Curtiss One Design, Pt. 3: Ergonomics

The lack of engine vibration gives our rider additional mental bandwidth that will expose flaws in traditional motorcycle ergonomic design. We have taken a new approach….

In the early 20th century, motorcycles had only recently broken free of the constraints of a motorized bicycle. On a bicycle, human interface is restricted to grips, seat and pedals. Any further contact such as shins, thighs, calves and ankles would result in contact points that generate friction and impair the act of pedaling. Obviously, a motorcycle pedals itself but the origin of the species is exactly that- a bicycle with a little motor that helps to propel it.

Friction and contact points between man and motorcycle are not the same thing as on a bicycle and are not necessarily bad, as any experienced rider will tell you, steering inputs come not just from the handlebars and body position, but are frequently fed into the motorcycle through a gas tank between the knees. Counter-steering forces are applied to the chassis through the opposite hand grip of the directional change, but are leveraged by friction from the seat and foot pegs as well. Part of the magical experience of riding a motorcycle is that somehow, we humans counter-steer intuitively. It takes very little brain power for a human to master the complicated physics of the counter-steer, but what if that experience could be enhanced?

Very few modern motorcycle manufacturers take the study of ergonomics and its relationship to the counter-steer to its logical “designed for humans” conclusion (and absolutely none of the design engineers of the early 1900’s ever considered it). When mounted on just about any modern or vintage motorcycle, a variety of textures and unreconciled materials are contacted. On a single motorcycle, one may encounter: vinyl of the seat, painted plastic of bodywork, aluminum of the chassis, and painted steel of the gas tank, with huge gaps in between each material transition. And that is just in the seating area! Suspicions of a form over function ethos rightfully arise.

Perhaps the resultant strange forms that the machine would take, would render it “too weird” and be rejected by consumers, so it is not explored by the stylists in the first place. But what if a sports car had lawn chairs for seats? Motorcycles with bicycle ergonomics is not such a far cry from this ridiculous proposition. Conservative styling is reinforced with rigorous stereotypes stemming from the dawn of two-wheeled motoring and its rushed combination of bicycle and internal combustion engine. An unfortunate and poorly considered mash-up that has been perpetuated for far too long.

Motorcycles are sold primarily based on looks, specifically, the way they look on a showroom floor without a person astride. The Curtiss Rider-Centered approach challenges this notion by considering the human form first. Development of the interface between man and animal – the saddle – has been taking place for the last 2,700 years and interestingly, saddles not only provide for a more comfortable perch on a horse, they should also promote communication from rider to animal.

There is an obvious corollary, the horse-motorcycle, saddle-seat, and over two thousand years of previous development from which to draw inspiration and understanding. The “saddle” of our motorcycle, just as the saddle of a horse, will encourage the free exchange of information from man to machine and back again. The thought then, is that the machine is incomplete until the human element is “snapped” into place. Perhaps a perplexing object to behold on the side-stand, once in motion with a person astride, the visual incongruence is resolved.

Our seat is one of the most carefully considered components of this new motorcycle. All contact areas that the human body will encounter are fully reconciled with materials and shapes that are dictated by anatomy. From the sensitive bony inside of the knee, to the more insulated and curved inner thigh, to the narrowness of the groin, then spreading quickly and terminating in the wider and cupped portion under the buttocks, a continuous surface area beckons to be explored.

Designing a new kind of motorcycle seat that maximizes the pleasure of riding will get more motorcycles out of garages and onto the streets where the majority of grass roots marketing takes place. Waging asymmetrical warfare against manufacturers too timid to experiment with ergonomics is a logical maneuver. Subversively challenging preconceptions is one of the hallmarks of successful small companies, our creation will confront and inspire, and for all of the right reasons.

Narrow motorcycles feel more natural, providing the ability to tuck in and giving the ride more room to comfortably position the body. Curtiss One was designed with the idea that either gender can achieve maximum comfort astride it. The narrow 10 inches of distance across at the kneepads and the 12 inches of width at the footpegs (which are highly adjustable in terms of position) allow for more overall space, and therefore, more choice for riders. The position of the seat is also highly considered. With the rear of the seat the shortest distance possible from the handle bar grips (a mere 33 inches), and a seat height of only 29 inches (with 27° of rake and 8 inches of ground clearance) or 27” (with 31° of rake and 6 inches of ground clearance), riders of any size will find more comfort in the saddle than any modern high-performance motorcycle.

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