Lawson KTM All Wheel Drive Conversion in Action

Lawson AWD motorcycle ready for ice racing

Lawson AWD motorcycle ready for ice racing

Several months back, we showed you Marty Lawson's AWD conversion on a KTM 300 EXC. You'll remember the front wheel drive system was designed and built by Marty Lawson and his dad, the telescopic forks were replaced with a Hossack style setup and then a chain drive was added running to a sprocket up front.

The first tests looked very promising and Marty just sent me an update with a couple of videos of Pete Laubmeier giving the bike a workout in the CWIRA Moose Endurance ice race and another running through some turns and over logs out in the woods.

Didn't find any dramatic advantages to AWD on the ice when using studded tires. Except for hole shots. The bike almost always wins the race to the first corner. At the same time, it wasn't any slower either. The bike was more settled in corners with a bit of power. Pete could get on the power a little sooner on corner exits. The bike could also use different lines around corners without losing speed.

Lawson AWD motorcycle riding over a log

Lawson AWD motorcycle riding over a log

Then out in the woods:

The bike really hooks up in the soft sand. The best part of the video are the log crossings. When Pete crosses the log slowly, he is demoing a technique anyone could use to cross logs.

Marty says they're taking the bike to the Chicago motorcycle show next weekend and entering it in the competition in the performance custom class, so if you're in the area and planning on going, you'll be able to get a close look at the bike and maybe get a chance to ask Marty a few questions.

It seems to me they've got it working really well and when you realize this was a home designed and built DIY project, it's just that much more impressive. This is a project Marty and his dad can be very proud of. I like it.

Link: NewTech Development

Videos below:


  1. says

    A friend of mine hooked a second set of points in his Greeves Angilian and could make it run either way. Reverse, Can they give it reverse?

  2. sfan says

    I have always been a casual fan of the idea of hydraulic front wheel drive motorcycles, in part because of visual simplicity and possibly simplicity and weight. I remember Yamaha did some R&D on this but am not sure it got into production (see Back in the 1980s and 1990s there was also a hydraulic 4WD version of the Civic. I’d be interested in the strengths and weaknesses of the different approaches.

    • Mister X says

      Just to set the record straight, my landlady bought an ’87 4WD Civic Wag-o-van and I bought a ’90 Civic Si 4WD, new, and both most certainly didn’t have hydraulic 4WD systems, they did however use a viscous coupling to engage the rear wheels upon front wheel slippage.

      • sfan says

        Ah yes, thanks! Sorry for my confused recollection on that.

        It appears that Ohlin was the 2WD development partner for Yamaha. Motorcycle News has an interesting interview here ( describing some of the behind-the-scenes business and technical history.

  3. Scotduke says

    There was a 2WD version of a Yamaha dirtbike built here in the Uk in the late 80s or early 90s. It attracted some interest and then disappeared. This KTM looks promising, and I hope its builders have more lulck.

  4. OMMAG says

    I am impressed …. frankly I never thought it would do any good to drive the front wheel.

    But … The proof of the pudding IS in the eating …. Puddiing all around for the Lawsons!

  5. says

    Yea, Yamaha contracted Ohlins to produce the 2-trac front wheel assist system. All the accounts I’ve see say it helped when traction was bad but it had noticeable drag. It also has a low torque capacity so it wouldn’t help with braking like my AWD does. Still, it had a good chance of becoming an economical retro-fit kit because of it didn’t need many changes to the motorcycle. Rather a shame Yamaha didn’t build more. (though understandable for a company that size) Maybe someone will convince Ohlins to produce some kits on there own?

  6. Dean Laing says

    it looks cool and all and its impressive the did it themselves, but the front wheel looks totally useless (though im sure they’ll defend it to death) those parts where they seasaw on the log, the rider has to push it forward and and only once the rear rubber has log to dig into does it actually move over it…if awd motorcycles were worth their added weigh in 1st place race finishes they would be pursued by the big manufacturers

  7. Jeff says

    Christini was the only firm I ever recall refining a hydraulic 2wd system to the point where it worked as intended. They found that they needed to be able to dial in the amount of boost, if you will, so that it still provided benefit when needed but didn’t handle unnaturally.

    They still look to be in business and I’m sure you could find vids of their bikes being ridden. Very cool stuff that just never happened to catch on. (Oh and like this it also started as a DIY effort.)


  8. Bear says

    Christini’s system is chain, gears and shaft driven – Not hydraulic.

    Yamaha Did sell the AWD WR450, at least here in OZ. That used the Ohlins Hydraulic system. The bikes cost around the $24,000 AUD mark , here.

  9. B50 Jim says

    It makes sense to have both wheels put power to the ground — one reason diesel locomotives were superior to steam was that all their wheels provided tractive effort; far more efficient.

    This setup is cleanly done and well thought out. Looks like it works admirably well. I wonder if the manufacturers ever thought of engineering 2WD for their offerings? On dirt it has decided advantages, and would provide some benefits for street bikes as well. The designers would have to work diligently to make all the mechanical bits work while looking attractive. Lawson’s KTM does the job but looks rather strange with all that equipment out in front of the steering head. A street bike would either have to cover it or display it proudly the way a tall 4WD pickup does.

  10. bkowal says

    As a newbie off-road rider, this system would have benefits, for experienced riders, not so much. Most of the time, a dirt bike has its front end very light under power. This occurs for a couple reasons, but most importantly motorcycles like to wheelie (transfer their weight to the rear) under acceleration, nothing you can do about that.

    Therefore little can be gained from 2 wheel drive system that would do little to get more power down. There are specific conditions where it would help, like very sandy and muddy conditions, but experienced riders probably would not give up the negative aspects 100% of the time for a better performance a small percentage of the time. I believe this was the reason Yamaha cancelled their 2 wheel drive effort, it just wasn’t worth it.

  11. John S says

    Interesting, but not entirely new. I learned to ride motorcycles on a two-wheel drive Rokon Trailbreaker 45 years ago. My favorite trick was climbing over picnic tables in first gear. (Top speed in first was 5 mph.)

    • says

      Nothing ever is entirely new. Often the best new inventions are collections of old proven tech combined in new and interesting ways. (iPhone anyone?) Heck, Find my patent #8042641 on Google Patents and search for related prior art patents. You’ll find hundreds. Many quite old. (like 3045772 form the late 50’s)

      Heh, climbing over picnic tables! Sounds fun, I’ll have to try that with one of my bikes some time.