Best Feet Forward
This club was started in 1995 by a group of enthusiasts for Feet First motorcycles and scooters. The simplest way to describe a Feet First or "FF" machine is as a "Two Wheeled Car" in the most positive sense of the phrase. In other words an FF is a Powered Two Wheeler that is safe, warm dry and comfortable, but which can still nip in and out of town traffic and scratch with the best of them on the open road. It will also use less fuel and go faster than a conventional motorcycle with the same engine thanks to improved aerodynamics.
FFs have been around since the Wilkinson of 1909, the Neracar of the 1920s and the pioneering Avro Monocar of 1926. Gustav Baumm's record breaking NSU Flying Hammocks of the 1950s were the first "ultimate" FFs, proving that a recumbent riding position was the most efficient aerodynamically (200mph with 40bhp). All record breakers since, from the original 1956 Triumph Bonneville to the present, have been FF.
The first modern FF was the all-British Quasar designed by Malcolm Newell and Ken Leaman in the mid-70s. Royce Creasey's Voyager, launched at the 1989 NEC bike show, represented a logical progression from the Quasar and almost made it into production. All six prototypes are still running and are owned by BFF members.
The first mass-produced FF was the Honda CN250 launched at the 1985 Tokyo Show as the Fusion and better known as the Helix or Spazio. It is still being built, almost unchanged, twenty years later. (A Chinese replica, of very high quality, the Jialing JL250 is also now availablel for half the price!). When the BFF club was founded the CN 250 was the most popular machine amongst members simply because it was the most cheaply available second hand. However, it remains more "FF" than all the super-scooters that have followed in its wake. First to follow the Helix was Piaggio's Hexagon, but it was Yamaha's Majesty 250 which really started the superscooter boom, outselling every other Powered Two wheeler over 125cc in the huge Italian market. Next up were Honda's identical-looking Pantheon 125 and Foresight 250 and then Suzuki's Burgman 250. Piaggio also put the Honda Helix engine in their Hexagon GT 250 and the Foresight engine in their first version of the X9 250.
The Burgman 400, launched in 1999, was the first mass- produced FF to provide enough performance to keep up with conventional motorcycles on the open road, although its seat was still about six inches higher than that of a "true" FF and it only had a claimed 32bhp. BMW's roofed scooter, the seat-belted C-1, also represents a milestone in mass-produced PTW rider protection, even though its seat and centre of gravity were too high and its wheelbase too short to be a "proper" FF. Arnold Wagner's awesome Swiss-built and fully-enclosed 160mph Peraves Ecomobiles have been providing PTW riders with far greater safety in helmet-less comfort since 1985.
Superscooter development passed another milestone in 2000 when Yamaha launched the XP500 TMAX - a twin-cylinder machine with the engine in a conventional motorcycle location, rather than swinging up and down with the rear wheel in the manner of most traditional scoots. With a claimed 40bhp it was also nearly 10mph faster than the Burgman 400, with acceleration to match, and the first superscoot capable of touching a genuine (as opposed to an indicated) 100mph - just.
Honda 'upped the ante' later the same year when they launched their Silver Wing 600 twin with nearly 50bhp. This gave it superior acceleration and top speed to the TMAX but unfortunately the handling is not in the same league as the Yamahaâ€™s, suffering from a rearward weight bias, single fork yoke and above all, a rubber-mounted engine from which the rear wheel swings. This makes the handling scary if you try to make full use of the SWing's performance on twisty roads, especially if you have the temerity to combine cornering with braking.
In 2001 Piaggio launched their X9 500 with a conventional swinging-engine chassis and immediately had to withdraw it due to high speed stability problems. They subsequently revised it twice before putting it back on sale. With such a heavy, powerful engine swinging up and down, the X9 was always going to be difficult to 'tame' - it's as fast as a Tmax in a straight line and quicker off the mark. Even the latest Evolution version is no match for a TMAX on twisty going, but with the sportier and near-identically powered Gilera Nexus, which has a stiffer (but still swinging) engine mounting, Piaggio's engineers seem to have achieved the impossible. Unfortunately it's been done at the expense of comfort and the Nexus is more like a Gilera Runner on steroids than a cruiser scooter or any kind of FF.
