With its unique mix of strength, light weigh and exotic-cool factor, carbonfibre is increasingly being used by motorcycle manufacturers on their top-spec sportsbikes. For those looking to shed every superfluous kilogram from their motorcycle, carbonfibre has to be a good bet, since it offers a 50% weight reduction when compared to steel, and a 30% weight reduction compared to aluminium.
While carbonfibre has its advantages, using this material remains a complicated process. For bikes like the S1000RR and K1300R, BMW use high quality Polyacrylonitrile (PAN) based fibres in the spinning process to create the precursor monofilament yarn, which is then ‘carbonised’ under high temperature (above 1,000 degrees Celsius). This is done with the exclusion of oxygen, so that the fibre yarn carbonises rather than burns.
This precursor yarn is then passed through several ovens set at different temperatures and then runs through a ‘sizing bath,’ which assures the perfect fibre-matrix adhesion needed for the lamination process. The yarn is then wound onto carbonfibre spools for further textile processes such as weaving or multiaxial production. Yeah, well, producing something that’s lighter and stronger than steel wasn’t ever going to be simple…
In the end, carbonfibre is an incredibly strong, yet flexible and lightweight material that BMW use extensively on their sportscars and superbikes. Carbonfibre is also more customisable than either steel or aluminium – it can, for example, be engineered to remain flexible in one direction and very stiff in another.
BMW offer various carbonfibre parts for the S1000RR and K1300R, which come with a three-coat high-gloss paint finish, which is UV-resistant and offers outstanding impact resistance and protection against discolouration. ‘BMW Motorrad has several highly skilled experts for carbonfibre structures, who are involved in the development process right from the beginning of the design phase of the individual components. There is also a lot of synergy with the automotive division, which results in extremely high quality and engineering levels,’ says Johann Sievers-Paulsen, one of the BMW Group’s experts in the field of carbonfibre components development.
Half a century ago, motorcyclists had to make do with bits of steel tubing on their motorcycles. Modern-day bikers have machines like the S1000RR and carbonfibre parts to go with that!!