Top 10s

Top 10 motorcycle inventions we won't be rushing to buy

What do you buy the rider who has everything? Probably not these

WE’RE all for innovation here but among the endless host of ideas and products relating to motorcycles that have emerged over the last century or so have been a few that don't make the top of our wish list.

Here’s a top 10 of our favourite fashion faux pas and engineering missteps.

10. The turbo visor

The idea, which dates back to the '60s or even earlier, is clever – a clear plastic dish with aerodynamic vanes around the edge that attaches above your visor on a spindle. Air flow makes it spin and in theory it throws rain water off, keeping your vision clear in bad weather. Period images even show the likes of Graham Hill using one in an F1 car, and they’re still available today – albeit aimed at car drivers rather than motorcyclists. The problem on bikes, a market they were once aimed at, is that the domed plastic works like a parachute the moment you look over your shoulder.

9. Loptoff lugs

Not an engineering innovation but purely a cosmetic adornment, loptoff lugs represent one of the weirdest fads ever. But it’s one that swept through a large swathe of the motorcycling population back in around 2002. In case you’ve forgotten, or blanked the horror from your memory, they were fluffy ears and tails that would be attached to your helmet. Suckers were the key to their success, both in terms of how they were attached and who they sold to. If you’re the sort of person who has stick-on eyelashes over your car’s headlights, then these will probably have appealed.

8. Helmet covers

We’re not sure you if you can still get loptoff lugs, but surely their spiritual successors are helmet covers that completely envelope your lid in coloured fur, usually with boggly eyes and flappy ears. They’re meant to make you look like a dog, or a cat, or a monster, but they’re most convincing when it comes to making you look like an idiot.

7. DoT-approved Nazi-style helmets

Not a big thing in Europe, the good old WW2 German army helmet is still a firm favourite with some sub-cultures of motorcycling in the US, often further adorned with subtly tasteful skull motifs or given a chrome finish. One retailer even describes its product as a 'Nazi motorcycle helmet'. Ugly and offensive.

6. One-way visor stickers

You know what really spoils the effect when you’ve added a furry helmet cover, a set of ears and a tail to your lid? Your all-too-human face peaking our from behind that clear visor. But the aftermarket has help at hand, since a quick scout of eBay turns up plenty of people offering stickers that completely cover your visor, usually with some evil-looking eyes. Because that’s pure class.

5. Visor-Vu

Stepping away from bad taste for a moment and into the realm of nearly-good ideas, how about the Visor-Vu? It was a motocross-style peak designed to attach to your helmet with poppers, as normal, but which sported a pair of rear-view mirrors hanging down from it. Sold by Malcolm Smith in the 70s, Steve McQueen is pictured using the Visor-Vu in On Any Sunday, but even the association with the King of Cool doesn’t seem to have been enough to save the idea.

4. Pete Rannie’s helmet mirror

Of course, the Visor-Vu wasn’t the first helmet-mounted mirror. The earliest we can find is racer Pete Rannie’s invention from 1950, which was featured at the time in Popular Science magazine. We don’t think it reached production, but if you know any different, please spill the beans.

3. Monowheels

You know the clever thing about motorcycles? It’s the way they use just two wheels and yet are manoeuvrable, stable and efficient, offering a fair few advantages over four-wheeled cars in the right circumstances. But just because reducing the wheel-count from four to two worked, it doesn’t automatically mean that even fewer wheels will result in further improvements. However, people have been trying to make monowheels work since the dawn of motorcycling, whether with massive wheels that you sit inside or by balancing, unicycle-style, on a single small wheel. The problem is that most haven’t worked very well (hard acceleration or braking being a particular problem) and they certainly haven’t offered advantages.

2. Visor wiper

Yes, rain on your visor can be a problem, and one day somebody might well come up with a solution that solves it as effectively as windscreen wipers do on cars. But simply transplanting windscreen wipers onto bike helmets doesn’t look like it’s that solution we’ve all been waiting for. Does it? Even if it does work.

1. Flying bikes

The idea is brilliant, and anyone who’s seen Return of the Jedi (so that is everyone, presumably) will have come away wishing they had a Speeder bike of their very own. But like the hoverboard, the viable flying motorcycle is one of those things that inventors are constantly promising is ‘just a few more years away’ without ever coming any closer. Even if something approximating a flying motorcycle is ever made, and given a price tag that’s remotely affordable, you can be confident the authorities will iron out every last wrinkle of fun by creating an impossibly strict licensing regime, replacing your dreams of bird-like freedom with a burden of charts, holding patterns and incomprehensible air traffic control messages. Plenty of RAF pilots ride motorcycles in their spare time, and that’s surely an indication that flying might not be all the fun it’s cracked up to be.

Want more?

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