With its front swingarm and hub-centre steering system, the Motoinno TS prototype has been tested extensively. Everything on the machine works really well and you may see a limited-edition high-end sportbike in production soon
'Triangulated Steering and Suspension System.' That's what the TS3 stands for, in Motoinno TS3. Based in Brisbane, Australia, Ray Van Steenwyk and Colin Oddy have designed and put together the TS3 prototype you see here and with this bike, the Aussie duo hope to address the many limitations of the conventional telescopic front-end, which almost all production motorcycles are fitted with today.
Of course, others have tried their hand at hub-centre steering front-end systems for motorcycles, most notably Bimota, Yamaha and Vyrus. Supposedly, however, Motoinno's TS3 system is a significant improvement over all earlier hub-centre systems. The Motoinno TS3 prototype uses a standard 2002 Ducati 900SS engine, but with a wheelbase of 1394mm (4mm less than that of a stock 900SS) and a dry weight of 161 kilos (30kg less than a stock 900SS), which is due to the use of billet alloy and aero-grade aluminium components for the chassis, along with carbonfibre wheels. With the front swingarm pivoting directly off the engine’s front mounting lug, the engine is used as a fully stressed member. And the bike rides on 17-inch BST wheels, shod with 120/70 (front) and 180/60 (rear) Pirelli Diablo Rosso rubber. Twin 320mm discs with Brembo 4-piston calipers handle braking duties at the front wheel.
According to details available on the Motoinno website, their TS3 system was "conceived, designed and implemented over a 16 year period, including more than six years of independent research, design and concept development, and over four years of advanced computer aided design (CAD) and FEA (finite element analysis) component simulation development." With all-new styling and the TS3 front-end, Motoinno plan to launch their high-end streetbike in the near future, which will be built in very limited numbers and will be aimed at HNI enthusiasts and collectors. "We are a high quality, low run production facility. Motoinno is positioning itself to create ‘Rolls Royce grade’ motorcycles using advanced technological developments that include the highest performance possible. Our corporate beliefs and manufacturing systems are inspired by and based on the likes of Koenigsegg, Ferrari, Bugatti and Atom," they claim.
Claimed benefits for the TS3 system include enhanced front-end stability, fully adjustable chassis that can be tuned for pro-dive, neutral and anti-dive handling characteristics, the ability to brake harder and later into corners, and a higher rate of turn for less lean into, during and on exiting corners. Due to the separation of steering and suspension functions, hard acceleration and braking do not upset the Motoinno TS3's balance and the machine retains a constant steering geometry at all times. Also, unlike some other hub-centre steering system, the TS3 does not suffer from any ground clearance issues and the bike can be cornered as hard and fast as any machine equipped with conventional forks. And finally, the TS3 even has 54-degrees of lock-to-lock steering as compared to 38-degrees for a conventional sportsbike.
So, with so much that's seemingly in favour of hub-centre steering systems, why haven't these caught on in a bigger way. Why aren't more mainstream manufacturers producing motorcycles fitted with such systems instead of the conventional USD forks? We asked Ray and Colin about this in an email, and here are some excerpts from what they have to say about hub-centre steering systems vis-a-vis the conventional front fork:
On why hub-centre steering systems haven't caught on in a bigger way with mainstream motorcycle manufacturers, and how Motoinno's TS3 system is different from other hub-centre systems seen earlier
There have been many attempts over the years to design steering systems to replace telescopic forks – for very good reason. There is broad acceptance that forks are unstable levers that set up and magnify dangerous oscillations/vibrations into the chassis of the motorcycle. Hub-centre steering (HCS) systems are not new. The Ner-a-car was developed as a HCS system way back in the 1920s as a stable and compliant alternative to the girder forks of the day. Although the motoinno TS3 (triangulated steering and suspension system) uses an HCS unit (located in the centre of the front wheel) similar to those found on the Bimota Tesi and Vyrus bikes, that is where the similarity ends. Being a patent pending design, the Motoinno system is a totally new concept in stability, performance, safety and adjustability. It has none of the inherent design flaws that are associated with the Tesi, Parker or other alternate systems, including steered stanchion systems – telescopic and girder forks.
The TS3 has no oscillation harmonic problems at the front wheel that can be magnified into the chassis of the machine – the Motoinno system is a fully triangulated system that incorporates a virtual king-pin from the bottom of the wheel (the braking contact patch) through the steering axel king-pin to a point above the front wheel – which is unique to the TS3 system. This makes the system extremely stable and safe while giving the rider added feedback from the wheel to the handlebars.
The greatest problem with previous designs is that even though they address and overcome some of the problems associated with telescopic forks, they have all brought with them their own set of unique problems. Most HCS designs do not have the same front end feel as on a telescopic front end. On the Tesi for example, rider input and tyre feel at the bars is vague and inconsistent at best, and the amount of joints in the steering can create up to a centimetre of slop at the handle-bars compared to the front wheel. The Tesi also has steering lock to lock and ground corner lean issues that can cause the front swingarm to make contact with the road at high lean angles, causing the front wheel to lift off the road and cause a crash. The TS3’s design eliminates these problems.
Because past alternate systems have not been able to successfully eliminate the new problems they have brought with them, manufacturers and riders have been unwilling to accept any new HSC designs. Instead they have tared all HCS designs with the same brush, giving the concept a bad name even though the majority of riders on the planet have never had the opportunity to ride a new HCS system for themselves. The years of bad press have hampered development and uptake of HCS designs which are well known by engineers to be a far more stable front end platform than telescopic forks.
