The Motus Story – Part 4: Growing Pains

Insights: a new series from the pen of moto-adventurer Neale Bayly.

MST-01 test mules looked good, but were far from production ready. 

In the autumn of 2012, the last thing anyone at the fledgling Motus Motorcycles expected was to be, in part, victims of some initial success. Motorcyclists and media had applauded the two MST-01 prototypes from Florida to California and the industry was abuzz about first American V4 sport-touring motorcycle. The questions quickly centered on “How much?” and “When can I get mine?” and Motus co-founders Lee Conn and Brian Case were often seen as being coy when asked about pricing and availability. Truth was, they had no idea yet.

Every waking minute for the past three years had been spent building and testing prototypes. The mission at Motus was clear from the start to build the most exquisite machines possible and never, ever cut corners.  But, given the magnitude of the project and the small size of the team, the they found themselves with more questions than answers and the chorus of media, anxious customers and bankers was growing louder.

Suspension and chassis testing at Barber with Pratt&Miller and Öhlins.

Until Motus put big “PROTOTYPE” stickers on the bikes, dealers and buyers perceived they were ready for production. Designing and sourcing hundreds of proprietary components was challenging and time consuming. Once, when sourcing 300 sidestand cut-out switches, the manufacturer replied with a quote for 300 thousand. The sheer enormity of building a new American motorcycle company from scratch was completely lost on the public, but was happening feverishly behind the scenes at Motus.

Tough decisions were in store as first slow steps turned into a jog. Leading the technical teams, Brian added cruise control and a ride-by-wire electronic fuel injection, but aborted gasoline direct injection. He added a full-color LCD/TFT display and selected production colors. Sargent made final seat shape revisions.

Replacing the GDI system with a 3D printed port fuel intake prototype. 

The aluminum foundry and engine assembly facility were initially in Texas, but after a serious “lights-out” fire at a machine shop and repeated slowdowns at the foundry, the production casting was moved to Indiana and all engine assembly was brought in house to Motus HQ in Birmingham.

Challenges:  this CNC caught fire while milling an engine block mold.  

While Brian worked tirelessly on refining details of hundreds of mechanical components, he simultaneously oversaw production line setup. Lee was pulling double shifts on everything from marketing to part sourcing as he took deposits from customers, signed up dealers and worked with investors. By 2012, Motus boasted just four employees and durability tests were performed by seasoned industry veterans as ongoing upgrades and refinements continued all year. And throughout these long, hard days the same questions kept coming and the answers to them were getting harder to fend off.

Many, many months of testing and development.

The lengthy certification process to get EPA and CARB certificates isn’t a sexy media story. Neither is the story of tens of thousands of durability miles or that some certain part is being revised for greater reliability or that a machine shop caught fire. Journalists were eager to test the production motorcycles. Dealers were looking for pricing and customers a due date.

By the fall of 2013, Brian, Lee and their staff once more took the historic drive to Barber with their motorcycles. This time it was to display five production intent bikes at the Vintage Festival, so the world could see, hear and ride a finished Motus. Behind closed doors, they held their collective breath as they waited for the certificates of approval to arrive.

Part 1: Validation here
Part 2: Awakening here
Part 3: Emergence here

 

 

The Motus Story – Part Three: Emergence

Insights: a new series of stories from the pen of moto-adventurer Neale Bayly.

Against the backdrop of MotoGP machines on full throttle, Motus co-founders Brian Case and Lee Conn would once again talk themselves hoarse as they met thousands of race fans at Laguna Seca in July of 2011. Over the course of the three-day event, they told the story of this new and radical American V4 sport-touring machine time and again. It displaces 1650cc. It has push rods. It makes around 180 horsepower and 125 ft.lbs. of torque. It’s built in America. Pricing and availability are…TBD.

While the questions or the story didn’t change, a profile emerged of the most interested inquirers. Serious motorcycle aficionados, most with multiple machines, usually with a European leaning, and all of them extremely excited to see and hear the Motus run.

