Thursday 8th July 2004


SPORTCYCLE

New sports bike/car hybrid launched in the UK

The first three production versions of the unique Sportcycle three-wheeler will make their public debut next Monday at Castle Combe.

The track day will be open to a small number of Sportcycle’s invited guests and journalists who will be given an opportunity to try these unique machines.

The Sportcycle is a single-seater - three wheeled sports vehicle which can be driven by anybody with a full car driving licence. This type of vehicle is not unusual on UK roads, but the Sportcycle Solo is unique in its concept and brings a whole new dimension to this classification of vehicle.

It's basically a road legal motorbike joined with a space-frame, half-length chassis housing a single seat open driving cockpit similar to a single seater-racing car with the single driving wheel at the rear and twin steering wheels at the front. Depending on the size of donor bike, top speeds can be as high as 180mph with a 0-60mph acceleration time of less than four seconds.

Sportcycle Limited is run in the UK by 47 year old Simon Mackenzie from Corsham, Wiltshire. He has always been an enthusiast of three wheelers, although he hastily added "Not the Reliant Robin type" – he blames Reliant for single-handedly giving three wheelers their ridiculed image.

He has two three-wheelers, a 1957 Coronet and a 1959 Berkley T60. It was while he was trawling the worldwide web looking for parts for his Coronet that he stumbled across the Sportcycle site in the USA.

Mackenzie says, "The Sportcycle Solo is unique in its design and layout and the great thing is that the bike is not sacrificed by turning it into a front three wheeler. If the owner wants to reinstate the bike it can be done in a weekend."

Sportcycle was the original brainchild of Jim Musser, now President of HTF and Knusaga corporations, who manufacture exhaust systems for various truck manufacturers in the USA. Musser is also a Director of Sportcycle UK. Following Mackenzie’s lucky find on the web, Sportcycle has now come to the UK and Europe where it will be manufactured in Corsham and sold as the Sportcycle Solo. A kit version is also planned and a two-seat version is likely as well.

When UK sales start at the end of July or early August customers will be offered up to six options for bodywork colour loosely based on popular motorsport liveries. Mackenzie anticipates a limited production run of 50 units for the first year when production starts.

Sportcycle – The Product

The front forks and top yoke are removed from the donor bike along with the hand controls, fairing, single headlight and instruments. The bike is then connected to the A frame rollover bar using the bike’s original headstock, bottom yoke and steering spindle. Two stabiliser tie bars link the half front chassis to the side crossbars of the bike frame to ensure torsional rigidity.

The motorcycle’s rear wheel, rear disc brake, sprocket, chain and gearbox sprocket are retained as standard. A second calliper is added to the rear disc to provide a handbrake. The bike’s clutch, gearchange, braking and throttle controls using the standard cables or rod linkages are routed to the car-type pedal box via additional rod links. Twin brake master cylinders using a balance bar control front and rear braking. Twin or four pot callipers and ventilated front discs can be specified.

The bike’s gauges and handlebar switches are moved forward in front of the steering wheel avoiding any mismatching of electrical parts and making full use of the bike’s standard components. The donor motorcycle’s standard rear suspension, exhaust system and fuel tank are retained in their original positions.

The rear wheel is shod with a wide profile Goodrich 17-inch 205/50 tyre to increase the contact patch with the road for improved adhesion during acceleration and cornering. An adjustable rear aerofoil wing mounted over the redundant seat further improves downforce.

At the front-end Wilwood front hubs are used with16-inch wheels shod with 175 or 185 high speed rated tyres. Wilwood discs and two or four pot callipers are used. Steering arms are either round tube or aerofoil section type. The standard front track is 74-inches but an 80-inch track can be specified for racing and track day application. A single centrally mounted spring over an adjustable shock absorber provides the front suspension. Adjustable front wings are fitted which allow the user to adjust front down force to suit their driving requirements to maximise front-end grip.

Like every other small manufacturer it seems, it's hoped that a one make series can be started and every customer will be invited to join the series although demonstration track days are planned this year.

Car style steering wheel and conventional clutch, brake and accelerator pedals with steering column mounted paddle shift sequential gear levers and a handbrake are housed within the driver’s cockpit. A Kirkey driver’s seat with full five-point harness is also used. The instruments, taken from the donor bike, are mounted conventionally as in a car. The driving position is low to the ground and gives a full racing position.

Because it is an open top single seat three-wheel a crash helmet is not a legal requirement but Mackenzie says, "A driver would be mad not to wear one considering the acceleration and speed of the vehicle. Who wants to end up eating flies?"

Once assembled, the 13 foot long aerodynamic bodyshell is lifted on to the chassis. This can be done by two people. The body is located in position with easy release fasteners and it can be removed for routine serving of mechanical components and the bike’s engine and gearbox.

The choice of donor motorcycle is very much down to customer choice but nothing less than a 600cc bike is likely to give the performance the customer wants. Currently the initial three production Solos use a 600cc, 80hp, 120mph Honda Hornet unit, a 900cc, 140hp, 160mph Kawasaki ZX9R engine and an 1100cc, 160hp, 180mph Honda Super Blackbird unit. 0-60mph acceleration times start as low as sub four seconds. A suitable donor bike is likely to cost in the region of £3,000 to £5,000.

Regarding the price of the Sportcycle Solo, Simon said prices are yet to be set in stone but currently he anticipates a figure of £9,950 plus VAT, excluding the cost of the donor machine.

Prices will vary depending upon the final specification and delivery would be four to six weeks and each machine will come with its MSVA certificate. The Solo is covered by 12 months warranty on all parts excluding the donor motorcycle.

When asked about who the customers might be Mackenzie said, "It is likely to appeal to current riders of superbikes but more likely to car owners who want to experience the performance a road bike gives but with the stability of a fast road car. It is likely to be an additional vehicle to the family fleet of conventional cars. It definitely is not for the shrinking violet, you attract attention driving the Solo, its very bright and in your face – it’s fun."

Sportcycle dimensions:

  • Overall length/ width/ height: 3960/1435/1112 mm
  • Wheelbase: 2820mm
  • Front track: 1880mm road use and 2032mm track use.
  • Weight: 380kg (including donor bike)
  • Suitable engine size: 600cc to 1200cc

A new (temporary) web site is up and running at www.sportcycle.co.uk .