Motorcycles come in all shapes and sizes, and the world is full of weird and wonderful two-wheelers that many of us have never heard of before. While the tried and tested formula of the good old motorcycle is here to stay, several manufacturers have tried to push the boundaries in terms of design and engineering. Today, let’s take a look at five quirky two-wheelers you may never have heard of.
The Quasar, first introduced in 1970, is a semi-enclosed two-wheeler that kind of blurs the lines between a car and a motorcycle, in the sense that it has an aerodynamic body, and the rider’s seating position is much more similar to that of a car than a motorcycle. That said, the Quasar was by no means left out, with the company claiming a top speed of over 100 miles per hour. It used the engine from a Reliant Robin, 21 of which saw production. Subsequent models featured slight variations in the engine and steering system, but eventually the Quasar would cease production in 1982.
Those of you who are fans of combat used vehicles will surely be familiar with the Indian 841. This motorcycle was intended for service in World War II and featured a longitudinally mounted V-twin engine. What made the 841 special was the fact that its engine was designed to have a very low compression ratio, meaning it could run on low octane fuel. The US Army ordered a total of 1,000 841 Indians to be produced, however, at the same time the Willys Jeep was starting to take off and proved to be much more practical, as it could transport troops, weapons and supplies. As such, the Indian 841 never really saw action.
We’ve talked a lot about the Bimota Tesi here on RideApart. This unique sports bike has a rather odd front end that uses a swingarm rather than standard telescopic forks. The Tesi first came into the limelight in 1990 and was fitted with a Ducati 851 engine. A total of 127 Bimota Tesi 1Ds were built, and the model was replaced by the Tesi 1D 906. In 2019 , Kawasaki bought a 49.9% stake in Bimota and co-developed the latest iteration of the Tesi, the Tesi H2, which featured the same supercharged 998cc inline-four engine found in the Kawasaki Ninja H2.
Yamaha tried its hand at a two-wheel-drive motorcycle in 2004 with the WR450F 2-Trac. Designed to compete in the grueling Dakar Rally, the bike featured a unique two-wheel-drive system in which the front wheel was driven by a hub-mounted hydraulic motor that could sense rear wheel slippage and then make turn the front wheel. The design was such that the front wheel would never spin faster than the rear, keeping the bike stable. Ultimately, the demand for such technology was too low for Yamaha to mass produce.
The CAKE Kalk is an electric motorcycle that we know well. We’ve talked about him and his other CAKE stable mates before, and we certainly love his charismatic, go-anywhere abilities. This all-electric enduro-style machine may look like a glorified electric mountain bike, however, it’s classed as an electric motorcycle – and quite capable at that. The Kalk’s electric motor has the ability to mimic two- or four-stroke engine braking, while the bike’s Öhlins suspension soaks up all the jumps and bumps with ease.