By Ted Christodulidis
To the western world, motorcycling and the accompanied lifestyle was usually embraced by those who wanted to “break free” from the everyday; those who yearned for the freedom brought upon by the wind in your hair and the open road laid out before you. In post-WWI Great Britain, the ton-up boys raced wildly between transport cafés, wanting nothing more than to live to tell the tale of hitting the mythical “ton” (100 mph). American author and journalist Hunter S. Thompson wrote about “the feeling” in his 1966 Hells Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs: “But with the throttle screwed on there is only the barest margin, and no room at all for mistakes. It has to be done right … and that’s when the strange music starts, when you stretch your luck so far that fear becomes exhilaration and vibrates along your arms. You can barely see at a hundred. The only sounds are wind and a dull roar floating back from the mufflers.”
All things compared, motorcycles have regularly been viewed as more practical and affordable, not to mention ridiculously fast when pitted against passenger vehicles, thanks to a high power to weight ratio rivaled only by expensive supercars. Nonetheless, it seems impossible for motorcycles to cast aside a “reckless” and “deadly” stigma. So how can the negative reputation be broken while maintaining “the feeling?” Enter BMW’s latest concept, the Motorrad VISION NEXT 100. Resembling something straight out of a Batman or Tron film, the bike aims to reduce accidents and ultimately make the action of riding even more enjoyable for everyone involved. BMW isn’t just out to make riding safer, they’re out to set a new standard in motorcycling. From a simple visor that replaces the helmet, lightweight clothing in place of armor and heavy leathers and a self-balancing motorcycle that sees out the kickstand, BMW is paving the path for the future while digitizing “the feeling” riders have become accustomed to.
Straight out of my childhood dreams, the Vision Next 100 is visually rooted in the historic Motorrad timeline: the black triangular frame and white lines with the iconic opposed-twin engines all reminiscent of BMW’s first production bike, the R32. Some would say it looks too bare or even unfinished, but rest assured, it’s all to guarantee optimised aerodynamics while riding. Although the frame takes cues from the classics, it’s been fully redesigned for the next generation. Rather than utilizing a traditional joint system, the entire frame of the bike will morph to react to certain situations. For instance, at a halt, steering maneuvers will be like spreading hot butter, while high speeds will see a tight and agile frame.
Mirroring the motorcycle, the accompanied peripherals have been fully redesigned to make for an overall more comfortable and dynamic ride. With the specialized visor providing feedback to the bike (and replacing traditional helmets), motorcycle-related injuries are sure to see a sharp decrease; perhaps rivaling that of traditional automobiles. The visor itself is designed to feel like the cockpit of an aircraft, showing the ideal line and current angle of the bike. Should the rider fail to correct any inconsistency, the bike will self-balance into a safe angle. In addition, due to the safety assured, layered armor and leathers won’t be necessary, allowing form and function to take precedence. From an A/C and heating system, vibrating modules to alert the rider, and a sort of ram-air system that fills at high speeds to support the rider, the suit puts forth features further blurring the lines of automotive and technology. This ultimately progresses newcomers through the necessary motions of riding a motorcycle while providing a more dynamic experience for more historied riders.
Safer, emissionless, and an overall more dynamic ride, the BMW Vision Next 100 is ushering in the motorcycle of tomorrow while remaining true to the Motorrad roots. Certainly most seasoned riders won’t be dropping their analog bikes for the latest unveil the day it’s available, but there is little doubt that BMW’s most recent dream will be shaping the world of motorcycles for generations to come.