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BMW K1200S

Open Letter | Essay 1 | Essay 2 | Essay 3

Open Letter

In 2003 BMW announced the existence of the K1200S, and it was revealed that it would be incorporating the HOSSACK front suspension system, renamed to duolever. In reaction to this, Norman sent an open letter to BMW describing his feelings at finally seeing the benefits of the HOSSACK system being recognised and put to use. You can read the letter by clicking the icon on the right - Adobe Acrobat format.

Over the next year, as the K1200S was being finished and put into production, Norman posted three essays on a K1200S fansite:

Essay 1

21st May 2004

After the first pictures.

They justify the huge costs and waste in Formula 1 motor racing by saying "what you see today in racing you see tomorrow on your average car". This is hardly true when many of the additions to modern cars, appeared on the road before the track. But now do we see a whiff of that F1 technology jumping to motorcycles?

I salute the design team behind the new BWM K1200S for once and for all changing the motorcycle landscape. You have done well and made the leap that other manufactures can only dream about. The resistance to change in this industry is huge, leaving bike design years behind where it could have been.

When I took HOSSACK 1 my first bike to the racetrack I was greeted with disdain. "how dare this car person come to the bike world and change the rules". HOSSACK 1 broke all the rules with its :- small diameter straight tubes, TIG welding, wishbone front end, rocker rear end. The fact that it was 10% lighter, considerable stiffer and handled well didn't count. Nobody wanted to buy one not even after it won 3 championships.

So this new BMW is a milestone to me, with its clever 'anti squat' rear to match its 'non-dive' front. With a wheel base/weight distribution that I would have chosen and designed to suit it's near constant wheelbase. Those "tippy toee" geometries, which are in vogue elsewhere, are primarily to cover the inadequacies and vagaries of their telescopic forks and don't apply here.

People who ride this bike will discover a new communication with their front tire and will learn things about the roads that they are familiar with, that their tellies kept hidden from them. They will find out what I have been shouting about for 25 years.

Norman Hossack

Essay 2

20th July 2004

People will soon be riding the K1200S and I can't help feeling parental about it.

And like an expectant parent I am excited and nervous about this up coming event.

Also, like a parent, I must offer some observations and some cautions. Bare in mind that the only bikes I have ridden in the last 25 years have had this system and I have been extolling it's virtues for all that time. There will be no scares or things to fear when you leave 'tellies' behind and become familiar with a new system. The scare will come when and if you go back to 'tellies' afterwards.

So here are my parental offerings.

  • You will be decelerating much faster than you think while braking. Most riders judge how hard they are stopping by the quantity of dive they are experiencing. Riders are familiar with this visual cue and 'know it' without knowing it. This machine will not dive the same way but will stop faster as the wheel rides freely over the road.
  • The best, lightest, freest, suspension system can do little to change the limit of tire adhesion. The best, lightest, freest, suspension system is doing its job by telling you, loud and clear, where that limit is.
  • Talk of low c/g and 50/50 weight distribution and long wheelbase may scare some people. These are the right numbers for this type of system and exactly the way I would have done it, if I had had the influence needed. High c/g and steep head angles are popular only because they mask the weaknesses inherent in 'tellies'.


Norman Hossack

Essay 3

25th August 2004

So it is born and I sit with bated breath to see how the world greets this new arrival. In the last few weeks more people have been Hossacked than in all the years I sweated trying to bring this idea into the world.

I clamor to hear the comments from the first rides :- "did it do this, did it do that, what do you think"? just as I did after every test for the past 25 years. And yet, I hear nothing. So far I have read nothing negative, nothing bad (save the British press) and I have to conclude that this 'revolution' in the fundamentals of bike design has gone through 'on the nod'. Perhaps people were just overwhelmed by the performance, that they missed the real revolution. After all, the Hossack front end is the biggest departure from the 'norm' isn't it?

I guess I knew this, as the real gains that my system offers will come more into focus the harder people ride and the more time they have on it. If the past tells me anything, it's that soon we will hear people saying, "if I had been on tellies I would have lost it". Also the real test will only come when riders go back onto their old bikes after getting familiar with this new one.

As a techno enthusiast I like this BMW on many levels. This bike reminds me of the excitement Formula1 generated for me, in the days before money spoiled GP racing. Back then Formula1 was full of adventure and creativity. Though this BMW is fully modern Formula1 but it has the adventure I crave.

I like the rear end. Its small bevel drive, its anti-squat, and its hole through the middle. I have never been happy with the chain drive you see on most road bikes. Its lubrication system, is one that includes lubricating the world and leaving the chain dry and its geometry is very restrictive. The common argument that a chain is more efficient does not take into account modern developments in seals and lubricants used in shaft drives today. I think chains should be limited to traction engines.

I like the weight distribution and desired attempt to keep the c.g. low. These were directions I wanted to go in, but that was against the thinking at the time. I never had the muscle to build my ideal machine and do believe BMW have been properly scientific about their choices.

On the subject of this launch and the responses I have read so far. I do sympathize with BMW and their problem of positioning this bike in the market. I do not understand the comparison issue, does it really matter if its top speed is 5% either way of a Hayabusa. What is this preoccupation the press has with, market segment, or top speed, or weight?

It's fast enough and isn't the real measure of performance measured in lap times. Be aware that BMW currently builds what is generally accepted to be the world's most powerful GP engine. I am sure they could have made it do 200mph, they have the ability. I am pleased they sort after agility not speed.

Consider the telescopic fork over the last 25 years. It has had ceaseless development and improvement and must be better now than it was then. Therefore how much better was my system over the tellies 25 years ago when I presented it to the world. Can anyone remember or know how floppy tellies were back then?

Please go forth safely and enjoy - sorry I couldn't bring it about sooner. Wish I could own one too.

Norman Hossack

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