Forget active suspension, how about an active seat?

BMW patents new technology to revolutionise rider comfort

BACK when rear suspension was the exception rather than the rule in bike design, sprung saddles were pretty much all you could hope for to isolate your nether regions from the worst a pothole could do. Now BMW is looking at the idea afresh as part of its thrust towards the introduction of semi-active suspension.

According to new patent documents filed by the firm, the Bavarian company is working on a new seat with “a damper system under the seat surface that absorbs and reduces impacts and vibrations of the motorcycle on the rider or passenger.”

But it's not just a spring and damper, but an electronic system that effectively reads the road ahead and adapts the seat to cope with bumps as the bike hits them. The patent says that a sensor near the front wheel works along with the seat's spring/damper unit to adjust the settings in real time. Basically, as soon as the front wheel hits a bump or pothole, it sends a signal to the seat telling it just how severe the shock was and asking it to alter its damping to compensate before the shock reaches the rider. Clever? Certainly. Worth the additional complexity and cost? You decide...

Of course, the same set up would also be able to alter the seat's behaviour to account for the rider's weight and his own preferences, just as with any other adjustable damper. Surely a massage function would be just a step away.

Our guess is that this one will stay in the pile of ideas that don't make it to production.