5 Reasons Why the Lotus C-01 is Art and Not A Superbike
You've likely seen the photos here and elsewhere of the C-01 motorcycle designed by Daniel Simon, built by Holzer Group, powered by KTM and labeled as a Lotus. It's certainly striking, and most of the press we've seen about it has suggested that this is going to be a world-beating, record-setting, ass-kicking motorcycle in any measure: "Employing all of Lotus' lessons learned from racing on four wheels, and adding in the expertise of the Holzer Group and Kodewa, the C-01 is a masterwork of lightness and form-follows-function design," read one review of a bunch of photographs. "Simple motorcycles with lots of lightness are great too, and that's exactly what this is. It's going to be fast...however much it costs, we think it's worth it," gushed another. Only, most of that writing has come from automotive writers who have never thrown a leg over a motorcycle, and have no idea what they're talking about. The Lotus C-01 is a gorgeous piece of art, but it's not a performance motorcycle. Here's why: The Rear Suspension
In 1981, Suzuki introduced the RM125 motocross bike with a Full Floater rear suspension. Overnight, it completely changed how EVERY motocross manufacturer built rear suspensions. Monoshocks were around before, but Suzuki really perfected it, and instantly, every dirtbike manufacturer adopted the design.
PHOTOS: See More of the 2014 Lotus C-01
There used to be two, now there was one, and it meant that suspension changes were simpler, less torque was exerted on the swingarm, plus there was the obvious weight reduction of having one shock and spring versus two, mounted nearer to the center of gravity. It also allowed for a rising rate of damping, meaning the suspension could be supple at times, then firm up when you needed it.
That design quickly transferred to sportbikes, and since then not a single performance motorcycle worth its salt has been equipped with dual shocks.
Yet, there they are on the Lotus C-01, looking for all the world like a set of de-stickered and re-anodized Öhlins replacements.
The rear suspension on the Lotus C-01 is a design that was obsolete by 1985.
One of the other great benefits of having a monoshock rear suspension is the fact that you can use a single-sided, cast aluminum rear swingarm. Again, there's some weight savings afforded there, but the real key for superbike riders who intend to operate the motorcycle at the very edge of the performance envelope is the fact that a single-sided swingarm allows almost instantaneous rear tire changes.
With a single-sided swingarm, a single, giant nut comes off, the wheel comes off, and the chain and sprocket stay right where they are. Chain tension isn't effected at all.
With a double-sided swingarm like the Lotus C-01 has, when you remove the rear wheel, you remove the nut holding the wheel on and an axle shaft slides out, and the rear sprocket comes off with the wheel, requiring the chain tension to be reset when the wheel goes back on. That's fine on your weekend runaround bike, but it's wildly inefficient on something people are calling a "hyperbike."
RELATED: See Photos of the 2014 Ryno Motorcycles Ryno
The Rake and Trail
Rake is the angle at which the front forks are set. Smaller numbers mean that the angle is very steep. Larger numbers mean that the angle is less steep.
Trail is the distance -- in inches -- between an imaginary line drawn through the steering head, and an imaginary line drawn through the axle. When trail increases, straight line performance is emphasized. You could ride for miles with your hands anywhere but the handlebars. Highway handling is outstanding on bikes with this kind of steering geometry.
Cornering is a completely different story. Bikes with a lot of trail tend to be harder to turn in, something hugely undesirable on a sport bike.
A typical sportbike has something like a 23-degree rake and less than four inches of trail. It's tough to tell without specifications, but the Lotus C-01 has dimensions a lot closer to that of a Harley-Davidson V-Rod, with a 34-degree rake, and 5.6 inches of trail.
RELATED: See Photos of the 2013 Caterham Carbon E-Bike
The Riding Position and Aerodynamics
The rider is the wildcard in sportbike design. Unlike automobile design, where you encase the driver in a passenger compartment that you can make as aerodynamic as you like, sportbike designers need to account for the simian-like creature that intends to control the motorcycle.
To that extent, sportbike designers try to minimize the impact of a rider on the aerodynamics and handling. The footpegs, for example, are placed directly under the rider's body. The rider lays over the tank, but the grips are placed at a natural distance where the rider doesn't have to reach to operate them. The windscreen is designed to channel air over the rider's helmet, becoming as slippery as possible with the rider in place.
The Lotus C-01 places the footpegs much further back than a racing bike would, and with 65 inches of wheelbase, the rider lays over the tank and still has to stretch to make the grips.
The riding position almost mirrors that of the Dodge Tomahawk, which had a V10 engine to contend with, instead of the super-compact KTM 1195cc race engine this bike is sporting. With an engine this small, why the big stretch from the seat to the grips?
PHOTOS: See More of the 2003 Dodge Tomahawk Concept
The windscreen isn't much more than a cafe-style numberplate holder. There's been no suggestion about this bike's coefficient of drag, but just by looking at it, there's no way it could come close to something relatively slippery like the Honda CBR600RR.
In the same press release everyone seems to be pulling copy from, Güther Holzer, CEO of Holzer Group said: “I was one of the first people to ride it and I have to say I was very impressed. Together we have found that delicate balance between raw, aggressive power and breathtaking handling."
If someone's ridden it, we're surprised there isn't footage yet. Honestly, we're not even sure if it's a motorcycle yet, or if it's just a beautiful piece of sculpture.
There are photos of it outside, but we had a Photoshop expert take a look at the images. He overlaid the indoor and outdoor photos and determined that they were both shot in a studio with the asphalt Photoshopped in in a different layer.
"Exact same angles and positioning of bikes," he said. "Impossible to do that in real life. Even the reflections are the same." So the outdoor shots here were taken in a highly controlled studio, and not out on a track somewhere.
So, this really isn't a performance bike. Is there anything wrong with that? Absolutely not. At the estimated $134,000 per copy, nobody's going to be out flogging this thing next to Valentino Rossi.
We're not even necessarily criticizing Lotus -- or whomever is responsible for actually BUILDING this motorcycle, when and if it's actually produced.
We're more bemused by a breathless automotive press that seem to know next to nothing about how motorcycles work.