Last week, I was granted a rare visit to MotoCzysz headquarters in Portland, OR. I met with their General Manager Ray Crepeau, to discuss where the company is at both commercially and in racing for the 2013 season. Last week they announced their 2013 rider lineup, making it clear that they would like to race the full US season of the eRoadRacing series but for now are targeting IOM TT Zero and the Laguna Seca round of eRoadRacing.
The studio is in an unassuming section of NE Portland, much more centrally located than I expected, having visiting CRP’s headquarters well beyond the nearest city center, in Italy. It was a shorter ride on my rental bicycle than many of the destinations I’d hit in days prior.
Crepeau explained that this year their strategy is to have more energy at IOM and more power at the short circuits. They’re still interested in optimal aerodynamics, but have also made the bike smaller, lighter, and more powerful. Of course we didn’t go into the details of all this, that remains to be seen in June when Rutter and Miller cross the finish line on the 2013 bikes next month in the TT Zero, and likely earn more laurels to decorate the workroom.
What Crepeau would show me was the new triple clamps, which work with off-the-shelf Ohlins forks. These MotoCzysz-designed triple clamps reduce front-end chatter and add a tunable second dimension of flex, something any rider on any bike can appreciate. They are currently taking orders from Professional roadrace teams and are looking to have first run units available later this summer.
Crepeau told me that Michael Czysz and team had taken one of the 2013 bikes out to a track day at PIR last week and discovered that the bike handled so well Czysz was dragging elbows. This means the suspension was so well sorted he was able to achieve exceptional lean angles with tremendous confidence. Ray then told me their patented cooling system worked great, even though the bike Czysz rode was unfaired. They’re in the final throes of prepping the bikes for the TT, and the new fairings were nowhere in sight. The bikes were there, though. It was really exciting to watch Michael’s father and lead mechanic Terry Czysz hard at work on one bike while lead engineer Nick Schoeps took a moment to stop measuring the other bike’s power delivery on the dyno to answer my questions.
The Business of MotoCzysz
RC: Our primary business goal has always been to sell our digital electric drive systems to automakers and the like. We’re in conversations with a few OEM’s, just ironing out the paperwork. Our bikes are just a test bed, a way to show off what our powertrains are capable of.
SS: Last year at the Silicon Valley EV Symposium, I asked Ray Lane from Kleiner Perkins what he thought of your business model; selling powertrains to OEM’s. He said he felt it would be hard to succeed since the main competitive advantage for an OEM is their powertrain. It’s what sets them apart from their competition. Isn’t it hard to work with them so they get exactly what they want? Is there a lot of customization?
RC: I think that’s a valid statement, but electric drive systems are still so new, we actually have a lot of customers come to us, asking us “How do you solve this problem?” They sometimes ask us to evaluate their current systems to see what we think, or what we think of different components, if they’ll work together well.
SS: So you also provide consulting services?
RC: Yes, we’ve had that opportunity a few times. We had to go through the same process as anyone would with the first bike we built. We bought a lot of components off the shelf, tried them, scrapped them, and eventually found the ones that work best for us and ultimately designed an integrated solution, the MotoCzysz D1g1tal Dr1ve.
One thing Ray teased me with was a rather large D9 motor with a humble 3,790 ft/lbs of torque. Good thing it’s too big to fit on a motorcycle, or I’d really be in trouble. Wanna see one? Order some for your commercial vehicles, like their current client has. The interview continues, on the topic of racing…
The Business of Racing
Crepeau leads me through the engineering lab, then the theater, which will soon become a museum for the historic MotoCzysz bikes and technology pieces. On one side is a nice sectional sofa for the company and friends to relax and watch races together, the other side is set up with chairs facing a screen. We then walk into the chassis room where Terry Czysz and Casey Palmer are working on one of the bikes. The new bodywork is nowhere to be seen, but the bike has an interesting new frame and suspension setup. No pictures, because there are plenty of people who could look at the bike without its bodywork and determine how much energy is on board.
SS: What are your plans for the eRoadRacing series?
RC: We want to do the entire season; IOM and Laguna are our current targets. We’ll have to wait and see about the rest.
