Michelin’s Patent Could Give Any Motorcycle a Reverse Gear

From quickshifters to lighter wheels, there are plenty of accessories available to motorcycle riders. Some modifications focus on making the bike quicker. But others, like aftermarket mirrors, are about making riding easier, safer, and/or more comfortable. The latest patent from Michelin falls into that vein. But it’s not, as you might expect, some kind of new tire. Instead, Michelin’s patent aims to create a kind of universal motorcycle reverse gear.

Michelin wants to use an electric motor to help motorcycles reverse

The diagram of Michelin's electric reverse motorcycle motor patent
Michelin motorcycle reverse motor patent | WIPO

Technically, the device detailed in the Michelin isn’t a reverse gear added onto a motorcycle transmission, RideApart explains. Instead, it’s essentially an electric motor mounted on the bike’s rear fender or swingarm. However, this hypothetical device essentially functions as a reverse gear.

Whether attached at one end to the fender, mudguard, or swingarm, the other end of Michelin’s device contacts the bike’s rear tire, Autoblog explains. At that end is a friction roller operated by an electric motor powered by a dedicated battery pack. When the rider wants to back up, they flick a handlebar-mounted switch, and the roller slowly turns the rear wheel backward, GearPatrol explains. Thus, you have a motorcycle with a reverse ‘gear.’

The motor Michelin details in its patent isn’t particularly powerful, Hagerty reports. The max torque output is only about 3 lb-ft, and the reversing speed is only 0.6 mph. But that means the 3.6V motor is compact and light, as is the 7.2-Wh battery pack, Motorcycle.com reports.

Plus, although the motor can’t handle more than a 10% grade, it doesn’t just spin in reverse, RideApart reports. Theoretically, it could also let the motorcycle crawl forward independently of the engine. So, Michelin’s patent could be used both as a reverse gear and a kind of hill-crawl/hill-hold assist.

Why don’t more motorcycles have reverse gears?

Theoretically, Michelin’s device could be adapted to any bike on the market. Which, on paper, is helpful, given that fairly few motorcycles offer reverse ‘gears.’

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Admittedly, most motorcycles don’t really need a reverse gear, ZigWheels explains. Most bikes are fairly light and compact, especially compared to cars. Plus, a reverse gear or some sort of electric reverse-assist method makes a motorcycle heavier and more expensive. And while backing up on a motorcycle can be slightly awkward, it’s fairly easy to do while you’re sitting on it, VEHQ reports.

That being said, there are a handful of motorcycles that do offer reverse gears or reverse-assist features. But they’re usually large and heavy touring bikes or cruisers. The Honda Gold Wing, for example, has an optional electronic reverse feature. So does the BMW R 18, though instead of a gear, the reverse-assist feature uses the starter motor, Hagerty explains. However, Ural’s sidecar-equipped motorcycles have an actual reverse gear.

The rear 3/4 view of the black 2021 BMW R18 First Edition
2021 BMW R18 First Edition rear 3/4 | BMW

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Interestingly, the only Harley-Davidsons with reverse are the 3-wheeled trikes, MotorAndWheels reports. And Indian doesn’t offer a reverse gear on any of its cruisers or touring motorcycles. But Can-Am does offer it on its trikes.

Will this idea go into production?

As of this writing, Michelin hasn’t announced if it plans on turning this patent into a full-fledged product. But if it did, the device would likely be a welcome accessory for motorcycle riders, especially newer ones.

The parts of the Motor Trike Harley-Davidson reverse gear kit
Motor Trike Harley-Davidson reverse gear kit | RevZilla

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However, while not many motorcycle companies offer reverse gears, that doesn’t mean you can’t add one to your bike. Several aftermarket companies offer reverse-gear kits, primarily for Harley-Davidson products, RevZilla reports. And theoretically, you could adapt Quaife’s reversing gearbox for motorcycle-engine cars to an actual motorcycle. Installing a kit doesn’t come cheap, though; prices typically range from $1000-$1500.

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