MotoCzysz C1 | Review

Michael Czysz Prototype

Several years ago, the motorcycling ether was finely misted with intriguing rumors of a man in Oregon embarking on the daunting task of creating a new American motorcycle. Industry press and curious enthusiasts ruminated on what the machine might be. Details were scarce; people only knew that it was a racing motorcycle and held some potentially interesting, provocative detours from convention. The pervasive question was what could this man possibly be bringing to the table that was different? As it turned out, quite a lot.

Photograph by Craig Wagner. (Click image to enlarge)

The man is Michael Czysz, and the machine was the MotoCzysz C1 prototype (Robb Report MotorCycling, July/August 2005). When first rolled out for public scrutiny, it was immediately obvious that the C1 was a far cry from an enthused hobbyist toiling in a garage. This was a serious effort, possessing several staggeringly original design approaches and innovations that defied established traditions in the motorcycling realm. From the patented contra-rotating twin crankshafts to the 2D suspension elements, the bike was a marvel of free-thinking concepts that had emerged from Czysz’s clean-sheet thinking of how a motorcycle could, and might, work better.

With enthusiasm blossoming in the wake of secret track tests that affirmed the drawing board theories, Czysz waded with aplomb through the inevitable public maelstrom of doubt and criticism. Driven by the same ardor of invention  to produce the prototype machine against almost insurmountable odds, he was already thinking about improving upon the design.

In the relatively short period since the C1’s initial introduction to the world and its parade laps before a sold-out crowd at the 2005 Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix at Laguna Seca—a bold “proof of concept” demonstration—the MotoCzysz operation has expanded exponentially. Culling gifted engineers from a host of top-level race teams and motorcycle and automotive companies over the past year, Czysz assembled an impressive international group of creative minds to take the project to the next level.

Seriously beautiful and beautifully serious, the C1 takes the concept of racing motorcycles in unexpected new directions. Photograph by Craig Wagner. (Click image to enlarge)

The new production bike is a substantial forward leap from the 2005 prototype with over 2,000 new or reworked parts and components complementing and refining the unique attributes that are the driving force behind the project. The company has more than three dozen patents in-hand and in the pipeline. American ingenuity, as well as the dream, are alive and well in the Pacific Northwest.

Certainly, the signature element of the MotoCzysz is the twin counter-rotating crankshaft engine. The latest incarnation has been radically redesigned, but retains the original model of two independent crankshafts, each one driven by two of the engine’s four pistons. This was the first MotoCzysz innovation that induced serious head scratching in R&D departments at some of the major manufacturers. The concept contained the basic ingredient of inspired invention, reflected in a universal reaction of; it is so obvious, why didn’t someone do this sooner?

To put it in perspective, a combustion engine is a swirling conundrum of heavy, rapidly spinning crankshafts and timing belts, thrusting rods, pistons, and hammering valves that collectively create immense inertia and centrifugal force.

These forces inadvertently influence the handling of a motorcycle—especially a lightweight one—as they can conflict with the direction the motorcycle is being pitched or leaned when ridden. At the heart of the MotoCzysz powerplant is a brilliantly simple design approach that cancels those forces. The four-cylinder engine is divided into almost equal halves with two separate crankshafts (instead of one) rotating in opposite directions. The two contra-rotating crankshafts cancel out each other’s torque and gyroscopic forces. In the process, vibration is significantly reduced.

The all-new 990cc engine utilizes a slightly staggered, 15-degree configuration of its four cylinders leading to its trademarked “Z-line4” nomenclature. This staggered design allows for three overhead camshafts—as opposed to the predecessor’s four—that reduces weight as well as complexity. The engine’s 16-valve head is also utilized as a water delivery system, connecting the twin front and rear radiators for more efficient cooling. Whereas the previous engine stacked the twin crankshafts, the new version allows them to share a common axis, yet another major engineering modification. The new design results in a significantly more compact crankcase, placing the engine lower in the frame, thus dropping the bike’s center of gravity. Early estimates, based on dyno reports and continuing work, has the power output stepping into the realm of 200+ hp.

The close-ratio 6-speed transmission is an easily extractable unit to facilitate quick ratio changes, an essential for racing. The countershaft sprocket shares the swingarm pivot axis in a concentric design that keeps chain tension constant, which reduces stress throughout the drivetrain. The C1 contains an industry-first, hydro-electro slipper clutch. The unit is electronically controlled and hydraulically operated. Mounted at the leading edge of the motorcycle, the ventilated dry clutch sits directly in the airstream for enhanced cooling. (Click image to enlarge)

The front and rear suspension components, branded as MotoCzysz 2D, are as innovative as the engine. Housed inside the reinforced swingarm is an Öhlins shock sans springs. Instead of being mated to the shock, the C1’s Duo springs work remotely. Mounted directly to the swingarm and chassis, they are in a configuration that allows them to absorb inertia collected from the rear wheel. Those forces are sent more directly to the machine’s center of mass, rather than routing them circuitously, and inefficiently, through the shock linkage. Also, by separating the springs from the shock shaft, adjustments and changes to settings are greatly facilitated.

