With Dougie Lampkin attempting to wheelie the entire Isle of Man TT course, Vertigo trials bikes have built one heck of a cool machine that’s up to the mammoth task in hand.
Using a Vertigo Combat Ice Hell - 300cc Fuel injected single cylinder two-stroke as the base machine, Dougie and his engineering team led by Francesc Romani and Blackie Holden have spent the last 6 months creating a specially modified bike for the task in hand.
With the support of the Vertigo and Hope Technology in the UK here’s how they’ve tricked it up to tackle the 37.7 mile long mountain course…
A 36v electric motor fitted to the hub keeps the front wheel spinning throughout the duration of the challenge. This is vitally important as the gyroscopic effect creates the required stability and allows the bike to be steered despite the front wheel being lofted throughout.
Power to the front wheel can be controlled by a tension wire connected to the chest of the rider - while the wheel will always be spinning - its speed can be varied by body position to compensate for the undulating nature of the course, this helps the overall control of the bike. During testing an auxiliary battery has been used to power the front wheel motor, but in order to reduce weight and to ensure power during the entire 2 hours the bike's step-up box has been modified to directly power the motor.
The standard front disc / caliper and master cylinder has been completely removed as it has no purpose. However, a modified master cylinder has been fitted on the right hand side of the handlebar - where the front brake would normally be located - that actually operates the rear brake.
The riding position has been moved from the standard footrest location to specially adapted footplates attached to the rear wheel spindle. Hence the position of the rear brake pedal and master cylinder has also been moved to the same place and mounted on a specially designed and CNC produced aluminium mounting plate. The same plate also houses two separately operated rear brake calipers.
The first is operated by foot via the newly located rear brake pedal and second via the hand operated lever on the right hand side of the handle bar where the front brake would normally be located. The two independent systems not only help prevent rider fatigue, as the operation can be shared via foot and hand, but more importantly prevents overheating of the brake fluid in each system as the load can be split on the more demanding descents on the course when the rear brake will be used extensively to control the bike.
As per the front brake, the front suspension has no purpose for this particular challenge. The standard internals are removed and replaced with an almost rigid set up that is much lighter. The weight saving should reduce fatigue to the upper body throughout the 2-hour challenge.
The electronic mapping has been re-mapped to optimise fuel consumption and to produce a smooth power delivery within a confined range that allows the height of the front wheel to be carefully and consistently controlled throughout.
Changes to the front and rear sprockets mean that the majority of the course can be ridden in one gear. A modified sixth gear has been fitted to cope with the additional strain and the oil flow / level within the gearbox has been modified to compensate for the angle at which the bike will be operated for the 2-hour period.
The standard 2.7 litre fuel tank mounted under the seat area is not large enough to ride the 37.7 miles without refuelling. A secondary handmade carbon fibre fuel tank has been manufactured to increase the capacity to 5 litres to provide the required range. It’s mounted in the centre of the bike to minimise the impact that the change in fuel load will cause over the duration of the challenge.
The carbon fibre structure has been extended rearwards and is hollow towards the back section to house the additional electronics to power the front wheel motor and to provide a suitable surface area to allow knee contact that aides the steering process and stability especially in the case of side-winds on the exposed sections of the mountain part of the course.
The internals and spring on the rear shock are modified to create a much stiffer set-up than normal. Travel is limited to a fraction of its normal range to ensure stability and to cope with the extra load through the rear wheel.
Dougie’s IOM TT wheelie challenge is on Saturday 24 September and will be shown live on Red Bull TV.
Photos: Chippy Wood