Rick Doughty Circa 2008
As with most things outside of the electronic world, the evolutionary process may seem a bit slow. When you stop and have a good look around, there are a great many things that have become extinct. The development of the motocross bikes is not immune. Some things needed to go, some things needed to stay, while others never should have existed in the first place.
Here is a list of some of the more notable items that are long gone from the modern era:
Beautifully crafted metal gas tanks and easily bent metal fenders.
Mud flaps and fender extenders.
Drum brakes and really dumb brakes
Front brake cables and bikes that break.
Oval number plates and individual numbers.
Expansion chambers and Marilyn Chambers.
Inch wide footpegs and inch diameter fork tubes.
Point style ignitions and pointless model names.
Goodie guards and mouth guards.
Steel rims, shouldered rims and Jones foam for your shouldered rims.
Right side shift levers and right side up forks.
Twin shocks and twin carbs.
Chromoly frames and chrome plated handlebars
Plastic levers, steel levers and compression release levers.
300 X 21 and 450 X 18 knobby tires.
Bikes that get tired before you do and bikes that need you as much as you need them.
If these are the things that are gone, what is on the endangered species list for the future?
Performance, weight savings, manufacturing costs and even Al Gore will influence the bikes of the coming decades.
Here are my picks and some rationale:
Spokes and nipples are inefficient, expensive, labor intensive and easily damaged. As polymer and alloy technologies improve, so will the prospect of plastic or alloy or a combination thereof for wheel construction. The mag wheels of the early 70’s were too stiff and for the time, too expensive. When technology and cost effectiveness come into balance, spokes will be history.
Inner tubes will be unnecessary as we move to new wheel construction. This will be both a cost and weight savings and will no doubt have an impact of tire construction. Kiss pinch tubes good bye!
Roller chains stretch, they require lubrication, they are heavy and they certainly don’t like mud and dirt. They will be replaced with a belt system and ultimately either a light weight drive shaft or a hydraulic drive system.
Carburetors are already on their way out with fuel injection just hitting the market. In time they will eliminate the almighty “Hot start’ button as well. (What car can you name that has a “hot start” button? It won’t be long before the only place you will be able to find a carb will be on a muscle car or a vintage bike.
Muffler packing will be replaced be the mechanical silencer. Decibel readings in excess of 90db will also be but a memory.
Kickstart levers will soon disappear (thank God) replaced by the electric start button.
Ignititon systems will continue to improve and get easier to adjust in terms of their mapping. We will be able to adjust the power delivery like we adjust suspension. Maybe even on the fly, so you can tame down the motor in the later stages of the moto when your arms turn to noodles.
Suspension will also continue to evolve and become more complicated instead of more simple. It will however be able to be adjusted electronically on board and the front and rear systems will be linked so they work in balance with one another.
Springs are steel, some times titanium but always heavier and more expensive to manufacture than air or gas. Nitrogen will more than likely become the gas of choice as it is not effected by the heat generated in the moving suspension parts and will replace the old coil spring we have come to know and love.
Vinyl graphics (for manufacturers) will be replaced by graphics that will be impregnated into the plastic, thus reducing a manufacturing step and shaving a few ounces of weight.
After market vinyl graphics will live on because motorcyclist are individualists and they will always want to make their bike different, even if that means just like Ricky Carmichael’s.
So where does Al Gore come into motocross bike design? If he and his Global Warming circus get any more traction in the political world there will be no internal combustion engines, four stroke or otherwise (except of course in Mr. Gore’s SUV or Lear jet) and until Honda can develop a hydrogen powered CR850, we could be pushed out of motocross parks and into a handful of regional motorsport preserves, where the carbon output is strictly monitored and everyone involved will have to pay a carbon tax that will only be affordable to the super rich. Scary but plausible.
Just thinking about it makes me want to light up a good cigar, go out in the garage, put a main jet two sizes too big in my 501cc Maico, so it smokes like a factory. Then pull off the silencer and do wheelies up and down the street with no pants on, as my personal statement on this parade of progress.
Wonder if I need a permit?
I know I’ll need bail money….