This Is BMW’s Vision for Our Two-Wheeled Future

This concept bike predicts motorcycle technology in 2116

Oct 11, 2016
Outside Magazine
  • BMW envisions a future for motorcycling where vehicle connectivity and autonomous rider aids eliminate the need for safety gear like helmets and gloves.   Photo: BMW

  • This motorcycle is part of a project where each of BMW's brands has imagined what it might look like in 100 years' time.   Photo: BMW

  • There's no visible steering linkages or joints. Instead, the frame is designed to flex as the rider applies input to the handlebars.   Photo: BMW

  • LED rear lighting elements are similar to those employed by current production BMW motorcycles.   Photo: BMW

  • The headlight reflector doubles as a windscreen, diverting wind away from the rider.   Photo: BMW

  • Accordion-like panels that mimic the cooling fins of air-cooled boxer motors allow the "zero emissions" power source (they don't specify, but it's probably electric) to expand outwards on the move, shielding the rider's lower extremities from the wind, and presumable providing some cooling to the presumably electric motor and batteries, too.   Photo: BMW

  • Exposed carbon fiber makes up the main frame sections.   Photo: BMW

  • "The BMW Motorrad VISION NEXT 100 embodies the BMW Group’s vision of biking in a connected world—an analogue experience in a digital age. Motorcycling is about escaping from the everyday: the moment you straddle your bike, you are absolutely free. Your bike is The Great Escape,” says Edgar Heinrich, Head of Design at BMW Motorrad.  Photo: BMW

  • The frame sweeps from front to rear wheels in one, elegant arc.   Photo: BMW

  • The tractor-style saddle is heavily reminiscent of the 1923 R32.   Photo: BMW

  • Textural lines in the frame evoke mechanical muscle tissue.   Photo: BMW

  • The solo seat belies this motorcycle's purpose—to provide a visceral connection between man and machine in an era of otherwise rational transportation.  Photo: BMW

  • Holographic navigation, huh?  Photo: BMW

  • Damping is said to be handled via the large, adjustably-inflating tires, rather than traditional suspension.   Photo: BMW

  • The concept is designed to share its silhouette and other iconic design elements like the white accents with BMW's very first production motorcycle, the 1923 R32.   Photo: BMW

In 100 years, we'll be riding motorcycles with smart tires, zero-emission motors, and flexible frames that change shape to steer. The machines will be so safe, in fact, that we won't need any protective gear. That's BMW's vision, at least. 

The company's celebrating its 100th birthday by envisioning what a motorcycle will look like in a century. The initiative isn't limited to BMW: the German carmaker has tasked each of its brands—Rolls-Royce, Mini, BMW, and BMW Motorrad—with predicting the kind of vehicles they might make 100 years from now. For the motorcycle concept, BMW turned to its very first bike for inspiration. The BMW Motorrad Vision Next 100 draws heavily from the 1923 BMW R32’s rigid frame, boxer motor, and art deco design.  

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“The BMW Motorrad Vision Next 100 embodies the BMW Group’s vision of biking in a connected world—an analog experience in a digital age,” explains Edgar Heinrich, the head of design. As other vehicles become autonomous, they see the motorcycle increasingly fostering a connection between man and machine. 

One-hundred years is a long time into the future—much longer than any vehicle designer can accurately predict—so this concept bike is more a flight of fancy, a giant “what if,” than a conglomeration of realistic ideas. Take the flexible frame—designed to eliminate steering linkages and joints—that relies on materials that have yet to be go into production. Suggesting that suspension duties can be handled by auto-adjusting tires is simply make-believe. That a rider will be able to safely operate a motorcycle free of a helmet, gloves, or other safety gear is likewise wishful thinking. 

The exciting thing here is that BMW sees a future for the motorcycle at all. With autonomous driving, shared vehicle ownership (or no ownership at all), and zero emissions being the three main trends shaping transportation’s future, a dirty, dangerous relic of the past is here re-imagined to still provide some element of involvement and risk in an otherwise soon-to-be sanitized human experience. 

Granted, those three trends remain key components of this future motorcycle’s design. The power source for the accordion-like expanding motor isn’t specified, but is presumed to be electric. While the rider will ultimately be in control of the motorcycle, they’ll benefit from the enhanced decision making made possible by autonomous motoring. And ownership is presented as a recreational pursuit, rather than practical transportation.

“The bike has the full range of connected data from its surroundings and a set of intelligent systems working in the background, so it knows exactly what lies ahead,” says Holger Hampf, BMW’s user experience designer. “By collating the data it has gathered, it can suggest ideal lines and banking angles or warn riders of hazards ahead.”

Rider comfort is addressed by a suit said to heat and cool its wearer, as needed, while an eye-shielding visor delivers heads-up data, including a feed from a rear-facing camera. “Rider and machine form a single functional unit to offer a more intense riding experience than ever before,” touts Heinrich. “The best of both worlds, digital and analog, the great escape.”

Of course, the motorcycle used in The Great Escape was really a Triumph dressed up to look like a BMW. What can that tell us about the future? 

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