Tryphonos Hub Center Steering Sportbike Design

Tryphonos hub center steering motorcycleThe Tryphonos, named after designer / builder Mike Tryphonos, is a hub center steering British motorcycle that first appeared in his engineering dissertation in 1990 and gradually evolved as he produced a series of prototypes building on the lessons learned at each stage. Mike looked at motorcycles and found, as many had before, that the fork has several problems when operated under conditions of high speeds and twisty roads. Flex, stiction and the mass of the fork itself, create problems especially when you run steep steering angles like those found in racing motorcycles and high performance street bikes. Hub center steering gets around those issues by isolating the front suspension so it can do its work while the wheel is busy with other things like steering.

The Tryphonos has evolved from the initial 615cc prototype to the current ZX-10R powered version. It has been raced at the Isle of Man and everyone that rides it, including several magazine testers, likes it a lot. He would like to build a road version and perhaps, if the right investor can be found, he'll be able to do it.

Hub center steering uses a front swingarm which seems to look just enough out of the ordinary that any motorcycle using it has to get past quizzical looks, some like the look, some not so much. Bimota, Yamaha and Vyrus, among others, have previously built or are presently building hub center steering designs which may work great but you don't see many of them on production motorcycles. Of course, high price may play a part but if it works so well, why haven't more manufacturers tried it and given the higher production numbers a chance to bring down the cost? Does it work well enough or is it sufficiently superior to conventional forks that there is a real reason to use it instead?

Hub center steering can be heavier, depending on design and steering lock can be limited compared to a fork, again, depending on design. Without a steering head, however, it can lower frontal area if streamlining is a concern, good for racing but not so important on the street.

Hub center steering is an interesting design that keeps popping up but never really takes hold. Other than the companies mentioned above, no one is really doing anything with it except for a few custom builders like Ludovic Lazareth on his V-Max powered custom, which seems very well done, and at least one other custom that comes to mind not done as well, where hub center steering is more curiosity than engineering.

I wish Mike Tryphonos all the best, we'll have to see if he can take his idea further than any of others have.

Thanks for the tip, Andy!

Link: Tryphonos

Comments

  1. hoyt says

    and now the Yamaha is turning into a collectible for various reasons, one of which is that it was ahead of its time.

    The hub steering will overcome some of the weight concerns with the advances in material science. The biggest hurdle will be (and seems to have always been) fickle consumers.

    The new Tesi looks great in person. (I saw the one with aluminum front swingarm and not the latest steel trellis). The Tryphonos looks just as good and perhaps less ‘cluttered” from the pictures than the Tesi, so hopefully more motorcyclists will be receptive.

    It is frustrating to see an industry so resistant to this technology. Imagine how good the hub steering can be if it had the same amount of resources (time, money, racing development) as the telescopic fork application has been given over decades.

    Check out his computer rendering of the latest ZX-10-powered project…looks good.

    Best wishes

  2. hoyt says

    what is interesting is that the hub steering has been developed on a shoe-string budget compared to the telescopic development, yet the racers who have reviewed bikes with hub steering ( the Tesi and the Tryphonos) seem to rave about it more than the high-end telescopic applications….

  3. Bryce says

    Italjet developed and sold a couple of scooters with hub steered front ends. One sold pretty well (the Dragster), but the scoot had other things going for it like the fact that it was light and had a relatively large amount of power for a scooter of its size.

    There are a number of reasons we’re not seeing product lines awash with these things:

    1) The manufacturers have a lot of money, time, and expertise tied up in telescopic forks.

    2) They handle a little differently than a telescopic fork. Even if they are better, they are different than what most people learned with. People are funny about learning new things, even when there are benefits. ABS brakes being the most comparable example.

    3) I can’t recall who said or wrote it, but I’ll paraphrase, “Motorcycle buyers are more conservative about new technologies than car buyers.”

    If you look at the changes we’ve seen on motorcycles in the past few decades, most have been things that you can’t really see, or if you can, they don’t look totally different than what came before. 2 wheel riders often have a similar mentality to aviation people, who are often fond of saying “If it looks right, it will fly right.” Dual front discs don’t look wrong, even though they don’t look exactly like a single disc or a drum. Modern sport bike fairings don’t look wrong because their is precedent in the dustbin fairings of earlier GP bikes. Alternative front ends like hub center steering and the Hossack fork just don’t look like what people expect, and don’t work in quite the same way. When that happens, the mental hurdles to understand the new tend to turn a people away.

  4. RH says

    Wow – I remember his 750 Suzuki powered one in Superbike (or Performance Bikes) back in the early/mid ’90’s. I’ve been wondering for years what became of it. I always liked it better than the Tesi.

