Lotus C-01: The superbike as sculpture

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Lotus-C-01-frontI’m not a motorcycle fan, have never ridden a motorcycle, and certainly don’t know the intricacies of motorcycle engineering like I do with cars. But when I saw photos of the Lotus C-01, I was instantly smitten to its shiny curves and delicate detailing. That’s what this bike does to people like me.

The C-01 is not actually a Lotus, the famous maker of British sports cars. It’s built by Kodewa, a German racing team that fields the factory-backed Lotus LMP2 prototype car in the FIA World Endurance Championship. This team, comprised of Formula 1 experts, crafted a body out of titanium, aircraft-grade steel and carbon fiber, a combination of very strong and lightweight materials. Designer Daniel Smith even styled the bike to appear like some of the Lotus F1 cars from the 1960s, right down to the green and gold paint (or, if you’re stuck in the 70s, the black and gold from the John Player Special cars).

Onboard is a 1,200-cc V-twin (two-cylinder) motor making 200 horsepower. That’s plenty for a bike that weighs about 400 pounds dry, without fluids. Only 100 will be made for about $134,000 a piece. With those exotic materials, that’s understandable.


But, as I just learned today from motorcycle and classic car journalist Craig Fitzgerald, the Lotus C-01 is not really a superbike. The basic parts, from its rake to its rear suspension, suggests the stance and riding style of a Harley-Davidson cruiser than a down-and-dirty bike built for the track. I didn’t know what rake even was. Now that I do and understand Craig’s detailed explanations, I still don’t care. These bikes are too pretty not to enjoy, even if an off-the-rack Suzuki or Yamaha could outrun and outperform it.

That doesn’t make much sense, does it?

If you consider the impact that good design has on any piece of machinery, it does. Smith, the designer behind Disney’s Tron: Legacy bikes and partially responsible for the Veyron Fbg Par Hermes, a special edition Bugatti I had the luxury of inspecting up close in Geneva back in 2008, has achieved the crossover effect. He has made car enthusiasts lust for a two-wheeler. Numerous examples of design trumping mechanics can be seen across any industry that builds luxury items, such as with Aston Martin. Those cars can be beaten in a straight line by a Corvette, but are they as beautiful, handmade and distinctive? Can’t an Omega tell time as well as a Citizen? Don’t Tom Ford and Old Spice make you smell fresh?

It’s all what you value. For me, on two wheels as well as four, I’m more drawn to style and the way something makes me feel when I’m near it, when I touch it, and most importantly, if it sticks in my mind when I walk away and close the door. That’s the magic I want. