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?