Motorcycles have long since been associated with the idea of American freedom — biker gangs with red, white and blue flags sewn onto the back of their leather jackets, the endless expanse of highway rolled out under your roaring wheels like a red carpet, etc. But one thing those revved-up machines haven’t been historically tied to is silence. In fact, it’s pretty fair to say motorcycles are about as far away from silence as you can get save for a rock concert or a heavy machining factory.
Now, the U.S. Armed Forces are looking into accomplishing the impossible: creating a motorbike that’s both silent and stealthy in order to help troops travel around more efficiently overseas.
The Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, commonly referred to as DARPA, recently gave a research grant to help fund the project. The goal is to create a hybrid motorcycle — part gasoline and part electric — that will be used exclusively by troops and can travel distances in near silence because of its electric capabilities. The two companies charged with making the plan a reality are Logos Technologies, a firm with hybrid experience, and BRD, an electric motorcycle maker.
How much of a difference would a silent motorbike really make? Look at it this way. A normal bike produces about 90 decibels’ worth of sound at a distance of 25 feet — barely quieter than a jackhammer or an arriving subway train. The proposed hybrid bike would emit a noise of barely 20 dB, allowing troops to travel in near-silence as they strategically plan their next move. Plus, the vehicles are being designed with two-wheel drive in order to accommodate the perils of steep climbs.
Logos’ manager of advanced concepts, said the motorcycles will help troops function better while serving in active duty. “Quieted, all-wheel-drive capability at extended range in a lightweight, rugged, single-track vehicle could support the successful operations of U.S. expeditionary and special forces in extreme terrain conditions and contested environments,” he told Defense Tech.
If manufactured according to plan, the new military motorbikes will be revolutionary. For now, they’re being used solely for troop travel, but who’s to say what the future might bring in terms of opportunities on the real motorcycles market?
“I think this technology will definitely be implemented, and that there should be government funding for it,” says Greg Rice, owner of Greg’s Custom Cycle Works in Clearwater, Florida. “There should be a good alternative to fossil fuel motorcycles.”
Bikes and their riders are often used to pinpoint a certain type of rugged, uniquely American spirit. Now, they might be doing the same for an entirely new generation of riders — the troops overseas.