In 2002 Suzuki raised the mega-scoot stakes still further with the launch of the Burgman 650. At 239kg dry (claimed) this made even the Silver Wing look light and nimble. However it proved to be much more stable at high speed than the Silver Wing, and provided even more weather protection and storage, thanks to wider bodywork and a cavernous under-seat compartment.
The Burgman 650 combines a TMAX-style forward engine location with an innovative CVT transmission which can be operated in any one of three different modes; standard automatic, power automatic or 'push-button' gear-change. In practice, the latter is a complete waste of time, while the other two modes are both extremely useful.
Suzuki also showed an unashamedly 'FF' prototype, the 'G-strider' at the 2003 Tokyo show, while back in 2001 Honda had showed their flat four 750cc 'Elysium' prototype which was like a cross between their roofed Honda Cabina 50 and the Quasar, but with a disappointingly high seat and no rider seat back.
At the other end of the scale there are many one-off Feet First machines designed and built from scratch by FF enthusiasts all over the world, from New Zealand to California. There has also been the impressive arrival of Dan Gurney's Alligator FF which has attracted a whole new audience to FF machines and a lot more respect to the concept from sports bike riders, especially in the USA. Shame itâ€™s got so little bodywork.
The club aims to provide a forum for enthusiasts of all the above machines. We feel that with the wide variety of mass-produced FF super scooters now available, the feet forward, comfortable machine with protective bodywork and built-in luggage capacity is now established as a distinct class of Powered Two Wheeler.
Indeed, a couple of megascoots have already been seriously â€˜Ffedâ€™.
In 2002 Royce Creasey created the â€˜ComforTmaxâ€™ for Andrew Gibbens by fitting a Volvo car seat to a TMAX, moving the fuel tank into the â€˜bootâ€™ and extending the footboards. Several Ffers tested it and pronounced it extremely promising. Andrew has been finishing it off ever since, in his spare time, and it made its first public appearance at Beaulieu 2005, looking very good.
In 2003, Ian Pegram created the Genesis, by combining a bog standard Suzuki Burgman 650 chassis and power train with the C1 concept of a roof, roll-cage and belted seat. At the time of writing itâ€™s been through two incarnations and the final bodywork has yet to be finalised, but the writer was extremely impressed by its potential in both guises. Safe, warm, dry and comfortable â€“ oh yes.
We also feel an affinity for fans of recumbent pedal powered two wheelers, for the design and ergonomic considerations are exactly the same whether the two-wheeler has an engine or not and both FF bicycles and motorcycles have been banned from racing for decades! Some of us simply ride our production machines and enjoy social contact and swapping tips, others are deeply concerned with the design and technology of PTWs, most of us a bit of both. We welcome as a member anyone who rides a bike of this type, or would like to, whether it's a "full-blown" FF or a mass-produced super-scooter.
We lobby the trade and the motorcycling press to take these machines seriously and used to produce a quarterly magazine with all the latest news about FF developments and our own machines. However this has not actually appeared since 2000 and has effectively been replaced by a lively internet discussion forum with several hundred members, plus the recent innovation of the Bikeweb website. We often have a club stand at the annual BMF Show in Peterborough and another at the Beaulieu 'Motorcycle World' show in the New Forest (both in the UK). From 2000 to 2003 we did riding demos at Beaulieu which were good fun and good entertainment for the spectators so we were a bit miffed not to get an invitation onto the 'track' in 2004, although we had a club stand. However, we were out parading again in June 2005, albeit on the Sunday only, and on a ludicrously overcrowded track.
We also occasionally have rides out in different parts of the country where we both socialise and show our machines to the world at large in a strange â€˜packâ€™ of weird and wonderful FFs. The annual Quasar gathering in Hastings in September is just one example. While the club is largely UK based, we are in touch with big-scooter clubs and FF enthusiasts all over the world, from California to Kuala Lumpur and Melbourne to Mississippi.
We aim to be a communication centre for the whole FF movement in whatever manifestation. We are incredibly diverse - in age, other bikes owned, biking experience, skills, occupations, other interests - but united in our enthusiasm for Feet Forward PTWs.
Last updated by PNB June 2005