    The GTS Yamaha had a great front end on a lousy bike. That bike was set up for failure before it was even released.

    People don’t know just how awful forks are until they spend a fair amount of time on a bike without them. If rear suspensions behaved as badly as forks do at the front, racing techniques would be vastly different. But since everyone knows how to deal with the dysfunctiuons of telescopic forks, nobody is willing to step back into a learning position and adopt something better.

    Sportbike design has become more stagnant and style driven than the cruiser market. It is time for some real leaps in performance and design, not to mention marketing.

  5. Mamba says

    @PigIron : I do (I’m the still proud owner of a Yamaha 1000 GTS ABS red in perfect condition…. I love this bike)

  6. hoyt says

    Bryce & RH –

    Good points …[ "2) They handle a little differently than a telescopic fork. Even if they are better, they are different than what most people learned with. People are funny about learning new things, even when there are benefits. ABS brakes being the most comparable example".]

    After reading the press section of the Tryphonos website, it sounds like his design retains some “dive” properties found with telescopic forks (good for weight transfer feedback) but elminates the stiction of teles. So, this design would probably help shorten the new learning curve going from telescopic forks to hub-center steer/swingarm suspension.

    And, RH, I can only imagine what the “ah-huh” moment would be like for all of us tele-ridden bikers [i have a taste of what that must be like after putting a more progressive spring in my forks, making them perform better than the broken stock forks].

    The Tryphonos system is more attractive looking too after looking at the close-up PB photo in the press section. I also like the under engine u-frame. (although the latest project doesn’t look like it will use the under engine frame).

    This is good stuff.

  7. todd says

    Don’t forget Julian Farnam’s great bikes (A-N-D Motorcycles). He’s been building race-proven forkless bikes for years right here in Livermore California. Just looking around now I see he hasn’t kept his web site going and I haven’t kept in contact with him so who knows if you can buy any of his kits any more. Here’s a quick reference page I could find:
    http://www.mototuneusa.com/julian_farnam_a-n-d_bikes.htm

    -todd

  8. Prester John says

    Peugeot’s (the world’s oldest motorcycle company) Speedfight motor scooter uses a front swing arm and hub centered steering. For many years the Speedfight was the best selling motorcycle in Great Britian and very popular throughout Europe.

    Tom

  9. jim says

    Does a mainline manufacturer besides BMW and Ital Jet offer a bike with out telescopic forks? Oh yeah, Harley offers a springer.

    It’s not the manufacturers who are resistant it’s the consumer led by the anal retentive types who review bikes in the motorcycle press. BMW’s alternative front ends are flawed, but so are telescopic forks. The difference being the flaws of telescopic forks are considered ‘normal’.

  10. RH says

    Todd,

    Thanks for the A-N-D link – I was wondering what became of his work. If you find out more, please let us know.

  11. Prester John says

    “Does a mainline manufacturer besides BMW and Ital Jet offer a bike with out telescopic forks? Oh yeah, Harley offers a springer.”

    Yeah, there’s an obscure little outfit called Vespa. :)

    Tom

  12. Bryce says

    Prester, the Speedfight isn’t a hub center steering bike. It’s basically a single sided Earles fork. I thought the same, even after riding one, until someone pointed it out to me. Sadly, my own Peugeot has teles instead of something whiz bang.

  13. Ed says

    It seems to me that everyone is forgetting the Tele-Lever forks commonly found on most BMW’s. I toured an R1100RT on an 8,000 mile trip last summer and was extremely pleased with its handling.

  14. Julian says

    Hello all,

    First, thanks Todd for tracking me down and letting me know I was in the middle of an interesting discussion. You guys bring up some very good points about forks vs swingarm suspension. All points are correct concerning the amount of development that has gone into conventional forks compared to alternatives.

    To give a personal update (if any cares to know). A-N-D Vehicles has been closed, mostly thanks to the poor economy of 2001/2002. Although, not before winning an AFM 500cc championship in 2002 and runner up in 2001.

    These days I am still doing some frame work in my spare time. I have a friend with a business building custom Ducati projects and I’ve done several extensive frame modifications for him. I have a small batch of AY-1s that may be completed someday. These are similar to the EX500 powered AK-1s, but with a Yamaha 2-stroke RZ500 engine. These should be extremely fun bikes.

    My friend Michael Moore continues to keep some photos of my older projects on his website

    http://www.eurospares.com/graphics.htm#Julian%20Farnam's%20Bikes

    If anyone would like to contact me my email is andbike@pacbell.net I’d be happy to give my input on forkless designs.

    cheers,
    Julian