Top 5 Concepts Of 2016: The Future Never Looked So Good!
Published January 14, 2017
2016 had more than its fair share of innovations arriving at the big industry trade shows, but we also some great designs and plans coming from the minds of non-affiliated designers, and saw some interesting concepts that may or may not be serious projects from our favourite factories. Here, we’ve decided to put together a short list of some of the more exciting proposals that surfaced in 2016. Some of these will certainly emerge into existence in the near future, while others are probably going to remain firmly locked in the world of fiction. However, all of them are interesting possibilities…and since we’ve read numerous comments on social media and journalistic opinions that the design point-of-view in the motorcycle industry has become a little stagnant, we’re here to remind everyone that that’s not really the case…or it doesn’t have to be, at least.
The Ducati DraXter Concept
Contrary to what many people first thought at the time, this aesthetically pleasing concept from Ducati is not a CG image; it’s a very real and working machine. In brief, the “DraXter” is a sexed up, drag-racing inspired brute that has been built around the XDiavel platform. It was a huge hit when it was first unveiled at the Motor Bike Expo in Verona, Italy, back in 2016, and it’s still receiving praise as we speak.
For their 90th Anniversary, Ducati decided to get their top guys working on the project. Ducati have their very own Ducati Design Center, and they decided to use the best of the best from their in-house design bureau’s “Advanced Design” division to make this project happen. And it’s easy to see where their efforts went.
Apart from the obvious, being a finely tuned and reshaped Ducati XDiavel, the DraXter also borrows parts from Ducati’s other range topping models, and a few key ingredients from Ducati’s after-market parts catalog. The suspension and brakes are Panigale units, there’s a Termignoni exhaust on there for good measure, and there are new wheels to compliment the drag racing aesthetic. Will it ever be a full on production model? Or a special edition? Maybe…but only if you’re willing to pay through the nose for it.
Mehmet Doruk Erdem’s “Radical” BMW Concept
2016 was a busy year for Turkish designer Mehmet Doruk Erdem. Over the last twelve months, the designer unveiled three very interesting BMW concepts, and each one of them deserves a place on our list. Why? Because when featured his designs on social media, they exploded into a whirlwind of praise, chin scratching, out and out appreciation, or plain old fashioned ridicule. Any one of those reactions was exactly his intent. In fact, that’s the whole point of concept studies – they’re there to challenge the rules.
We’re going to talk about his “Radical Concept” – but the same story applies to his other designs too (you can find links to them here and here). All three step into the realm of science fiction, but they have a little bit of reality to keep them grounded. They all feature monolithic bodywork, huge rear tires, and a minimalist style that keeps the controls to a bare minimum, resulting in an uncluttered finish.
The riding position is low and aerodynamic, and it looks like a fairly ferocious machine. However, Mehmet left us with no details about the engine that hides underneath the bodywork, or any indication about how the thing steers. Minor details, I know… But all good ideas have to start from somewhere, and this could be something to keep an eye on.
Honda’s CB1100 TR Concept
You’d have to be living under a rock not to have seen this absolute stunner that Honda unveiled at last year’s EICMA. Dubbed the “CB1100 TR Concept” and based on Honda’s new style of CB1100s that burst onto the scene at Cologne’s INTERMOT show, this concept prototype was one of the best received motorcycle of the whole event. And with a little bit of luck, we’ll see this furious flat-track inspired machine go into full production.
Designed and built by Honda Motor Europe, the CB1100 TR takes its inspiration directly from the European flat track scene, and combines modern technology with a vintage aesthetic. Apart from the new breed of CB1100 engine that powers it, it also features Ohlins suspension, Brembo brakes, a Termignoni exhaust, Marchesini aluminum forged wheels, and a whole host of Domina accessories.
Aesthetically, there’s a lot to say about this bike – but we’ll let the pictures do the talking here. The only detail that we want to mention is the touching tribute to Marco Simoncelli, with his racing number (#58) emblazoned across the bike and written into the spirit of the machine. We have high hopes that this will go into production, so hopefully this “concept” will lay the foundations for something great over the next year or two.
Lee Thompson’s Kawasaki “ZX-HR Hybrid” Concept
Lee Thompson is one of our favorite concept designers. His ideas are definitely out of the box, but they’re grounded in reality. In fact, we’ve started talking to Lee and getting to know his process, and it’s very intriguing. But we’re not here to talk about the man, we’re here to talk about his designs. The Kawasaki “ZX-HR Hybrid” is one of the most interesting things we’ve ever seen. Why? Well, anytime we mention the word “electric” we either get a hugely positive reaction, or a disastrously negative one, with no side willing to talk about a compromise. So how about this?
Hybrid technology is a very real thing – the auto industry has been doing it for years. But why hasn’t the motorbike industry taken some inspiration? Electric bikes are great: they offer unparalleled power delivery, respectable top speeds, and of course, they’re eco-friendly. However, they’re usually wrapped in unnaturally futuristic bodywork, they lack a bit of soul, and battery life and range is huge obstacle. Regular internal combustion bikes are still our favorites though: they’re fast, familiar, fun to ride, they’re tried and tested. However, they don’t have the power delivery, they’re harming the environment, and they’re going to be phased out eventually.
Lee’s ZX-HR Hybrid has the best of both worlds: a conventional petrol powered, supercharged engine that promises 180 hp, and a top speed of 180 mph, all in a package that we’re familiar with. It looks like a motorcycle – not a hair dryer. Underneath the familiar bodywork though, we have a battery pack that powers two wheel mounted motors. It’s a real hybrid that has the range and ride experience of a conventional motorcycle, but has the option of going green for when you’re plodding around town.
We’ve never seen a hybrid motorcycle before, and that begs the question: “Why not?” – Is this something you can see yourself riding in the near future? Our answer is “yes!”
Suzuki’s “VISION” GSX-R750 Concept
Is this a full on factory concept? Or has it been plucked out of the imagination of an itinerant designer? We’re not sure who penned it, but we know who published it: Japanese motorcycle magazine Young Machine. Sometimes they’re reliable, sometimes they’re not. It doesn’t matter where it came from, because we have a feeling that something like this is just around the corner. Hold on to your bitch bars, because we’re here to tell you our thoughts…. The 80s, dear friends, are coming back.
If you’ve been wondering why Suzuki hasn’t jumped on the retro themed bandwagon, the answer is this: the old 70s themed scramblers aren’t a part of the company’s heritage. They’re going to unleash something when they’re ready…and whatever it is will be true to Suzuki’s history. We’ve mentioned that they’re also planning on supercharging something soon, and it looks like it could be a nice 80s themed retro racer. Why the 80s? Because Suzuki were kings in the 80s. And given current design trends…the 70s have been done. The 70s are over. You wait, the 80s will be the next big trend.
Not just for major manufacturers either. For the custom build scene too. 70s Honda, Yamaha, and Kawasaki bikes have run their course. Finding an old one in good condition that hasn’t been tampered with is difficult, and if you can find one, the prices have become astronomical thanks to the new wave of custom builders. So, logically, if you want something that still fits in the “classic” bracket and comes with an affordable price tag, that’s still easy to work on for the home builder (before the advent of really sophisticated electronics and rider aids) there’s only one place left to go: the 80s. The time when superbikes really evolved into what we know and love today.
This may not be an official sketch from Suzuki, but we think that the Hamamatsu based firm are on the right sort of track. Let’s hope this Young Machine concept is a glimpse at the near future. Because it’s a future that we want to be a part of.