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KTM To Produce 2-Wheel Drive Motorcycle?

  Posted at 01:59:52 PM
  File under  KTM New Products
  Author: Mike Werner
  Location: Normandy, France

KTM 2 wheel drive
After Yamaha with its 2-wheel drive WRF450 motorcycle, Austrian motorcycle manufacturer KTM is getting ready with their version of a all-wheel drive (AWD) motorcycle.

They've been testing the system, and so far it seems to hold the route, so we'll be seeing more of the 2-wheel drive KTM motorcycle in the sports arena.

I wouldn't be surprised to see it show up in the Paris-Dakar race.

Now the question is when will we see it for sale.... this is one interesting motorcycle. However, as with the Yamaha WRF450 Twintrack, the development cycle might take longer than with most motorcycles. There's a lot more moving parts involved, and you're going to want to be sure that everything works in sync.

Here's a short interview with Kurt Nicoll of KTM Motorsport:

What is your experience with 2-wheel drive? What are the differences?

When you ride with the 2-wheel drive system, you notice that it’s so much better when accelerating out of corners. With two driven wheels it’s more difficult to take the inner line around a curve. Therefore you usually take the outer line, as when both wheels are powered, the bike tends to want to straighten itself. You also feel the improved acceleration in the upper body, arms and shoulders. When you are riding very slowly, for example at the Erzberg, where it’s seriously up and down over rough ground, the rear wheel often breaks traction and spins – but not with the 2-wheel drive, which keeps on pulling with the front wheel. This way you can accelerate in situations where others are already bogged down. Those are what I think the major differences are.

Do you think it’s only something for competition riders or can your average rider also benefit from it?

I think that the system has advantages particularly for the hobby rider. The advantages for competition riders will be less, as they mostly have a very good feel for traction – moreover they’re already used to steering the bike with a slipping rear wheel. But if someone has problems with steep climbs or often gets bogged down, then I think 2-wheel drive will yield great rewards.

Does it only have advantages when off-road, in sand or mud, or also on hard surfaces when it’s wet?

It can safely be said that 2-wheel drive helps more on a wet surface than a dry one. When it’s dry, the rear wheel hardly ever spins, but when it’s wet it does so continuously. With 2-wheel drive one simply twists the throttle and the bike accelerates because the power is distributed to both wheels. When it’s wet, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s wet sand or asphalt, 2-wheel drive makes riding much easier.

Is it a similar leap forward to that of the Quattro 20 years ago?

Yes, it’s very similar. At the moment we’re just at the beginning of it’s development. The problem that we’re working on is perhaps the same one that 4WD cars had 20 years ago: the system is heavy! We must get the weight down (currently approx. 6 kg). When we’ve managed to do that, so that it only adds a couple of additional kilos, then it has the potential to trigger a similar revolution to that of the Quattro.

KTM 2 wheel drive
What about riding technique? Doesn’t one have to totally alter it?

It is necessary to alter your riding style a little. You must get used to the fact that the front wheel is also always driving, that you should always take a wider curve radius, and that you’ll be amazed when the front wheel pulls you out of a rocky section. You have to get a little used to the feeling, and this doesn’t come straight away, especially when you’ve been riding a conventionally driven motorcycle for the last 25 years.

Project leader, Wolfgang Felber

What we’re testing at the moment is a mechanical hydraulic system with a pre-set torque distribution between the front and rear wheel.

This system is already fairly well developed, but can definitely be improved upon.

In the current phase KTM just wants to be one of the first companies on the ball and, using prototypes, to test the suitability of 2-wheel drive under various different conditions.

Only after that can the decision be made to produce a limited batch.

At the moment the advantages and disadvantages of 2-wheel drive compared to a conventionally driven off-road motorcycle pretty much balance each other out.But anyway, no huge adjustment is necessary on the rider’s side.

I might change my mind from the Yamaha and go for the KTM if it comes out soon...

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