About eight years ago, Kawasaki showed the world their radical vision of the future in the form of Concept J. Judging by a recent patent application from the company, the ideas embodied in that concept are still in development, but at least work is underway and the future is coming.
Kawasaki concept j
The bike featured in the patent pending sketches is a high-performance superbike that features a twin-pendulum front suspension similar to the Concept J, and the bike’s controls have been drastically redesigned to work with such a suspension. Thus, a motorcycle does not have a steering wheel in the traditional sense, and the grip handles attached to the pendulum traverses move along with the stroke of these pendulums when tilted.
Kawasaki’s interest in this idea continues. Most of the concepts are made primarily for reasons of attention and are forgotten soon after publication, but the Concept J theme constantly pops up again and again. For example, the unusual motorcycle flashed in a promo video released in 2018 – almost five years after its first public appearance, and then it was shown again in another promo in December 2020, in which Kawasaki advertised their future hybrid motorcycle technology. Obviously, this design still represents part of Kawasaki’s vision for the future of motorcycles.
Over the past couple of months, Kawasaki has already issued several patents for tilting tricycles, and the latter is the most ambitious and most closely related to the Concept J. … The pendulums are equipped with a link suspension option: a common shock absorber with an external spring is horizontally installed near their axes, serving both wheels, smoothing and connecting their travel relative to each other, providing contact with the surface of both wheels in slopes. This configuration keeps unsprung mass to a minimum, which is important for a high-performance motorcycle, and allows it to be much lower in terms of weight distribution and fit than the dual-fork tilt suspension found on the Yamaha Niken.
The patent contains information that Kawasaki already has a prototype, including the fact that instead of a specially designed frame, an inclined front suspension is attached to a chassis with a traditional steering column, despite the fact that such a solution is generally needed is absent. The steering column here serves as an attachment point for the tilt mechanism and linkage system, but its location and design clearly show traces of a two-wheeled motorcycle frame. Plus, the shape of the front of the frame is very reminiscent of the frame of the supercharger Ninja H2, although the sketches are made in a deliberately neutral style.
There have been previous versions of the tilt tricycle with two front swingarms, including other patents from Kawasaki, but this is the first to implement the same steering system as the Concept J. Instead of a common rudder, which transfers steering to the wheels using a steering rack or other system of levers, the patented design uses traverses (in other words, stems or levers) rigidly mounted on the pendulums, to which grips are attached. The system, which provides a direct connection between the rider’s arms and the position of the pendulums, behaves in a peculiar way in the slope: the inner grip will move away from the rider, and the outer grip, on the contrary, will approach him.
The wheels, connected by vertical rods through the wishbone, will tilt synchronously, despite the fact that the halves “helm” parting like scissors. The disadvantage of this design is also that it does not provide for the isolation of the ‘steering wheel’ from road irregularities and vibrations. However, the patent refers primarily to the implementation of the tilting mechanism, and the issues of comfort can be worked out separately.
This fact is not reflected in the current patent, but the Concept J had another interesting advantage: the ability to change the configuration of the front suspension. In addition to the fact that its design made it possible to change the track width (i.e. the distance between the front wheels), it was also possible to change the angle of the ‘rudder’ – the traverse on which the grips are installed, that is, to change the fit from almost recumbent to vertical, depending on motorcycle mode.
So far, the patent raises more questions than answers, but its main goal has been accomplished: it let us know that Kawasaki is continuing to work on the tilt bike. The company has already made several variants of this idea, all of them are reflected in patents, and most of them are more powerful motorcycles than competitors.
The last time Kawasaki worked with such dedication on something was a five-year history with a heap of patents on a supercharged motorcycle – and that ended with the release of the Ninja H2. Will the recline tricycle be Kawasaki’s next step towards dominance in the superbike class? Wait and see.