2007 Tokyo Motor Show

Mild to Wild: A Wide Range of Concept Bikes

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Yamaha

Yamaha has taken the retro path as well, though not quite as sportily as Honda. The first of their concepts is called the Sakura, and it's a beautiful upright-style 'standard' powered by an extremely retro-looking 1000cc V-Twin. The cylinder heads have a classic shape that reminds me of older British machines, and the dual rear shocks, tubular steel frame, and wire-spoke wheels continue the theme. Yamaha claims the machine is lightweight and easy to handle, with a low seat height - which makes sense, as retro models like these are probably popular among those getting back in motorcycling after a long absence, and the Sakura should have a nice, torquey powerband matched with conservative handling, perfect for a relaxed ride through the countryside.

Yamaha's Sakura concept is another attractive exploration of the retro-standard trend, highlighted by the beautifully sculpted cylinders of its air-cooled V-Twin powerplant.
Yamaha's four-wheeled Tesseract doesn't seem to fit the motorcycle classification, until you see that its unique 'dual scythe' suspension allows it to lean into corners, leading to Yamaha's claim that the Tesseract is a "four-wheeled motorcycle."
Is the world ready for a hybrid two-wheeler?
The classic look of the Sakura is the exception to the rule among the group of concept bikes Yamaha displayed at Tokyo, however. When I talked earlier about engineering exercises, the following machines were the types of bikes I had in mind. The most eye-catching is the Tesseract, which seems to be designed as something of a four-wheeled motorcycle - it looks like a futuristic, streamlined version of Yamaha's current off-road four-wheelers, but its unique 'dual scythe' suspension design actually allows it to lean into corners like a two-wheeler (check out the videos available on Yamaha's Tokyo Motor Show Website - http://www.yamaha-motor.co.jp/
20global/motorshow2007/
). Like several of Yamaha's other concepts, the Tesseract also features an advanced powerplant - in this case, a gas-electric hybrid, combining a traditional V-Twin with an electric motor for lower emissions and enhanced fuel efficiency.

Only slightly more grounded in market reality is the LUXAIR, which seems to be a regular scooter disguised by some wild, anime-inspired styling reminiscent of the Transformers. The LUXAIR features another gas-electric hybrid motor - Yamaha claims the liquid-cooled gas engine (no details provided) gives extra power under acceleration and charges the batteries of the electric unit under steady-state cruising. The electric motor is used for power at slower speeds and lower loads, and also gains a regenerative charge when the bike is braking. 

While the LUXAIR itself is unlikely to appear in your local dealer, the technologies used are similar to those currently available in the automotive market and may be indicative that Yamaha is planning to release some "green" motorcycles in the near future. To see even more hybrid-powered and fuel-cell concepts, check out their Tokyo Motor Show website.

Suzuki

Although Suzuki had two of the wilder concepts on display at the show, it has released the least amount of information of any of the manufacturers. So we'll have to make do with some roughly translated Japanese text and what I can gather from the available photos.

The Biplane is a wild-looking concept that is, as the name implies, inspired by and modeled after the style and feel of an airplane. At least that's what Suzuki says - to me, it's again clear that the designers have been watching quite a bit of anime, although admittedly the smooth, flowing lines of the Biplane concept are quite attractive. Apparently there's a 1000cc, liquid-cooled, DOHC V-Four powerplant hidden under that organically streamlined bodywork, and the front suspension uses an interesting dual control arm style similar to some BMWs or to Confederate's new Wraith - the aerodynamically streamlined suspension arms are particularly Wraith-like.

The over-the-top styling of the Suzuki Biplane concept is an attempt to bring together the concepts of airplane and motorcycle, according to Suzuki's minimal press material.Also up front is a Buell-style rim-mounted disc brake, while out back it appears that the rear suspension uses some sort of dual swinging-link arrangement, but the details are concealed by more fairings. While the Biplane was probably a fun exercise for Suzuki's design department, I highly doubt anything like it will ever see production - although that DOHC V-Four sounds interesting, and I wonder if it will show up elsewhere in the years to come.

The Crosscage is another "green" concept, fitting in nicely with what seems to be the overriding theme of this year's show. Rather than the seemingly more common gas-electric hybrid, the Crosscage is powered by an air-cooled fuel-cell system designed by Intelligent Energy, a UK company. The front and rear suspension both use single-sided designs, and the bike's name comes from the X-shaped "frame cage" that exists to "protect the hydrogen tank" - leaving me to wonder exactly how dangerous a ruptured hydrogen tank would be!

Suzuki's Crosscage follows the "green" theme that pervaded this year's show, using an air-cooled hydrogen fuel-cell design Suzuki picked up from UK company Intelligent Energy. The cage that gives the bike its name is designed to protect the machine's hydrogen tank from damage!

Despite appearing at first glance to be just another wild engineering exercise, on closer examination it seems that Suzuki may truly believe that some of the concepts displayed on the Crosscage are feasible for production. First is the fact that the fuel cell system was sourced from an outside company - which probably means it actually works, which is not necessarily a requirement for concept bikes. If Suzuki just wanted to show off with a fuel-cell vehicle, they could have mocked up one on their own with little effort - so the link-up with Intelligent Energy was only necessary if Suzuki is actually serious about developing fuel-cell technology for production, or at least giving it a close look.

Although I think they might be stretching a bit when they call the Crosscage a "highly feasible alternative-fuel-vehicle design," it may be indicative of the direction of ongoing research by Suzuki at developing a "green" powerplant for production. For more details on the air-cooled fuel cell system, check out Suzuki's Tokyo Motor Show site (http://tokyo2007.suzuki.co.jp/motor/) and the Intelligent Energy website (http://www.intelligent-energy.com/).

Yamaha’s BOBBY concept is a strange, very small folding motorcycle that can supposedly fit into the trunk, and when unfolded looks like a sort of weird, miniature dirt bike. It features electric power and is obviously targeted at the eclectic Japanese domestic market, where wild urban transportation concepts seem to be as popular as sushi and anime.Well folks, that's the end of this year's weird and wild saga from the halls of the Tokyo Motor Show, where we've found everything from beautiful, nearly production-ready retro machines to off-the-wall concepts that would look more at home in an anime film than on a showroom floor.

Is this a glimpse of the future of motorcycling? I don't know, but one thing is clear - alternative-fuel and hybrid powerplants, which have already started making some inroads in the automotive world, are probably coming our way as well. Don't expect it to happen overnight, though - if we look to the automotive market for a model, the ratio of "green" concepts to vehicles actually reaching production is ridiculously skewed.

Still, the Toyota's landmark Prius has been around for a few years now, so production of these sorts of vehicles will happen. How soon is difficult to say, but I'd expect that we'll see them first in the Japanese market, probably within the next year or two. After that, who knows?  All I know is I'm waiting for my turn to swing a leg over the CB1100R, no electric motor or fuel cell required!

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