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A brief history of 2x2 motorcycles

1924 350 Raleigh-  converted in England for trailing.

1930 REX sidecar-  converted to drive both bike wheels by Einar Stormark.

1937 FN M60-  solo converted by Stormark.

c.1960's Rokon (still in production)-   The ROKON is a small 2WD motorcycle with no suspension and a top speed of around 60 kph.  They have big chunky tyres and have been powered by a multitude of small 2 stroke motors and recently by 4 strokes. A shaft runs up the backbone with a bevel drive gearbox in the steering head and chain down to the front wheel.  It seems that the ROKON was the first to use the one way clutch idea to drive the front wheel that has now become standard issue on chain drive 2WD's. 

Click here for details of Rokon's 2x2 motorcycles

1970 An interesting machine patented by American Waldo E.Rodler.-It featured a small stationary motor driving a "jackshaft" through a variable belt type transmission. From this jack shaft one chain drove the rear wheel conventionally and another chain drove the front wheel in a similar manner down the side of the front wheel. This entailed having quite small wheels due to restriction with steering lock. The hub steering design at the front was quite neat.

1980 SWM trials bike-  with cable drive to the front.

c. 1983 DR 250 Suzuki-  with hydraulic front wheel drive developed for the Australian army (still chain to rear)- not carried through to production.  Rumoured to have 5 % of power to front wheel, standard front forks retained.

1987 Suzuki NUDA-  concept bike (A shaft drive hub-steer 2WD road bike) is shown at the Tokyo motor show. An earlier concept 2WD, the "Falcorustyco" featured hub-steer, hydraulic drive and hydraulic steering but none of these features have yet gone into production.

1988 XR 250-  at Honda 'Ideas Day' also with hydraulic front drive and chain rear. Standard front forks also used. Hose sizes indicate quite low power to front.

Note- Honda are reputed to have built a 2WS based on a 400 more recently- it was used to test 100+ mph handling.

1988 Sunshine 2WD-  using standard front forks and 4 chains driving the front through a scissors action linkage.  Yamaha and Miaco versions built.

1989 Savard-  hub steer Yamaha 600 raced in France. A bit simpler than the Sunshine in that it had 'only' 3 chains driving the front wheel. Race results were very good. Savard had previously built Kawasaki and Husqvarna versions.

1990 Dryvtech 2x2x2-  fully hydraulic / hydrostatic drive to both wheels.

1991 Damian 'Coma'- used small Suzuki motor and a very unusual fabricated aluminium front end.
  It uses 3 chains to drive the front wheel. 

1991 Suzuki-  get publicity on 2 different 2 wheel drive models. The Lander using multiple chain drive to the front with leading link forks and the XF-5 using a 'sliding spline' and a series of right angle drives with telescopic front forks. (And 3 chains as well to the front drive !)  Neither bike seems to have been sold outside Japan.

1992 Fantic 305-  trials bike converted using 5 chains to the front drive (std. forks) - claimed weight increase was only 7 kg.

1993 Xereb CR500-  Honda hill climber built in Australia using front forks modified to pivot at the top triple clamp like the BMW 'Telever' system (Which hadn't been released then) A 'radius' arm running from the gearbox sprocket the top of the fork slider controls the fore / aft fork movement. Only 2 chains are used to drive the front - although this necessitated removing the magneto and shortening the crankshaft. Very neat design.

1998 Ohlins 2WD enduro- based on a Yamaha Enduro motocrosser and uses a small hydraulic motor (thought to be gear type motor) tucked neatly in behind the right hand fork leg driving the front wheel via an internal ring gear with a ratio that appears to be about 10:1.

From the hose sizes and size of the hydraulic motor it is safe to assume that the  amount of power to the front wheel would be less than 10 % of that to the rear ( still by chain drive ).   I don't think that this sort of power split is enough to alter the handling of the bike - either for the better or for the worse.   I believe up to 60 % of the power must be available to the front wheel ( but not all the time ) to give the sort of handling that a 4WD rally car enjoys.

1999-now TDW, 2 wheel drive Trials motorcycle- French company TDW manufacture aftermarket kits for converting trials motorcycles to 2 wheel drive. TWD's kit are designed for GAS-GAS, SHERCO & MONTESA trials bikes. TWD has used a combination of aluminium sprockets, belts and chains to transfer drive from below the rear sprocket to the front yoke and than down to behind the front axle and then to the front wheel.

2000 Mekhalian R001-  This is an interesting project in that it takes a new angle on 2WD bikes - it is (by the designers description) literally half a 4WD car.  Chains run down the left hand side in arms fixed to the frame - both wheels are driven by short shafts with universals in a similar way to a FWD or 4WD car.  It uses a Suzuki GS1000 motor - it is unknown how the torque is split between the 2 wheels.

2002 1000cc Yamaha R1 road bike- Given the same treatment as the Yamaha / Ohlins dirt bikes. It appears to use a fixed displacement pump and motor for front drive with standard chain drive to the rear. No test ride reports are available.

2003 Work in progress - Drysdale Motorcycle Co. is developing a chain drive 2WD that will be a 'bolt-on' conversion. It is inspired by the original 70 year old FN design but will be more sophisticated.

It uses 2 chains and a custom "banana gearbox" to drive the front wheel - conventional front forks are retained. It is currently being developed on a Honda 750 Africa Twin and will then be fitted to KTM 620 single. The design is suited to all chain drive bikes with narrow motors - so singles and V twins.


 This history is supplied by Ian Drysdale and is ©copyright.

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