Fifteen years ago, I fell in love with the Suzuki Hayabusa. A courtship that started well-ahead of my formal indoctrination to two-wheels, the Hayabusa was the capstone of motorcycle performance in my youthful eyes.
I lusted after its sleek wind-tunnel tuned lines, and marveled at its outright speed, which at its debut, trumped everything else on the market.
Approaching the 200 mph mark with their designs, Japan sold us on a “gentleman’s agreement” between the factories to govern their machines to 186 mph — I call it the pinnacle of technical collusion of the first degree.
It is so much easier to compete against another manufacturer when you don’t actually have to compete against them. The Suzuki Hayabusa could co-exist with the Honda CBR1100XX and Kawasaki ZX-12R in bubble that assured no one bike, on paper, could trump the other, after all…they all went 186 mph in the newly declared speed war.
It is debatable whether this self-governing measure by the Japanese OEMs avoided a nanny state imposition of laws and regulations onto the motorcycle industry, but there can be no debate about the stagnation the gentleman’s agreement caused in the marketplace.
Once designated as being hyperbikes, a term that gave a nod to the performance specifications being beyond the superbikes found on the race track, we have watched the cessation of the Honda Super Blackbird (2003 in the USA, 2007 worldwide), and witnessed the Hayabusa and ZX-12R, later the Kawasaki ZX-14R, morph into capital “s” sport-tourers that are a far cry from their original intents.
Whether you caste the current Suzuki Hayabusa as the second-generation of the machine, or simply a massaged version of the first-generation GSX-1300R, it has stood motionless for far too long since its beginnings 15 years ago, and revision in 2008.
It is time for the Hayabusa to return to its hyperbike roots, and once again captivate the imagination of little boys, and grown men, with what its possible on two wheels.
Eighteen months ago, Chip Yates filed for a patent on his front-end KERS design for motorcycles, which means that today the United States Patent and Trademarks Office (USPTO) can disclose Yates’s patent application to the public. Detailing the only front-wheel regenerative-braking system for motorcycles that we know to exist, the design built by Yates allows a motorcycle to scavenge power from the braking force applied to the front wheel of a motorcycle, and store it in an electric battery system.
Current regenerative-braking systems on the market, like the ones that help power the 2012 Zero S that we tested just a few months ago, use regenerative-braking off the rear wheel, and are more prone to locking the rear tire up if too much force is applied to the system. With 70% or more of a bike’s potential braking force coming from the front wheel, a front-end KERS system has a substantially greater ability to put power back into an electric motorcycle’s battery pack, thus either increasing the range of an electric motorcycle or allowing more electric power to be used over the same distance.
Last week I had a chance to ask Chip Yates some questions over email about the progress of the SWIGZ.COM Pro Racing Electric Superbike program. Chip’s responses tell us his team’s ambitious performance goals are on track and they are quickly signing on sponsors. SWIGS.COM Pro Racing remains the only electric motorcycle race team to put the cards on the table for 2010 in regards to target performance.
In late 2009, Chip announced he had assembled a team including two MIT grads turned aerospace engineers to develop an electric superbike to compete in the TTXGP race series. The press release mentioned some very impressive and somewhat controversial goals for the SWIGZ.COM bike including the ability to turn AMA SuperSport lap times (GSX-R600) and a KERS system to return braking energy back to the battery.
Since the announcement, the electric motorcycle racing landscape has changed dramatically with the entrance of the FIM e-Power series and the TT Zero race replacing TTXGP at the Isle Of Man. Some races have conflicting schedules that will force teams to choose one event or the other. Chip explains what series the team will run and which they will not. Unfortunately the team is not releasing any of the electric drive specs and vendors yet but some details should be announced next month.
See the full Q&A with Chip Yates after the break.
Harald Bartol, who heads the KTM 125cc & 250cc GP teams, has revealed that the Austrian company was the first to use a Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) on Tommy Koyama’s racebike last year. KERS was first fitted to Koyama’s bike during the 125cc GP in Valencia last year, and KTM is looking to explore how KERS could be applied in other racing applications and production motorcycles.