From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

Virtual Motorcycle Seen as a Route to Safer, More-comfortable Cruisin’

Summer fun for millions of Americans means cruisin’ down the freeway on two wheels. A virtual motorcycle designed by ergonomics researchers in Britain promises to give manufacturers a tool for anticipating design flaws that can spoil the fun. 

Motorcycles typically force riders into a particular position. On cruiser-type bikes they are “sit-up-and-beg” upright. Racer types slant the torso forward. Standard types position the rider somewhere between the two. And there are hybrids of the main styles. With each type, the height, width and placement of the handlebars and controls can force the body into an unnatural position. Low handlebars place much of the body’s weight on the wrists, which are vulnerable to strain. Footpegs that are too far forward bow the rider’s back. The racer position tires the arms and neck quickly, and means poor leverage of the controls and a restricted field of vision.  A design that holds the rider in a prolonged unnatural position — or even a prolonged natural position when it can’t easily be changed — represents a risk factor for musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).

Designs that allow the rider to adjust body position and placement of the controls go some of the way to keeping the fun in cruising. The research motorcycle simulator, designed and built by researchers at Nottingham University, holds the potential for going the rest of the way.  A Triumph motorcycle mounted on a unique rig, it is described as state of the art technology that is capable of giving the researchers valuable information on rider and road safety, motorcycle design and motorcycle engineering. This interactive moving platform is linked to driving simulation software that will project different scenarios onto huge screens in front of and behind the motorcycle, recreating a realistic riding experience for the motorcyclist, according to the university’s recent news release about the project.

Dr Alex Stedmon, a lecturer in the School of Mechanical, Materials and Manufacturing Engineering’s Centre for Motorcycle Ergonomics and Rider Human Factors at the university, is leading the project. “Apart from the physical design of the motorbike and how comfortable it is, factors such as workload, situation awareness, vigilance, perception of danger and risk-taking behaviour are important considerations” he said in the news release.  He added that his team is also looking at issues associated with how motorcyclists use mobile information systems, communicate through intercoms and might take advantage of advanced technologies such as GPS and helmet mounted displays. “Our work as ergonomists feeds into many areas from product design, usability assessments and research through to public education, safety and training, traffic policy advice and developing industrial guidelines.”

The simulator allows riders to operate controls and lean on the motorcycle as they would in the real world, said Dr. Stedmon. “We’ve taken guidance from bikers about the important factors in developing a simulation of real riding.”

The simulator will produce valuable data, both for academics and the motorcycle industry, according to the news release, and manufacturers and road safety organizations have already shown interest in the project.

Source:  University of Nottingham