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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.