Discuss: Can the motorcycle be ever be reinvented?

Some people think the answer is ‘yes’. They’re wrong.

VISORDOWN'S discussions aim to challenge assumptions about motorcycling. This week, a bike industry expert, who in his own interest cannot be named, argues that any 'revolutionary' motorcycle design is doomed.   

'Betteridge's law states that any headline ending in a question mark can be answered "no".

'It’s a rule of journalism often ignored by writers who should know better. It’s usually absolutely true, which is exactly why I’ve put a question mark at the end of the headline here. Can the motorcycle ever be reinvented?

'No. No it can’t.

'People will persist in trying. If you spend much time reading the motorcycle press, you’ll be familiar with the story. The one about somebody’s revolutionary new idea about how a bike should be made. The design that’s going to change everything. The one you never hear anything about again.

'Unfortunately, the "new" idea is usually the same one that a stream of inventors in the past have tried, and failed, to bring to fruition

'Take the computer-generated image above (Revolutionary designs seem always to be represented by computerised images, CAD-CAM drawings or projected charts about the theoretical advantages, as opposed to, you know, actual prototypes, with real data).

'The CGI in question shows an egg-shaped, all-enclosed motorcycle, electrically-powered of course, just like so many other design doodles that have preceded it. It’s emerged from Dutch firm Monsama Research, and there’s little more to be said about it at this stage. Nor is there likely to be at any stage in the future.

'Incremental improvement is a good thing. Over more than a century it’s gradually moved bikes from bone-shaking, hardtail slugs to today’s sophisticated technological wonders. There have even been occasional leaps in technology during that time; recently Visordown revealed the latest Bosch stability control system that helps prevent crashes, but even that is a refinement rather than a reinvention.

'Wholesale reinvention of ideas has a very poor track record of success. Even theoretically good concepts, with the might of major R&D budgets behind them, have consistently failed to turn the fanfare of publicity into real success in showrooms. Step forward, Yamaha GTS1000. And you, Suzuki TL1000 rotary rear damper. BMW C1, you too. And turbo bikes of the 1980s. Stop lurking at the back there.

'The fully-enclosed bike in particular is an idea so old it deserves to be allowed to die with dignity, and yet it keeps being resuscitated. The thinking seems to be “surely it must work this time,” even though all history suggests otherwise.

'Just looking back over the last year or so we’ve already seen the Suprine Exodus and the Lit C1. Both as likely to ever mean anything to the average motorcyclist as Braille.

'Even the perennial Peraves Ecomobile – an enclosed bike that at least has managed to sustain itself in production for several years – is a fantastically rare site on the road. Seen one? I don’t believe you.

'And you almost certainly never will.'

Is our writer wrong? Is the motorcycle an outdated design that’s crying out to be turned into an electric-powered, feet-forward, crash-proof cage? Is Betteridge's law wrong? Tell us what you think.