-wheel-drive single track vehicle (lower CG is better to reduce adverse steering effects consequetn on drive balance change front/rear) and the `packaging requirements of two electric motors and a battery pack are probably easier to resolve than a piston-engine-and-electric-motor combo.

You'd certainly want to do away with front forks and all that weight transfer rubbish, a high centre of gravity and long travel suspension with an un-moderated rear wheel power and drive source (the rider and his throttle and clutch hands have more to do with traction in sticky off-road situations than any amount of extra drive to the front wheel). One area which might be ripe for this technology might be in conjuntion with TCS, where the automatic reduction of drive to the rear is matched by a subtle increase to the front, but even with lean angle and throttle position sensors I can't see how a system could be `clever` enough to manage all the permutations, all the time - am I opening the throttle coming off a roundabout on tarmac? Or having to deviate across a grass verge to avoid an incident right in front of me? Has traction broken at the rear because there is no traction, or because I opened the taps too much? Is there residual grip - and safety - to be had from having a powered front wheel?

Probably better to just take weight off, not add it, and reduce power to the one wheel, not increase it. Save money, not spend it...

Posted: 31/12/2015 at 11:32

should come in handy in london

Posted: 31/12/2015 at 14:05

Hahahahahaha! HOOOO hoOOO! Furking flipping hell - just when you think there isn't anything else that fatty manager can bolt to his GS, along comes this! Love it, can't wait for the luggage rack mounted barbeque, trailer tent and stabilisers. Rock on.

Posted: 31/12/2015 at 19:32

Rokon make a "proper" two wheel drive machine - about £5k. Only 200CC and looks like a lawn mower, but claims to be the last word in plugging mud.

Posted: 31/12/2015 at 20:18

Google 'Megola' - that's the way to do it...

Posted: 01/01/2016 at 08:34

It doesn't all have to be about road bikes. It also doesn't have to be heavy. My brother is heavily involved with bringing this Russian bike to market. The video shown here:

is a prototype, and was in reality a bit shoddy, but is now on it's way to production with a view to export. It won't set the road biking world on fire, but it will find its niche with the farmers.

Posted: 01/01/2016 at 10:26

That looks bloody good fun.

Posted: 01/01/2016 at 14:56

By the way, we're all aware that Yamaha have just announced a 2WD electric bike, the PES-2, right?

But nobody cares about that, because GS.

Posted: 03/01/2016 at 13:01

Thinking about the way that it would work, if the front wheel is not directly geared to the rear wheel, you've lost most of the advantage right there. So electric motors = fail in this case.

Posted: 03/01/2016 at 23:06

As something that is actually useful who knows, I sure as hell don't!

As a technical exercise of the kind BMW love to indulge in you can see why they would attempt this.

@Princec I believe they would use the ABS wheel sensors to feedback wheel speed and control the front wheel, but how they deal all conditions where wheel speed may vary.....

Don't think they would need to add batteries as its not a hybrid, but the alternator must be huge!

Bet I would still poo myself if it was icy!

Posted: 04/01/2016 at 08:42

BMW aren't developing this. Poor obs.

Posted: 04/01/2016 at 08:50

AWD would hardly preclude hanging the back end out off road. Ever seen a 4WD rally car?
It would ofer a weight penalty for sure, but could lead to some additional stability and, with development, offer a town-only mode which could feasibly allow the bike to run on battery power, much like the latest generation of hyper car.
That it isn't in synch with the rear wouldn't matter as long as is could run-ahead. trying to couple front and rear wheels isn't desirable.
It's an interesting project, but these things normally need a big investment (development) to see anything like production status.

Posted: 04/01/2016 at 08:59

Oops yes not BMW, Wunderlich...Sorry!

Posted: 05/01/2016 at 13:26

@gunshot72, Mine is not a fashion accessory, it's used for work, both commuting and repairs, shopping, hooning and general travel for self and wife. And she rides a scooter for work too. Some of us still use them as transport. Yes, really.

Posted: 05/01/2016 at 14:09

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