The Bienville Legacy Project by JT Nesbitt Commissioned by ADMCi

Painted image of proposed V4 motorcycle to be built by JT Nesbitt

Painted image of proposed V4 motorcycle to be built by JT Nesbitt

What if there were patrons of craftsmanship as there once were, and still are, patrons of the arts? Who would you fund for the purpose of seeing what could be built? In a way, that's the purpose behind the American Design and Master Craft Initiative, (ADMCi). They're searching for master craftsmen, giving them the opportunity to design and build without the immediate concern of marketability of a product, pushing the boundaries of what they've been previously able to do.

ADMCi has commissioned JT Nesbitt, a name everyone here is familiar with, to build three prototypes of the motorcycle he has been thinking about for over seven years. During that time, JT has been off doing some other things, but he's long had ideas of an American four cylinder super bike, taking the idea of bikes built in the USA in decades long past, but brought up to the present with concepts and materials only now available. He isn't interested in a sport bike, it's a quintessentially American, long wheelbase, supercharged, longitudinal V4 super bike. He wanted, in his words, to answer many of the questions the Wraith had been asking. Looking over the renderings and concept painting and a few of the technical details, it appears we're about to see something very unique, The Bienville Legacy Project.

A unique suspension

Regular readers may remember a few months ago when JT left a couple of cryptic comments on another article, lamenting the lack of progress in motorcycle suspension designs over the last two decades and hinting at something in the works. Well, this project introduces a suspension layout I've never seen before and that's just a part of what he's done.

3D render of the Bienville Legacy Project showing the location of the single leaf spring

3D render of the Bienville Legacy Project showing the location of the single leaf spring

Instead of some combination of springs in locations fore and aft, the entire suspension will be connected to a single, centrally located composite leaf spring. The life cycle of current composite materials while enduring the constant flexing of a suspension system is very long without succumbing to the fatigue we would expect of steel, enabling a design that centralizes mass, reduces unsprung weight, is simpler, lighter, and likely, one not even possible before.

3D print of the eccentric adjuster on the end of each composite blade

3D print of the eccentric adjuster on the end of each composite blade

With a single spring, it's possible to eliminate fluid filled fork tubes, and many other components, allowing another fascinating feature. The composite girder blades used as suspension arms are not only symmetrical left and right, but fore and aft as well! Four identical multi-function blades are used all around the motorcycle enabling use of three identical brake discs, and calipers.

Early mockup of four identical girder blades mounted on chassis alignment tool

Early mockup of four identical girder blades mounted on chassis alignment tool

A real saddle

JT also draws on the centuries old design of the saddle as a way to create a more natural way for the rider to interface with the machine underneath, much like riders have done when astride a horse. As he notes:

Oddly, very few motorcycle manufacturers take the study of ergonomics to it’s logically “designed-for-humans” conclusion. When knee gripping a modern sport motorcycle, a variety of textures and un-reconciled materials come into play. On a single motorcycle, one may encounter a vinyl seat, plastic bodywork, an aluminum chassis, and a steel gas tank… with huge tactile design gaps between each material transition.

Each saddle will be designed for the specific rider. All contact points with the motorcycle will be the same material, in this case, leather. This should be an interesting feature to see in its final form, to say the least.

Engine

The Motus V4 has been chosen for power and will be equipped with a supercharger. As configured, horsepower will be 300+ with considerable potential beyond that number.

Bonneville

Along with building three prototypes, they will be heading to Bonneville for the purpose of breaking speed records in three classes. The Motus V4, with a blower, should provide plenty of power for those Bonnevile record runs. JT believes they can reset the bar quite a few notches higher.

Taken all together, we should see a visually striking motorcycle with considerable performance potential.

ADMCi

Now, what is this American Design and Master Craft Initiative? Based in Chicago, it's an organization that seeks out master craftsmen in many different forms, whether it's a hands on, out in the shop project or a digital keyboard and screen creation. Founded by Jim Jacoby, its purpose is:

to establish an ongoing platform for conversation, experience, and promotion of master craftsmanship. ... Sitting at the cross-roads of once flourishing master-craft trades and what is still yet to come in the digital era, the ADMCi promotes the core learnings of craftsmanship and its true benefits in this once-in-a-generation transition.

Kickstarter

ADMCi created a Kickstarter project with the goal of raising $500,000 to pay for the materials to build the bikes and fund the making of a professional documentary of the entire project from start to finish. At some of the higher levels of Kickstarter participation, individuals will have the opportunity to work with JT Nesbitt on the project, while at other levels, they will accompany and be a part of the team at Bonneville.

I spoke to both Jim Jacoby of ADMCi and JT Nesbitt at some length as they explained the details of this ambitious undertaking. Jim is thrilled to have JT Nesbitt on board as a master craftsman and JT is very excited to finally have the opportunity to put all of his ideas together into a project that combines so much of what he has been working up to over the years. A real Bienville Legacy.

This is the first I had heard of ADMCi and their goal of funding projects that showcase the skills of master craftsmen and documenting their work. This could expose many people to examples of craftsmanship they would otherwise not see and the Bienville Legacy Project may instill an appreciation of the entire necessary process from initial design to fabrication and final proof of concept.

The Bienville Legacy Project itself, from what we can see of the initial design features and sketches, is sure to ignite debate. It's hard to know exactly how it will look when finished, though, based on JT's past work, no matter how positive or negative the public reactions, I have a hunch we'll soon see others incorporating his ideas into projects of their own and I think that says a lot.

Seeing what a designer like JT can do, especially when given such wide latitude, is always a treat. Many builders around the world will be examining the details as they emerge and the rest of us will find much to ponder and debate. This will be interesting.

