KTM's Race Team Manager Kurt Nicoll recently tested a two-wheel drive system during the world famous Erzberg Rally in Austria and came away from the experience very impressed.According to project leader and KTM Chief Technical Designer, Wolfgang Felber, "We're testing a mechanical hydraulic system with a pre-set torque distribution between the front and rear wheel. The system is fairly well developed, but it can be improved upon. Overall, KTM wants to be at the forefront of testing the suitability of two-wheel drive systems under all conditions."In commenting on the possibility of future serial production, Felber said, "At the moment, the advantages versus disadvantage of two wheel drive compared to conventional drive pretty much balance each other out. Only after further testing will a decision be made to produce a limited series."Kurt Nicoll, KTM Race Team Manager on racing the two-wheel drive bike:What is your experience with 2-wheel drive? What are the differences?
When you ride with the 2-wheel drive system, you notice that it's so much better when accelerating out of corners. With two driven wheels it's more difficult to take the inner line around a curve. Therefore you usually take the outer line, as when both wheels are powered, the bike tends to want to straighten itself. You also feel the improved acceleration in the upper body, arms and shoulders. When you are riding very slowly, for example at the Erzberg, where it's seriously up and down over rough ground, the rear wheel often breaks traction and spins - but not with the 2-wheel drive, which keeps on pulling with the front wheel. This way you can accelerate in situations where others are already bogged down. Those are what I think the major differences are.Do you think it's only something for competition riders or can your average rider also benefit from it?
I think that the system has advantages particularly for the hobby rider. The advantages for competition riders will be less, as they mostly have a very good feel for traction - moreover they're already used to steering the bike with a slipping rear wheel. But if someone has problems with steep climbs or often gets bogged down, then I think 2-wheel drive will yield great rewards.Does it only have advantages when off-road, in sand or mud, or also on hard surfaces when it's wet?
It can safely be said that 2-wheel drive helps more on a wet surface than a dry one. When it's dry, the rear wheel hardly ever spins, but when it's wet it does so continuously. With 2-wheel drive one simply twists the throttle and the bike accelerates because the power is distributed to both wheels. When it's wet, and it doesn't matter whether it's wet sand or asphalt, 2-wheel drive makes riding much easier.Is it a similar leap forward to that of the Quattro 20 years ago?
Yes, it's very similar. At the moment we're just at the beginning of it's development. The problem that we're working on is perhaps the same one that 4WD cars had 20 years ago: the system is heavy! We must get the weight down (currently approx. 6 kg). When we've managed to do that, so that it only adds a couple of additional kilos, then it has the potential to trigger a similar revolution to that of the Quattro.What about riding technique? Doesn't one have to totally alter it?
It is necessary to alter your riding style a little. You must get used to the fact that the front wheel is also always driving, that you should always take a wider curve radius, and that you'll be amazed when the front wheel pulls you out of a rocky section. You have to get a little used to the feeling, and this doesn't come straight away, especially when you've been riding a conventionally driven motorcycle for the last 25 years.