The team behind V8 Supercar champions Craig Lowndes and Jamie Whincup has unveiled a revolutionary motorcycle that will open up the world of freestyle riding.
Skycraft, which features a fuel tank in the frame and exhaust in the swingarm, is the world’s first purpose-built freestyle motocross machine.
It was produced by Triple Eight Race Engineering of Brisbane which is the engineering side of the champion Red Bull Racing V8 Supercar team of Lowndes and Whincup. The motorcycle-mad race team also runs two-time MotoGP champion Casey Stoner in the main support category.
Skycraft was designed by action sports innovators Unit, engineered by Triple Eight and unveiled at the American International Motorcycle Expo in Florida.
It will return to Australia this weekend and possibly be shown at the Sydney Motorcycle and Scooter Show in November or it may go to the Milan Motorcycle Show.
Triple Eight technical director Ludo Lacroix says the bike took two and a half years to produce from Unit co-founder Ian Everest’s concept to finished prototype.
He says it is so light it will allow freestyle riders to perform new tricks.
“Ian knew that they wanted a light bike, but we didn’t have an idea if it was going to be carbon. It’s the manufacturing that is the very difficult bit because it can be tricky, but it’s all been very interesting,” says Ludo.
At 75kg, the carbon fibre and titanium bike is about 25% lighter than standard motocross bikes.
It has a carbon fibre monocoque frame containing a fuel tank while the tail has integrated grab handles, a forked seat and exhaust in the carbon fibre swingarm.
“What it means for FMX is actually it’s saving and shaving 20kg off the bike,” Ludo says. “You can do seat grabs and other movements very easily. The bike is a bit more trial-shaped so you can really jump from one side to another easily. It’s opening other avenues and probably making available movements that haven’t been done before.”
The prototype will be used by riders for testing with the potential to go into production in about a year, Ludo says.
“Production is about market. To date, we cannot say there is a market.
If the market is there, then a year seems realistic,” he says.
More importantly, some of the technical advances could end up in other motorcycles, especially the use of the swingarm for the exhaust.
Such an innovation would save money, weight, improve handling and make the bike look far sexier with an uncluttered rear wheel.
But don’t hold your breath. Erik Buell created bikes with stubby under-engine exhausts, oil in the swingarm, fuel in the frame and peripheral brake discs, all largely ignored by other bike manufacturers.
The team has not mentioned what engine they have used and have printed “Skycraft” over the engine donor’s name.
However, it is obviously a two-stroke and probably 250cc.
Ludo says that they will have several different test riders who have different bike sponsors, so the engine manufacturer’s name has been disguised.
One of those test riders could be Queensland’s Matt Schubring who has “very good relations” with Unit.
Ludo says the bike has already done some testing and ran faultlessly, but has only used two litres of fuel and “not excess jumps”.
Engine: 2-stroke single, front-mounted cooling system with single radiator core and custom titanium expansion chamber
Frame: carbon fibre monocoque with integrated fuel tank
Swingarm: carbon fibre with integrated silencer
Body: ultra-slim carbon fibre
Wheels: carbon fibre rims, titanium axle and bolt kit
Suspension: air (front), titanium shock spring (rear)
Grips: Unit magnum (patented design)
Handlebars: increased/adjustable turning angle
Skycraft team: From Triple Eight – owner Roland Dane, Daniel Williams, Robert Clarke, Matt Cousins and Kevin Titman. Other contributors – LSM Composites, Lightning Composites, John Titman Racing, Talon, Scalvini, De-Tris, Galfer, Mainmoto, Raptor and Racetech Titanium.