Last month White Motorcycle Concepts revealed its radical WMC250EV electric land speed record-challenging bike, featuring an eye-catching central duct to slash its frontal area and coefficient of drag. While the idea’s worth has been proved in computer simulations and wind tunnel tests, and the firm hopes to back those up with national and world speed records over the coming months, there were understandable questions about how the same technology could be applied to road bikes. Now the firm has given us sight of design sketches intended to illustrate how road-going machines could be designed around its “V-Air” duct, revealing that the results don’t necessarily need to be as visually challenging as the initial land speed bike’s.
The WMC250EV understandably takes its aerodynamic concept to the absolute extreme, with the largest possible V-Air duct that could be fitted around the bespoke battery and motor package. That results in proportions contrary to those we’re conditioned to find appealing; while conventionally beautiful sportbikes have a low nose and short, upswept tail, the WMC250EV has neither. The duct intake forces the adoption of a high front end—with a large gap between the top of the front wheel and the point of the nose—and to channel air to the back it needs a large volume at the rear, where current trends see sportbikes pared to the minimum.
The team at White Motorcycle Concepts are aware of the aesthetic challenges, so during the WMC250EV’s development they asked professional bike designer John Keogh—whose credits include the Buell XB9R and XB12R Firebolt as well as the naked Buell Lightning models—to translate the V-Air idea into a series of streetbike designs. While not intended to be illustrations of real future models, the drawings show how the V-Air system can be incorporated into a sportbike, a tourer and a three-wheeled scooter.
Although a high-performance sportbike might be able to benefit most from the duct’s aero advantage, it’s also the hardest to shape around the V-Air system. Like the WMC250EV, Keogh’s design adopts a hub-center-steered, front swingarm suspension system so there are no forks to block the air intake. Despite a higher-than-normal nose, the design manages not to look too unusual at the front, and with a low-mounted electric powertrain and compact battery, fitting the duct into the bike’s bodywork could work—particularly if, as on the WMC250EV, the duct is a structural carbon fiber component. At the rear, the need to channel air cleanly behind the bike makes for a less conventional look, but Keogh’s design clearly separates the duct from the tail bodywork to give the impression of a short, high rear end. Ducati’s current GP bikes use a similar tactic, drawing attention away from the bulky “sandwich box” under the tail by leaving it in black carbon, below slim-looking red bodywork.
A touring bike, which needs a high screen and bulky bodywork to deflect air away from the rider for the sake of comfort rather than performance, is arguably in the best position to benefit from the V-Air idea, and Keogh’s interpretation shows a machine with built-in pannier to make up for the reduced underseat space due to the duct. They also mean the bike’s rear bodywork doesn’t look unusual despite incorporating the outlet for the central duct.
Like the sportbike, a hub steering system is used to clear the air’s path into the intake, and since touring bikes tend to have taller, bluffer noses than sportbikes, the high front end can be used without too much compromise in terms of the bike’s overall proportions.
The final design, a city-oriented three-wheeled scooter, is actually the first that WMC is pursuing, with the intention of showing that the V-Air’s aerodynamic benefits are helpful at low speed as well as when you’re riding at 200 mph or more.
Keogh’s early sketch, dating back to 2019, has since been refined and modified into a prototype, currently under construction, based on the Yamaha Tricity 300. The twin front wheels mean there’s already a useful opening for the V-Air duct’s intake, allowing it to sit lower than it can on a two-wheeled bike and allowing a more conventional, low nose. At the rear, the lost underseat space is recovered in the form of built-in luggage, which simultaneously helps fill the aerodynamic low-pressure area behind the rider’s back. Initially, White Motorcycle Concepts hopes to make a small run of these machines, adding a hybrid drive system to the existing Yamaha gasoline engine and targeting emergency services like police as customers.