Bicycle and Motorcycle Dynamics conference

Bernhard Westerhof, Vehicle Dynamics and Control Consultant on a daily basis, represented us during the triennial international symposium on bicycle and motorcycle dynamics, BMD 2019, held at the University of Padova in Italy, September 9-11, 2019.
The aim of this symposium is to bring together leading scientists and researchers in the field of bicycle and motorcycle dynamics and control, in a broad sense.

Do you know how to steer a bike?

Bicycles are a fascinating subject for engineers interested in dynamics and controls. Interestingly, many people don’t even know how they steer a bike! Ask yourself this question: if I want to make a right-hand turn, how should I turn my handlebar? The answer seems obvious and you would think it’s just like in a car. But as a matter of fact, you would first steer to the left, roll a little bit into the turn, and adjust the handlebar to follow the radius of the turn while under this roll angle (so slightly to the right). From a controller point of view, this behaviour is called non-minimum phase, and it is just one of the things that make bicycles so incredibly interesting. Try it yourself next time you ride a bicycle!

If you strap an engine to a bicycle frame to make it go faster, you end up with a motorcycle. Because this makes the machine quite a bit less safe, researchers have been working on systems to reduce the risk of an accident. One of the ways to do this is by means of a simulator, and this is where I come in.

Cruden Motorcycle Simulator

For my graduation research project at the Delft University of Technology, I had the opportunity to work with the Cruden motorcycle simulator. My goal was to evaluate the simulator and show that it could be used for research. On the motorcycle simulator, all controls are available like throttle, handlebar, brakes and gears.
Sensors read out the signals input by the user and send this to a computer where a virtual motorcycle model is used to calculate all forces and accelerations of the motorcycle. These calculated accelerations are then used to actuate the motion platform and have the rider experience that he is riding on a real motorcycle.

Evaluation of Cruden motorcycle simulator

For my research, I developed a new dynamic model of the virtual motorcycle, tested the motion platform to see if it was fast enough to provide motion to the rider, and had friends ride the motorcycle simulator to see if humans can actually use it. By showing that the motorcycle simulator passed for all three points, I proved that it could be used for research to make motorcycles safer!

After my graduation, I kept in contact with my supervisors and we agreed on that we should publish the results. Since Delft started the conference on Bicycle and Motorcycle Dynamics in 2010, we figured this was the right place to start. The abstract was accepted, we put the paper together, and they asked me to do the presentation in Padova, Italy!

Since Engibex really encourages its consultants to keep innovating, I was lucky enough to get some help on putting the whole trip to the conference in Italy together.

The conference was incredibly well organized.
There were many interesting presentations and the coffee breaks provided the ideal setting for discussions and sharing knowledge.
With companies and universities from all over the globe attending, there was more than enough to talk about.
In total, we were with around 120 visitors from all over the world, with most of them from Germany, Japan and the US.

Leave it to the Italians by the way to organize a coffee break: perfect espresso’s and a wide variety of little snacks definitely help in keeping the crowd awake for a whole day of presentations.

The conference dinner on Tuesday evening was even more perfect.

The organizing committee had arranged that we travelled by bus to Venice. Once arrived we switched to wooden speedboats that brought us al the way to the Rialto bridge.
Just a few blocks from our arrival point we sat down on a small square, which was completely reserved for the conference, and where a delicious multi-course meal was served.
Even though the conversation topics were mainly about bicycle dynamics and controls, there was an informal atmosphere, and everybody enjoyed their dinner under sounds of laughter and passionate arguments about bicycles.


I was the first one to present the morning after the diner.
To be honest, I was a little surprised that the room was completely filled again because it was after midnight when we came back from Venice. Maybe the strong Italian espresso was the key to success.

At least a few of those little cups definitely helped me get in perfect mental and physical condition for the presentation.
The presentation went excellent and a lead into an interesting discussion.

I could have kept talking for hours more, but the chairman interrupted, and I gave room for the next speaker with a very satisfying feeling.

To top off this third day, we paid a visit to the Ducati factory and museum in Bologna to conclude the conference.

A look into the future

The motorcycle industry lacks somewhat in research compared to the automotive industry.
After all, fast motorcycles sell better than safe ones, as a motorcycle is inherently unsafe, to begin with.
Nevertheless, many speakers recognized that motorcyclists could benefit from ABS, stability control and other safety features.

For the near future, we will see more and more motorcycles equipped with those safety systems.

Because a motorcycle is more challenging than a car from a vehicle dynamics point of view, engineers have the exciting opportunity to adapt known safety systems to motorcycles and develop completely new ones.

If we even take it a few steps further, the first examples of autonomously riding bicycles and motorcycles already exist, and these could provide an interesting addition to the transportation-sharing platforms of which we already see many examples today.
Wouldn’t it be ideal if a motorcycle rides itself to your location, so you could get on it and evade the traffic jams on the way to your next appointment?

About the authors

David de Brouwer
Founder / Managing Director Engibex

Bernhard Westerhof
Vehicle Dynamics and Control Consultant