Are motorbike winglets just a gimmick?

Winglets have been used on MotoGP bikes for a few years now to improved high-speed handling, but are they just a gimmick on street-registered motorcycles?

It’s not just MotoGP bikes that have them, but also Ducati’s Panigale V4, Aprilia’s RSV4 and their upcoming RS660 (pictured).

These all have fixed winglets, but not it seems there is a move to active winglets that automatically deploy at certain speeds like the rear spoilers on some exotic cars that deploy at certain speeds.

Last year Honda applied for a patent for an active aero system that features winglets with servo motors that deploy the winglet at certain speeds to increase downforce.

Honda patents active aero directActive winglets patent

Last month Honda also applied for a patent for an active rear spoiler.

Piaggio gimmick?

Now Piaggio has applied for a patent for active fairing winglets activated by the rider.

The filing drawing features a Piaggio MP3 three-wheeled leaning scooter!

Now surely that’s got to be a gimmick.

GimmickWinglets on a Piaggio MP3 three-wheeled scooter

Or at least it is designed in a vain attempt to disguise their intent to use it on Aprilia MotoGP bikes or production sportsbikes.

After all, the idea is to improve handling at high — and surely illegal — speeds.

However, motorsport technician Jeromy Moore says aerodynamics can have an effect “at any speed depending on the design”.

“You will already feel the drag effect on your body at 60km/h when upright so you can imagine using some of that energy to produce downforce is possible,” he says.

“It’s a small effect at lower speeds but can be quite powerful.

“By having it active you could have a very aggressive winglet that flakes off at higher speed so you can get a benefit at lower speeds.”

So maybe it’s not a gimmick after all, although we don’t see Piaggio using it on a scooter!

But we’re not sure the extra weight of the servo motors and cabling would cancel out the added efficiency of the winglets.

And then there’s the extra expense …


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