The MST-01 unveiling at the Barber Motorsports Museum

Unveiling two prototypes some weeks earlier at the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum to a close group of press, peers, and industry professionals, Motus’ small team put the enormity of what lay ahead briefly out of mind. Wives, children, and parents who had all sacrificed much over the previous years were able to bask in the glow of this herculean achievement. Lee was almost overcome by emotion during his speech as, from the podium, he could see such earth changing machines as the Britten V1000, the Pierce Four and others. Brian was just as overwhelmed, as he sat on the machine answering a barrage of questions about his design.

As with every ridgeline conquered at Motus, the celebrations soon turned to a manic ride, this time to Bike Week at Daytona to show the prototypes to a motorcycle crowd who knew almost nothing of their existence. The Daytona reveal was just as much a part of the ongoing testing—a chance to meet the world’s press and thousands of riders. With the prototypes fully loaded with data logging equipment, Pratt & Miller sent a team for support, and everyone moved into a big house on the beach for a week. From motorcycle legends like former World Superbike Champion Scott Russell, to domestic and foreign magazine editors stopping by for informal visits, the pace, as usual, was frenetic. The bikes were ridden to the racetrack, Main Street and beyond and engineers were downloading and analyzing data.

Founders’ maiden voyage on prototypes at Daytona Beach
Motus prototype launch team in Daytona

Everywhere the prototypes were seen and heard, the reaction was uplifting and energetic. It seemed like the whole country was learning about and cheering the scrappy company from Birmingham making history with their dreams. The prototypes performed flawlessly, and leaving Daytona on a high, none of the guys could have foreseen that they would one day face a serious hurdle because of this initial success.

Daytona Bike Week became Laguna Seca for MotoGP, and with another Motus house filled with journalists, photographers and friends, it soon became a staging point for the biggest test to date. With dealers signing on and customers making deposits, they decided to ride back to Alabama visiting dealerships along the way. Not only would it be a great opportunity to spend time with people, it would give invaluable test data for their return to the “woodshed” for further development during the upcoming year.

The enthusiastic reception to the prototypes continued from Alice’s Restaurant in NorCal to dealerships in Texas, Colorado, Tennessee and Georgia. They rode through scorching deserts, crossed high mountain passes in the Rockies, and ended up running hard and fast through the low swamplands to the west of their Birmingham home. They pulled all nighters to make sunrise at the Bonneville Salt Flats, put in an 1100-mile day, and burned the candle at both ends—as well as in the middle.

Left Fay Myers in Denver at 3pm Thursday, arrived at Bumpus H-D in Tennessee at 3pm Friday for a promotional event. Pic was taken somewhere in Kansas.

For Brian and Lee and the growing team at Motus, they had proved the motorcycle world was ready for a comfortable American sportbike powered by a big push-rod, hot-rod inspired engine. Now, the trick was to finish testing and work toward production.

Iron Butt Saddle Sore 1000/Bun Burner 1500 done!

We recently met Mr. Michael Kneebone, president of the Iron Butt Association, a community of serious long distance riders who sanction long rides including the 11-day, 11,000+ mile Iron Butt Rally™. Michael challenged us to be first to officially knock out one of their sanctioned rides on an Motus. Let’s just say he didn’t have to twist my arm very hard.

The Motus is built to “Go far, Go fast”, so the first chance I got, I grabbed the key to a demo MST and set out to tackle the Saddle Sore 1000 (1000 miles in 24 hours). The first 1000 miles passed pretty quickly, so I decided to push on and go for the Bun Burner 1500 (1500 miles in 36 hours), too.