SS: I heard a rumor last year that the Mugen powertrain looked identical to Mission’s. And Mugen wouldn’t tell me how much juice they had left at the end of the race. (The Czysz bikes used every last drop in the race).
RC: The Mugen will certainly be stronger this year, now that they have data from last year’s race. They’re going to turn it up, just like we are. And with McGuiness on board, they could bring a moped and finish respectably. We want to make the bike faster in every aspect, with better suspension components to more onboard energy without the typical compromise of added weight. We’re right on target with last year’s goal (a +100mph lap at the TT), now we’re hoping to beat it, with a goal of 110mph average speed. (the record is 131.57 mph, courtesy of their main competitor John McGuinness, on his ICE Honda in 2009.) We’re not completely finished but we are right on schedule.
We then visit Nick Schoeps while he’s programming a bike’s controller to optimize the energy management strategy, and I ask him a few questions. One of the bikes is on a dyno with wires just like an EKG, the big difference being that he can not only monitor the bike’s heartbeat, but also adjust it for any conditions. Nick is an ME and EE, with tremendous expertise. He’s proven to be invaluable to the success of MotoCzysz over the past three years.
NS: By having the bike wired up while on the dyno, we can control the test very well. There’s a lot we can learn on the track, but this enables us to precisely control the test, to pinpoint different variables, narrow in our focus, apply different modes at different speeds.
SS: So you can use data you’ve collected from past races and mimic those conditions, to find opportunities to improve? What data do you collect, exactly?
NS: Sure, or even Isle of Man specifically. We can capture any of the information a typical MotoGP bike can get- suspension linkage movement, acceleration, GPS location. And like a gas bikes’ ECU, we know our RPM, energy consumption, and motor timing.
SS: So the TT and the road courses where eRoadRacing runs are drastically different. Do you have to make a lot of changes between the two?
NS: Not as many as you’d think, definitely the nature of the race is different. Every year our primary focus is the TT, as it’s the biggest one. The biggest change is gearing, we gear differently for the short track. Energy usage is different for the short tracks, as you’ve got more corners, more stopping and starting. Sometimes the cooling patterns need to change too, as short track racing conditions generate more heat.
We then visit Michael Czysz’ office, and see the collection of C1 bikes which were prepared for MotoGP. If you’ve seen the film Charge, you know that Czysz was inspired by Britten. However, before he could enter the bike, the FIM changed the rules, dropping the premier class bikes down to 800cc limits. The full story of how he got into TTXGP is in the film, it’s not to be missed.
“The main reason for not carrying on MotoGP ICE development was that the new 800cc required pneumatic valves which cannot be commercialized/used in any kind of street bike, so promised no ROI.” – Michael Czysz
SS: So why not get into MotoGP now that it’s back up to 1,000cc bikes?
RC: Because we just don’t feel the future of motorsports is combustion. MotoGP bikes are increasingly dependent on electronics. I think it won’t be long before MotoGP bikes are hybrids of some sort, which could lead them to us, and certainly leads them toward what we’re doing. Our C1 motors have become a piece of history, so we’ve shown them at The One Motorcycle Show. These are our C1 prototype bikes, along with the first “proof of concept” model, that houses a Suzuki GSXR motor reconfigured to the intended C1 design.
SS: Shane Turpin has a long history with MotoCzysz, but doesn’t have as big name as Rapp. Is there an A rider/B rider status?
RC: Rapp is an accomplished pro racer, and although Turpin’s name may not be as recognizable, he too rides at an incredibly high level. Turpin has many championship victories, has competed as a Wild Card entry in World Superbike and he’s a very accomplished race instructor. He’s hungry, and we think he’s got the talent to back up that desire. We have no internal statement as to who would be the one to send out on track if for some reason we only had one bike. We have complete confidence in both riders.
As we made our way back to where we’d started, something unexpected caught my eye through another door. But whatever it is, it’s not ready for prime time. It’s just good to know the idea factory of Michael Czysz is in full swing. If you want to watch the SES TT Zero, you’ll have to find a way to see it on ITV4