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The Motorcycle Industries latest balancing act

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December 10, 2012 by Rider Newsletter Staff

A fully enclosed motorcycle that won’t fall over

In addition to being an exciting recreational activity and lifetime obsession, motorcycling is a wonderful way to add adventure to everyday commuting, but only if conditions are right. Rain, cold and other weather extremes can force you to take your car to work, especially if you have to be dressed for success at the office. In addition, many people consider motorcycles to be too unsafe for commuting in heavy traffic.

Bringing two-wheel commuting to the masses is the goal of a small startup firm in San Francisco called Lit Motors. Engineer and designer Daniel Kim and his staff of 10 have developed and tested a futuristic, two-wheeled, fully enclosed commuting vehicle that seems to defy both logic and the laws of physics. A highly sophisticated system of electronics and powerful gyroscopes enables the C-1 to remain upright without the added girth and weight of a third (or fourth) wheel. According to the company, the C-1 will not fall over even if it is T-boned by a larger vehicle. At rest, the C-1 extends a pair of stabilizers to remain upright when the power is off.

The power, in this case, is electricity. To get the most power using the least amount of space and weight, electric is clearly the way to go. Despite the lack of a gasoline power plant, performance will not be a problem. With a maximum speed in excess of 100 mph, 0-60 in less than six seconds and a range of 200 miles between charges, the C-1 may be the first electric vehicle that meets the needs of real-world commuters.

To get an idea of how incredible the stabilization technology is, you have to see it in action. There are lots of videos available online, at the company’s Web site and on YouTube. To demonstrate how powerful the system is, the company attached a tow strap to the wheels of the C-1 and a truck attempted to pull the bottom out from under it to no avail. The C-1 tipped a bit, then skidded sideways remaining upright. When a human attempts to knock it over, the vehicle barely moves at all. It’s like hitting the side of a small car. It may move slightly, but there’s no way it’s falling over.

The interior of the C-1 (a name that will have to change prior to production because Mercedes already has a vehicle with this designation) is more car than motorcycle. The driver sits in a bucket seat, uses pedals to accelerate and brake and steers with a wheel, rather than handlebars. While the interior is pretty small, there is room for one passenger behind the driver, although by the look of it, anyone with claustrophobia may want to avoid tagging along. Technology and safety equipment abound in the C-1. There are seatbelts, airbags and climate controls. The steering wheel features a touch screen interface that will automatically link, via Bluetooth, to the driver’s smart phone to allow hands-free calling and voice activated control of music and other apps.

Limited production of the C-1 is expected to begin in late 2013 or early 2014. The company estimates the C-1 will cost around $25,000 at launch. However, the price is likely to fall to approximately $16,000 once they begin building them in larger numbers. By the way, if you’re interested, you can place a down payment to reserve your very own C-1 now. See the Lit Motors Web site for details.

So, is this the future of motorcycle commuting? It certainly could be. Serious enthusiasts will probably still want a real motorcycle for obvious reasons. Although the company has plans for a convertible model, it is unlikely to offer the level of freedom riders prefer. Having said that, however, if the C-1 turns out to perform as well as Lit Motors claims, it could be the perfect commuting vehicle for both motorcyclists and the general public. With its futuristic looks and silent power, the C-1 will definitely turn heads – that is until everybody has one.


Here are a few links where you can get more details on the C-1 and see it in action:

 

The Lit Motors Web site

A recent article in The National Geographic

Coverage by Forbes Magazine

A story in the UK publication Motorcycle News

An article in The Atlantic

 

 


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