Harley-Davidson Patents Gyroscope As Self-Balancing Motorcycle Technology

Fast forward to the present day, and the Internet is full of reports of a patent for a self-balancing system. After digging for more information, DE102019217875A1 showed up with a pretty peculiar title – “Gyroscopic pilot assistance device”. Filed in Germany in 2019 and in the United States in 2018, the patent cannot be called a breakthrough.

Do you remember the BMW R 1200 GS from September 2018? It’s a “Autonomous motorcycle” that can start, accelerate, circle a winding test track and stop on its own. Gyroscopes are essential to the balance of the motorcycle, and gyroscopes have also been used by Yamaha and Honda.

Turning our attention to DE102019217875A1, the patent description suggests that we are dealing with a gyroscope “in a housing behind the seat area and above the rear wheel.” In HD parlance, make that the overpriced luggage rack marketed as the Tour Pak.

The drawings in the patent also suggest that Harley-Davidson uses a rotating mass gyroscope, the kind of archaic technology that allowed us to go to the moon during the Apollo space program. Modern inertial units, by comparison, have switched to the microelectromechanical system.

A heavy flywheel rotates at 10,000 to 20,000 revolutions per minute by an electric motor mounted in a gimbal. At speeds below three miles per hour, the gyroscope serves as a balancing aid by locking the roll axis to a lever connected to a linear actuator. Simply put, a computer can tell the gyroscope to tilt the rotating mass from side to side.

The Tour Pak top case is also equipped with advanced sensors. Their role is to detect when the motorcycle tilts, by sending electrical signals to the computer which then orders the actuator to compensate for this tilt.

Finally, there is one detail that must be mentioned about this machine. Harley-Davidson designed a self-contained unit, consisting of both the gyroscope and the computer. If the two-year patent turns into a mass production option, you can bet your sweet bippy that HD will sell it as a retrofit. Just plug it into the bike’s electrical system and you’re good to go!


About Todd Wurtsbach

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