Link: Bienville Studios
Link: ADMCi
Link: Kickstarter

Comments

  1. says

    Fascinating, I love the idea of leather on all contact areas! Suede or polished, black, brown, dyed…

    I am unsure as to how the front suspension acts upon the single leaf spring? The 3D render shows a steering head and conventional girder, with the pivot points for the wishbones present in the front girders .
    Is a Hossack-like arrangement in the works? Two leaf springs could act as Hossack suspension wishbones.

    Kieran

  2. JR says

    Finally, someone is using the Motus V4 for a custom project. If there are more projects that use this longitudinal V4, I’d love to see them as well.

  3. says

    One spring? That piques my curiosity to see how this is accomplished. It has to do more than just ‘be there’, it has to function dynamically with the structure and mass, support the central mass.

    • GenWaylaid says

      I too am curious about the connection between the spring and chassis. It could be a simple clamp, since all the thrust loads will be taken by the suspension arms. I wonder whether he’ll use two points of contact, which effectively splits the spring into independent front and rear units, or a single point of contact, which would cause load transfers that tend to reduce mitigate changes in chassis pitch under acceleration and braking.

  4. Kevin says

    I like that he is using the Motus V4, and supercharging it. The overall project looks cool. I do question the suspension. One spring connecting the front and rear seems like it would give too much feedback to the opposite tire, but maybe it will work. What is he using for damping? Is that what the brake disks mentioned are for? Sounds like the will either be heavy and they will fade, or be expensive if they are carbon ceramic to fix the weight and fade issue. This will be interesting, if it ever does come to fruition.

  5. anon says

    If the spring is fixed in the center (not shown), then you’d effectively have an independently sprung fore and aft suspension. I’m pretty sure the Corvette still uses a center fixed single transverse leaf spring in the rear.

  6. BigHank53 says

    ELF used a single suspension unit on one of their endurance racers back in the Seventies. There’s a photo in one of Tony Foale’s books. I don’t think it was terribly successful, but their program was ambitious far beyond their budget.

    It actually isn’t necessary to tie the spring to the chassis anywhere–all the chassis loads can go through the swingarm pivots. Damping, however, gets really interesting. And by “interesting” I mean I wouldn’t open that can of worms without a half-million dollar budget.

  7. Paulinator says

    http://www.machine-history.com/Citroen%202CV

    The Citroen 2CV had front-to rear coupled suspension. Seemed to work ok for about half a century. Don’t know what the details entail for the Legacy project. The sketch is pretty vague. The article has a good read about material properties and selection criteria. Love this site.

  8. Wave says

    Surely this is design and not craftsmanship?

    Craftsmanship mean perfecting your craft. Laying down the perfect weld, cutting a perfect dove-tail joint on a drawer, coach-painting a glass-smooth surface with a brush. Craftsmanship means executing something with precision and quality.

    What this bike is about is breaking new ground, re-imagining, breaking away from the established way of doing things. That is design.

    I have nothing against design, but it is not the same as craftsmanship. Craftsmanship frequently means doing the same thing as everyone else, but doing it perfectly. Design means originality.

    • Paul Crowe - "The Kneeslider" says

      As pointed out here, craftsmanship can apply to much more than hands on work it also applies to knowledge work. Your craft can be many things and craftsmanship refers to the method used to approach any work you do.

      Also, as pointed out below in another comment, ADMCi is looking for designers and craftsmen. So no matter how you define it, this project seems to fit.

  9. Harold says

    J T Nesbitt…Didn’t he once build a chopped Moto Guzzi (!) with the heads turned around backwards like can be done with a Triumph or a Sportster with some mods, but it turns out that there’s a good reason why the exhaust faces forward and the intake back, so that the wind cools the hot pipe and the hot side of the head, and so it won’t burn your leg which is right on the pipe. He had to rethink that one, and now knows mocking it up first is a good idea. I also like the Motus engine, but a blower on it is just superfluous, as you can get a much power out of a modified unblown engine to soil your undies. A Desmosedici or a KZ1400 is already faster than most peoples’ minds can keep up with. But I thought the drawing was a little vague, as it looks like a Confederate Wraith with half a Chevy LS1 V8 stuffed in with Agusta MV pipes. Not sure about his suspension design, but Corvettes have long used fiberglass springs so who knows? Good luck, dude.

  10. Jeram says

    @ WAVE

    someone didnt get the memo?

    What does the D is ADMCi stand for?

    DESIGN

    american design and master crafts initiative!
    Its a holistic approach!

  11. says

    I know I’m wrong, and I know anyone working on building this and/or designing it knows what they are doing, and far and away more than I do….
    But I can’t shake the image of that leaf spring popping off and slapping me in the face like a catapult. Lol

  12. B50 Jim says

    A spring is a spring is a spring, be it a leaf, coil, torsion bar or compressed gas. The difference is how you use it, and that’s where this exercise gets interesting. I like the concept of using identical components for the forks and swing arm; being of a frugal nature I appreciate multitasking of components — I think there are plenty of opportunities for it if designers look for them. I LOVE a supercharged Motus! That’s exactly the sort of thing the boys at Motus had in mind when they designed their V-4. Can’t wait to see the finished machine!

  13. paolo says

    what fun
    i strongly suggest the designers imagine the torsional moment on that long ass spring, with the fork acting as a lever arm
    good luck and look forward to seeing how it develops

  14. Bryan S. says

    Interesting. Wonder what that will do when you crank the throttle, and the whole rear twists but the front doesn’t.