The front suspension represents another innovation. As a former racer, Czysz understood a contradictory problem with telescopic front forks. He had racked up enough seat time on racetracks at the extreme speeds and lean angles allowed by current tire technology to experience the limitations of forks, which are designed to work vertically. This is counter to what is needed when a bike is leaned into a corner, where the forces being exerted switch from being vertically induced to laterally induced.

The American Racing Project takes to the track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. RIDING STYLE: Helmet: Arai RX-7 Corsair Leathers: MotoGP Titanium 1-Piece Cowhide Compression Suit Gloves: MotoGP Nitrous Boots: Sidi Vertigo Corsa. (Click image to enlarge)

Patented as the 6X Flex, the front suspension is comprised of an Öhlins shock mounted inside the carbon fiber frame’s massive diameter steering head. The top of the shock is hard-mounted to the upper triple clamp with the bottom attached to a cross brace on the fork stanchions. These stanchions slide up and down on bearings, making them less susceptible to the stiction that compromises the performance of bushing-link traditional telescopic forks. The design, like the rear shock, allows for easy adjustments. The real innovation, however, is the fork sliders themselves, which are designed to flex up to six degrees laterally, absorbing the intense vertical forces being transmitted from the track surface when a motorcycle is leaned over.

Photograph by Brandon Bone. (Click image to enlarge)

These unique suspension attri-butes, combined with the powerplant’s indifference to direction change, is intended to deliver the most neutral handling experience possible. By removing these influences and arriving at this neutrality, a rider is more capable of reading and deciphering the motorcycle’s responses.

As impressive as the MotoCzysz C1 is, the way Czysz has chosen to run and define the company is equally intriguing. In many ways, it is a natural extension of the inventive thinking evident in the motorcycle’s design. Instead of pursuing an industrial mindset, Czysz has focused on creating an intellectual properties company, basing the MotoCzysz value on innovation rather than manufacturing.

Czysz’s welcoming indoctrination to the new core team assembled to tackle the second generation machine was “Accuracy and organization above all.” These words have become the operating mantra among the team, used so frequently they have taken to referring to the credo with the simple abbreviation, “A & O.”

Innovative designs and exquisite details abound on the MotoCzysz C1. Top photograph by Craig Wagner. Bottom photograph by Ian Bondi. (Click images to enlarge)

Czysz works to ensure a creative environment where fresh points of view can be expressed. Although he created a motorcycle with a bevy of innovations that were proving themselves out, he was intent on not being so headstrong that he didn’t listen to new ideas. For this reason the entire operation is built to nurture a necessary cross-pollination of new ideas. As Czysz had done personally, he encouraged the team to mentally bulldoze existing design conventions. He wanted them to consciously stop and think very basically about engineering challenges, then approach engines and chassis design without the baggage of all that has gone before, arriving at a fresh perspective, but with exper-ience. Czysz believes every aspect of the motorcycle’s design must be scrutinized in a continuing refinement and exploration process, stressing that every part, every function never be assumed. Nothing is off-limits to the design team.

Within the groundbreaking MotoCzysz project, there was the challenge of being able to dream, but with the practicality of business. The plan calls for developmental phases that include racing the C1 in world-class competition. Whether that proves to be the vaunted MotoGP series—the pinnacle of motorcycle racing—World Superbike or AMA, is still under consideration. The advance sale of 50 pre-production MotoCzysz C1 race machines represents the first legitimate and very significant step into production for the company. Ultimately, MotoCzysz is aiming to produce racing and street legal motorcycles for the international market.

The next phase for the MotoCzysz C1 is already underway, with the bike being ridden by its creator in a series of crucial shakedowns. In addition to Czysz, there is a select host of prom-inent racing names (which we are not at liberty to disclose) set to test ride. They have been lured to Czysz’s brainchild with a shared fascination and curiosity about a motorcycle that possesses so much promise. These are individuals that have seen everything—twice. The fact that these racers, many of whom have witnessed their share of purported earthquakes of engineering advancements shrink into mild tremors over the years, have come forward to lend their support and input, is testament to the machine’s potential.

The collage of engineering innovation represented in the MotoCzysz threatens to undermine the sheer elegance of the machine itself. In repose, the C1 has a strikingly aggressive persona, bathed in a veneer of serious velocity. The motorcycle possesses an aesthetic that blends provocative lines with a mandate of performance, exuding sensuality while remaining wholly masculine.

The Robb Report MotorCycling Achievement in Design Award takes into consideration a broader spectrum of criteria than simply performance; it is intended to reward ingenuity and creativity. Michael Czysz’s creation represents a deep, intense and deliberate detour from the accepted norm of motorcycle engineering in pursuit of advancement.

Photograph by Craig Wagner