Date:31 October 2009
Orange County Choppers go “green”; Meet the world’s first motorcycle; Off-roading tips from a pro…
PM has enjoyed a long association with the motorcycling world. Over the years, we have featured a formidable variety of machines ranging from the utterly practical to the frankly outrageous – and lots in between. Superbly styled (well, mostly) and expertly engineered, equipped with the kind of technology that would have been unthinkable just a decade ago, they elevate the art of motorcycling to a whole new level.
Anti-lock braking systems, stability control, advanced bike-to-bike telecoms, powerful yet planet-friendly engines (even diesel power!), cruise control, heated twistgrips the list of technological refinements is mind-boggling. Now get out there and rev those engines.
On the face of it, they’re an unlikely match. Siemens is a 160-year-old global powerhouse in electronics and electrical engineering, operating in the industry, energy and healthcare sectors across 190 countries (2008 revenue: R876 billion). Orange County Choppers, fronted by the volatile and extravagantly moustached Paul Teutel Sr, is one of the world’s premier builders of custom and production motorcycles. The OCC shop is featured on American Chopper, a Discovery Channel reality series that chronicles the lives of the OCC crew as they battle impossible deadlines to create outrageous custom choppers.
Th ey recently came together to produce one of the most unusual machines in OCC’s history – the Siemens Smart Chopper, a custom electric machine that improves on its “green” credentials by incorporating recycled materials. Explains Daryl Dulaney, president and CEO of Siemens Building Technologies: “We wanted to build this unique chopper to raise environmental awareness and reflect what the 69 000 employees of Siemens USA are doing to help America stay on the cutting edge of tomorrow’s green economy. Green is not marketing hype for us; it’s in our DNA.”
OCC built the Siemens chopper over the course of a month, equipping it with a series-wound DC electric motor producing peak power of 20 kW – enough to propel the large machine to a top speed of 160 km/h. The bike – it can be “refuelled” by plugging it into a wall socket for five hours – has a range of just under 100 km on a single charge. Says OCC founder Paul Teutel Sr: “Building an electric bike from recycled materials was something new for us, but we definitely enjoyed the challenge, and we think the end product makes a great addition to our wide range of unique motorcycles.
“While electric bikes probably won’t surpass traditional ones for the foreseeable future, we also think that energy-efficient technologies are increasingly important for both manufacturers and consumers.”
He should know. Teutul is the driving force behind the family-owned business that grew from a hobby into a highly successful company producing and selling 150 custom bikes a year to a broad range of enthusiasts, ranging from private individuals and celebrities to professional sports teams and Fortune 500 companies.
With its striking design, long (304 cm) wheelbase and formidable proportions, the Siemens Smart Chopper makes a powerful statement. Tech features include a bank of DieHard AGM batteries producing 72 volts, a clutchless single-speed transmission coupled to a 4:1 dual-chain drive, and a braking system incorporating stainless steel dual discs front and rear. A Smart Grid-ready charger (developed by Siemens) communicates with the utility to enable charging when electricity is most affordable.
PM asked Paul Teutel Sr about the recycled materials in OCC’s first electric motorcycle: there appears to be a fair amount of it.
Teutel: “Pretty much everything on the Siemens Smart Chopper is made from recycled materials – but the basics include steel for the frame from US Steel, aluminium for the wheel blanks from Alcoa, and waterbased paint from Valspar Corporation.”
PM: Were you given a free hand by Siemens in respect of the bike’s design, or did OCC work to a strict brief?
Teutel: “We worked closely with the folks at Siemens on the technology of the electrics, but they gave us free rein when it came to the design.”
PM: How do you feel about riding a motorcycle that whines rather than rumbles? Is it wimpy, or merely different?
Teutel: “We’ve gotten a lot of comments about this. Look it’s a futuristic, good-for-the-environment option in a chopper, it goes 100-plus miles per hour, and there’s nothing like it. You could always put cards in the wheels to make it sound louder – just kidding.”
PM: Did you lose your cool at least once during the build?
Teutel: “The atmosphere in the shop is a little more low-key these days, without Paulie and Mikey around. However, that doesn’t mean that things went smoothly, either. We were working on this bike late into the night before it was to be unveiled, so sure, tempers flared a bit.”
On the outer edge
B-2 Stealth bike
A few months ago, Northrop Grumman and the US Air Force celebrated the 20th anniversary of the first flight of the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber with the unveiling of this specially commissioned bomber-themed motorcycle.
Built by Orange County Choppers (see elsewhere in this feature), the B-2 Stealth Bike – dubbed “Spirit of Innovation” – mimics many of the visual details of its lethal namesake. For example, the petrol tank and extended front cowling are shaped to resemble the B-2’s unique cockpit and fuselage, and the major components are painted to match the aircraft’s livery. The wheels feature five machined aluminium B-2 models positioned in the shape of the Air Force star, each engraved with the tail number of one of the 20 B-2s in the current fleet. The bike’s “aft deck” is manufactured from a scrap piece of the titanium used to build the B-2 Spirit of Oklahoma.
Says Northrop Grumman’s Dave Mazur: “The B-2 Stealth Bike celebrates not only the first flight of the B-2, but also the insight of Jack Northrop in the 1940s when he envisioned the perfect aerodynamic bomber, the YB-49 Flying Wing. Orange County Choppers brought to this bike the same level of engineering artistry that Northrop Grumman engineers brought to the original design and development of the B-2 bomber.”
The US Air Force’s B-2 stealth bomber is the flagship of America’s longrange strike arsenal, and one of the most survivable aircraft in the world. Its unique capabilities, including its stealth characteristics, allow it to penetrate the most sophisticated defences.
Aimed at well-heeled motorcycle enthusiasts with a yen for something really different, the MonoTracer “cabin motorcycle” comes with a monocoque body fashioned from Kevlar and carbon fibre, reinforced with aluminium crash- and roll-bars. It’s powered by a 1 171 cm 4-cylinder BMW engine producing 63 kW – enough to accelerate the slippery two-seater from standstill to 100 km/h in 4,8 seconds. Top speed is about 240 km/h.
Built by Swiss company Peraves, the Mono- Tracer features such mod-cons as a push-button gearshift, anti-lock brakes, full audio system, and a computer-controlled stabilising system with a deployment time of under half a second (options include aircon and cruise control). As the manufacturer tells it, motorcyclists and sportscar drivers “will soon see the MonoTracer for what it is – th
e perfect combination of a sporty touring motorcycle and a real ‘lean machine’ sportscar”.