BMW: Tomorrow's Easy Riders

November 2016

On the occasion of its centenary, BMW is taking a glance at the evolution in adventure motorbikes. Motorrad VISION NEXT 100 is a speculative design concept that pairs soft curves with technical finesse in order to intensify the two-wheel journey. Riding a motorcycle is an entirely different experience than driving a car: wind chases around the body and centrifugal forces evoke an intense, physical effect. Acceleration and speed are perceived with the senses – declaring the journey as the rider’s target. “With a motorcycle I can break free from my daily routine. It’s the ultimate sensual, analogue experience in an increasingly digital world”, says Edgar Heinrich, chief designer at BMW Motorrad.

The presented prototype is a soft, rounded sculpture, which differs pleasantly from the vigorousness of many other motorbikes. The body is reminiscent of a Mobius strip, the front and rear wheel being connected with a distinctive curvature at the level of the handlebars. The omission of formal gimmicks gives a reduced, almost naked impression, while the ergonomics and seating-comfort of a roadster are still provided. The black frame triangle refers back to the company’s history and its first motorcycle, the famous R32 model from 1923. In addition, the distinctive boxer engine is taken up as another formal element – although the designers foresee a yet unrealised zero-emission drivetrain for the motorcycle of the future.

Despite its dynamic appearance, the most significant feature eludes visibility. A self-balancing system keeps the bike’s position equalised while in motion and while stationary, preventing it from tipping over. “This technology will increase self-confidence and safety for beginners, and professionals can test their limits and improve their performance”, says Heinrich. In order to intensify the journey, the self-balancing system is paired with artificial intelligence – connecting rider, bike, and the outside world.

The motorcycle will recognise dangerous situations even before meeting a curve – and interfere if necessary to slow down, circumvent, or stand still. As a consequence of the new safety system, the designers did away with the helmet. Instead, a smart visor provides wind protection and also delivers relevant information, protecting the line of sight. Unlike a classic helmet, the visor spans the rider’s entire viewing field to create an unbounded riding experience. In this context, the riding-gear also loses its prior protective function.

“We want to avoid the feeling of heavy armour and to generate lightness”, emphasises Friederike Richter, designer of motorcycle clothing at BMW Group. The imagined suit is made of a breathable high-tech fabric that regulates body temperature by warming-up in winter and cooling-down in summer. Integrated sensors measure the wearer’s pulse and temperature. The suit employs vibrations to communicate with the driver and to direct him or her to the programmed destination. “In the future, riders will experience the environment with all their senses. This clothing will engender absolute freedom”, proclaims Heinrich. In this way, these technical features will not be self-serving; they will extend the qualities of an analogue escape from everyday digital life.

This article appeared in DAM59. Order your personal copy.