Cernobbio, Italy – The Concept Link is BMW’s off-beat look at where scooters are going, zero-emission urban transport for the commuter of the future.
Inspired by the Vision Next 100, which BMW Motorrad head of design Edgars Heinrich freely admits is too big to be a viable commuter machine, it’s intended to link the digital and analogue worlds, as a combination of transport and communications devices.
And it’ll be seen in public for the first time this weekend at the annual Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este in Cernobbio, which is not only Europe’s foremost concours for classic vintage and veteran cars but also, in its ‘Concepts’ section, a showcase for some of the world’s most outrageous and forward-thinking show cars and, occasionally, motorcycles.
The Link isn’t based on conventional ‘J-bone’ scooter architecture at all; because an electric vehicle doesn’t need a gearbox or CVT casing but does have to provide space for a long flat battery pack, Heinrich opted for a low-slung chassis, with the battery pack, motor and a single-sided rear swingarm with belt drive one behind the other, with the legshield and front cycle parts rising diagonally from the front end, emphasised by the choice of dark silver metallic and semi-matte black finish.
By simply reversing the polarity of the power supply to the motor, a built-in reverse gear is provided.
On top of the box-shape chassis, but separately so that can be adjusted fore and aft as necessary, is a long flat bench seat – so low that you can get on comfortably from either side or even from behind.
The sliding adjustment for the seat does away with the conventional underseat luggage compartment, so instead there’s a remotely operated sliding door in the side of the ‘body box’ to access a storage compartment in the centre section.
The side panels don’t completely enclose the rear of the bike, showcasing the electric motor with its cooling fins, single-sided swing-arm, rear suspension damper and toothed drive belt; instead of storing the bright orange charging cables in the luggage compartment, they’re slotted into a channel running down the side of the body and become a styling statement in their own right.
The side panels and screen are quickly detachable without tools, so you can change the colour scheme or screen height to suit the weather and your route, while the sliding bench can become either a sporty single seat, a roomy double or anything in between.
There’s no instrument panel as such; the important stuff – speed, navigation and battery status, is projected onto the inside of the screen, while everything else comes up on a touchscreen tablet set into the top of the legshield, with a programmable buttons in the handlebar switchgear as well so you can access your most frequently used functions without having to take your hands off the bars.
The possibilities are limitless; Heinrich foresees synching the tablet to your phone and its diary, so that it knows where you have to go, and can plan the most fastest or most scenic route, remind you when it’s time to get moving (making allowance for traffic congestion in real time) and even arrange a playlist of the most suitable music for the ride!
Heinrich has even styled a selection of protective rider gear in water-repellent loden fabric, with discreetly concealed CE armour, to go with the Link, that looks like smart casual streetwear rather than rather than racing leathers or beetle-crushing mudwear.
It also has built-in inductive wiring, so it become a part of the bike’s control system. Wave your right forearm past the right-hand side of the body, for instance, and the door to the storage compartment slides open. Wave it other other way and it closes, totally secure without the need for locks and keys.