Prior to helming Mobility Management, I worked at an industry magazine called Dealernews, which covered the motorcycle industry.
Given those years, I have always seen hints of motorcycle engineering and design in wheelchairs. Ultralightweight wheelchair manufacturers often speak of being inspired by Formula 1 racecars, for example.
But this might be the first time I’ve looked at a motorcycle — a concept motorcycle, no less — and thought, wheelchair!
I’m talking about Yamaha’s Motoroid concept, first shown at the 2017 Tokyo Motor Show. An updated model, Motoroid 2, was described by New Atlas writer Loz Blain as “bizarre, twisting, self-balancing.”
“One of the strangest concept bikes in all of motorcycledom has been reworked for 2023,” Blain said in an Oct. 10 report. “Yamaha has unveiled a second version of its futuristic Motoroid concept, complete with a twisting swingarm, AI facial recognition, and the ability to self-balance.”
The article additionally says the electric Motoroid has a hub-driven rear wheel, “but that hub is mounted on a swingarm that runs up to a motorized, pivoting mount point right under the seat that allows the entire swingarm and rear wheel to be swiveled back and forth, effectively tilting independently of the rest of the bike.”
In showing a photograph of Motoroid 2 shot from overhead, Blain added, “Is it just me, or does that translucent white convey a sort of medical vibe?”
Eh, maybe. What really made me sit up was the phrase “tilting independently.” And once I got to Yamaha’s Web site, all my “wheeled mobility” bells and lights went off.
“It’s got anti-tips!” I shrieked.
Motoroid rests on “anti-tips,” but can also stand upright on its own. It self balances. It features center-of-gravity adjustability (by “rotating parts of the machine like the battery, swingarm and rear wheel,” Yamaha said), and seeks to create “new forms of personal mobility in which the rider resonates harmoniously with the machine.”
And how often do we describe complex wheelchairs as personal, one-of-a-kind extensions of their riders?
I love that Motoroid may be taking cues from wheeled mobility engineers and designers. That’s how it looks from my perspective, anyway. Inspiration is all around us and in all of us. Because the need for mobility is in all of us, as well.
Yamaha does have a wheelchair division, after all.
Images: Yamaha Motor Co. Ltd.