I’m more of a twisty roads rider, but have to admit it was fun gathering the receipts and documenting the adventure using the IBA’s process. The Motus is so comfortable and stable at highway speeds, plus it has unholy passing power, so it just eats up miles with almost no effort. – Lee Conn

Stats:

6/10/17: Saddle Sore 1000 attempt (documentation submitted to IBA, not certified yet). 5:28am-8:13pm (14 hrs, 43 min) , 1061 total miles, avg speed 78mph.

6/11/17: Bun Burner 1500 (documentation submitted to IBA, not certified yet). 8:57am-4:20pm (7hrs, 23 min), 481 total miles, avg speed 77mph.

Total: 1548 miles in 22 hours and 6 minutes.

This nice family certified the SS1000 in Fosters, AL

Google Timeline for 6/10/17

Google Timeline for 6/11/17

No comment.

A filthy, but very capable and comfortable 2017 Motus MST after a hyper-tour. 

Bike Magazine rides the MST

“…their engine is as impressive as any I’ve tried in 25 years of road testing, a modern day hot-rod version of that sports touring classic, the VFR. It’s that good”- John Westlake, Bike Magazine

Click here or the image for the full article.

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New Hampshire to Seattle and back with track days before and after!

John C on his MSTR: New Hampshire to Seattle and back…with track days before and after! “Why a Motus? I wanted an exciting bike, fast, powerful, no-electronics, for sport-touring and maybe some track time.

Yup, I bought the right bike.

One of my nieces was getting married in Seattle and I, retired, was becoming a couch potato. So last March I bought a 2016 Motus MSTR from Adam RocketMoto in Nashua, NH, went to the gym for three months, then rode out to her wedding. Through Adam, co-owner of Rocket Moto Sport, I learned about Tony’s Track Days. They had two of these track days, one at NHMS before the wedding and one at Palmer Motorsports Park afterward. I went to both.
14224951_1240038479386120_3933343650312062458_n
The wedding trip was an adventure. I took a northern route through Canada to Sault Ste Marie, MI, across to the Badlands, then to Seattle and the wedding. Then I spent a few days in Mukilteo (pronounced MUCKle TEEoh) visiting three airplane museums. From there I wandered between Idaho and Montana playing with twisty roads and mountain passes, finally working my way down to the Denver area to visit a friend and relax for a few days.

I chose not to keep track of times and miles, but I know I knocked off some easy 500 mile days, starting late and stopping early. I like riding out west where speed limits are higher, roads are more open, and traffic seems to be somewhere else. The Motus gets good to excellent mileage (40-50+ mpg) at small throttle, lower speed, and higher gear, which I used when I thought I was going to run out of gas. I got over 50 mpg at 85 mph with a tailwind, but low 20s when going 85 into a headwind or just having fun.

Always the bike was fun to ride. If you’re into attention, this is the bike for you. I met more people this trip than on any other. But to feel the suspension working, the smoothness of the brakes, the tires grabbing pavement, the effortless acceleration ….” – John C

The above is from John C’s ride notes/story sent to Motus after the trip, edited for length and clarity, shortened for this format.

 

Preparation.

10559907_716367361732651_7064529694040635749_n Aug 21, 2014- Salt Lake City – altitude 4400ft, MSTR putting down 158rwhp 114 lbft torque. Next stop, Bonneville. Exciting for us at Motus to finally get to this point, with a very refined machine. Countless hours of engineering, testing, and production planning. Pure determination here at Motus, throttle wide open. Special thanks to Scott Horner of Heads up Performance and Dave Lindsay of Lindsay Machine Racing, LLC for the dyno time/expertise. 

Meet Motus’ Senior Test Rider, Bruce Edmiston

Meet Motus’ Senior Test Rider, Bruce Edmiston. This guy has ridden just about every bike out there over a 22+ year career and is now in charge of a rigorous mileage accumulation program at Motus. Here, Bruce discusses his feelings about riding the 2014 Motus MST and MSTR. No script, no rehearsal- we just put him in front of a camera as he came in for lunch after a 150 mile ride on a cold, rainy Alabama day in March 2014.