On styling-related issues, production costs and mechanical complexity associated with hub-centre systems
Previous HCS systems have had a look that is a radical departure from the historic look of telescopics. Motorcycle riders and manufacturers are well known to be some of the most conservative in the transport sector. If it doesn’t look similar to a telescopic bike it will not be accepted. The TS3 was designed with this in mind and still retains the lines of telescopics albeit in a futuristic way.
Production costs are only an issue in the early take-up stage of a new system, as economy of scale brings down costs with the increased number of units sold.
Mechanical complexity is not an issue as long as the performance is not compromised and the feel of the bike has the same if not better than the telescopic forks we use today. The TS3 system was designed to have the feel of normal telescopic forks without their associated problems – stiction, lateral and horizontal flex, suspension bottoming out under extreme braking and changes to geometry under braking and acceleration. The TS3 has succeeded in eliminating all these problems.
Long term reliability is also no longer a problem with the development of new materials and higher rated components over the past 20 years.
On the learning curve associated with riding motorcycles fitted with hub-centre steering systems
Previous alternate systems have had a steeper learning curve than that of the new TS3 system. This is because of the problems they have brought with them – vague feel from the handlebars to the wheel/road input, corner lean clearance issues, unappealing design, inability to totally remove front wheel oscillation harmonics, limited steering lock etc.
A rider can, over time, learn to ride any motorcycle with inconsistencies and idiosyncrasies. When an alternate system is unable to eliminate one or more of the above problems, then a rider will have to learn to ride around these problems (just as we have learnt to ride around the inconsistencies of telescopic forks), making the time necessary to become confident with that system much harder and longer to learn.
Past alternate systems have never been able to fully emulate the feel of telescopic forks; this has made it a drawback for the uptake of any HCS technology. The TS3 has overcome this problem. Riders have commented on the speed at which they feel confident on the TS3 system, taking minutes to adjust to, not months or sometimes years as on some alternate systems.
An example from my own personal experience - my daily ride is a BMW K1200R with a Duo-lever system on the front end – designed by Fior and originally patented by Norman Hossak back in the 80s. After five years of riding my BMW, I still sometimes don’t have the same confidence with the steering and front end feel than I did on a telescopic system. The Duo-lever system has some very good points and benefits compared to a telescopic system and I would never go back to riding a telescopic fork bike, but it has taken me years to fully understand and ride around all the idiosyncrasies of the Duo-lever system. This is one of the reasons that the European K1200 race series had twice as many front end crashes than normal telescopic race series and why BMW went back into production racing with the telescopic forked R1000Rs – the Duo-lever system has a brief but disconcerting lack of front-end feel at a critical point in the braking and corner manoeuvre at speed.
The TS3 system, on the other hand, was designed to definitively address and overcome previous problems with alternate HCS systems while retaining the feel of a telescopic front end. The first thing that Cameron Donald said recently after taking the TS3 for a track test ride at the Sydney Motorsport Park – Eastern Creek – was how surprised he was that it felt like a normal bike and how fast it gave him confidence. Because the bike still has an amount of dive under braking and the input from the bars to the wheel were very similar to that of a 'normal' bike, it was easy to adapt the years of telescopic riding to the TS3 system.
While the current Motoinno TS3 prototype uses a Ducati 900SS engine, a newer, production-spec street-legal sportbike might soon come along, which will be fitted with a newer, more powerful V-twin from the current Ducati Monster 1200!
On why Motoinno chose the old Ducati 900SS engine for this project, rather than a newer, more powerful engine
The TS3 was designed on paper back in 2008 and production was started in 2009. The choice of the Ducati 900SS 2002 air cooled engine for the prototype was one of cost and reliability. The air-cooled engine is bullet-proof, well balanced and had the hard points that would make the engine a fully stressed member for the front and rear swingarms. The prototype was kept under a cloud of secrecy for the past six years while patents were filed and test data was collected.
Although the TS3 system can be adapted to any motor layout, the next engine that will be used for the TS3 will be a Ducati Monster 1200 Testastretta powerplant. This motor also retains all the hard points to put the TS3 straight into production, but also has the cylinder heads as fully stressed members as well which allows the TS3 to be designed with a smaller, lighter chassis compared to the TS3 prototype bike which currently (in its over engineered form) comes in at 161Kgs. Using carbonfibre and Titanium components, the new TS3, with the 1200 motor, can come in at as little as 110kg.
We are also in the process of developing a Honda 600cc engine with a race team, for testing and racing in the Moto2 series. This bike will also be equipped with our TS3 front end.
On whether Motoinno might, in the near future, license their TS3 front end to other motorcycle manufacturers
The TS3 technology has only been out in the public domain for the past 6-7 months, so it is relatively new in the eyes of motorcycle riders and manufacturers. We have been gathering reports from recognised riders and reviewers about the bike over the past year, and if manufacturers are watching these reports as they are published in magazines and on the web, then they know what we have developed but with naturally sceptical eyes.
We are having discussions with some well known developers in the racing and manufacturing realms, but at this point in time we are under secrecy agreements and cannot offer any information as to who these companies are. As with all new developments, it is our obligation to prove the TS3 technology to the market before the benefits of the new technology are realised and accepted.
At the moment we are also in discussions with financiers both here in Australia and overseas to build the next generation TS3 production bike for international sales and to take it racing to prove the technology against current existing front end systems. If our data is anything to go by, we should be able to hold our own against current systems in a race environment. The TS3 prototype has consistently been up to a second faster per corner than a Suzuki 750R in the hands of the same rider!
Many thanks to Ray and Colin for responding to our queries for this story. The TS3 system looks brilliant and we wish you huge success with this.
For those interested in knowing more about the Motoinno TS3, please visit the official website