I’m going to make an obvious statement here, but most Harleys are heavy bikes. I know, shocking. With 800 pounds of bike to maneuver (depending on the model) there’s always a bit of a heightened risk of the rig going down—something I’ve personally experienced when I dropped a 900-pound CVO Limited a few months ago. Because the bikes are so heavy, not only is trying to keep the bike from tipping almost impossible, picking it up is equally difficult.
A recent patent we dug up suggests that The Motor Company could soon be about to take care of that minor weight issue thanks to a gyroscopic system that would help balance the bike.
The published in May 2020 describes “a gyroscopic rider assist device operable to output a corrective moment on the vehicle in response to an input from an actuator.” Simply put, the company is seemingly developing a form of self-balancing technology.
This iteration of the technology uses a gimbal-mounted flywheel equipped with speed and tip sensors—a good ol’ mechanical gyroscope, as opposed to electric sensors like the ones found in Inertial Measurement Units (IMUs). According to the patent, the system is designed to detect low-speed tips and uses the computer-managed gyroscope to counteract an inclination that goes beyond the programmed threshold and help keep the motorcycle upright. The contraption would be placed in the top case, at the back of the bike.
The document explains that the rotational speed of the flywheel could be as high as 10,000 to 20,000 rpm, stating that some constructions could even allow speeds of up to 40,000 rpm. Though the flywheel is expected to spin at all times “to be ready”, the self-balancing system itself would only be active at low speeds: “A clutch is provided between the actuator and the gyroscopic rider assist device to selectively deactivate the gyroscopic rider assist device upon transition from a first condition of the vehicle to a second condition of the vehicle.” The gyroscope will not intervene at cruising speeds while the rider is tackling bends and leaning in curves.
While most able-bodied riders can manage the weight of these bikes fairly easily, a drop can have a more significant impact on Harley’s aging customer base. The same can be said about newer, less-experienced riders who might find the weight and size of the bike overwhelming and be deterred from buying into Harley for that reason. A self-balancing system could be a solution to encourage more riders to get on big, bulky Harleys in the future.