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Two Wheel Steering – could it work?

The motorcycle with two-wheel steering – rear as well as front – has been tried before but has never seen production, but now BMW appears to be showing renewed interest in the concept, making three separate patent applications on how a two-wheel-steer bike might work.

The big question is how to combine drive and steering duties in one wheel, and according to Cycle World, which picked up the story, BMW has registered a whole raft of possible solutions, keeping belt, chain or shaft drive with various means of steering the wheel including mechanical linkages as well as hydraulic and electric systems. Both electric and petrol bikes are covered by the patents, and an e-bike with rear hub motor would be one solution to the drive issue.

So, would it be worth it? Do we really need a two-wheel-steer motorcycle?

Turning the rear wheel in the opposite direction to the front (as commonly seen on some HGV trailers) does allow a tighter turning circle, making it relevant to a long wheelbase cruiser such as BMW’s own R18. Two-wheel steering would also give a typical cruiser easier and quicker steering on the open road. Not just for cruisers either – in the patent application, BMW designers point that this would allow a longer wheelbase on any bike, with more space for space for people and luggage. Sports bikes could benefit too, as the front wheel would only need a shallow steering angle, opening up the possibility of an enclosed front wheel for improved aerodynamics.

Is two-wheel steering an exciting breakthrough or needless complication?

Jim Freeman, Chair of the BMF, had no doubts: “Very BMW, interesting ideas, with a lot of tech involved, like their self-steering bikes. However, like the self-riding automatons, it does beg the question ‘why?’ It smacks of a solution looking for a problem, and ‘because we can’ engineering research. I hate to think what systems like this will be like as they age. I know of a number of BMW owners with the early K series where the ABS system turned into a nightmare as it aged, for example. Never mind electronics on cars, which have replaced rust as the mainstream vehicle killer. Built in obsolescence in practice. Reminds me of a printer I used to have…😁”

Link here to full Cycleworld article and more technical drawings!

Written by Peter Henshaw

All article images courtesy of BMW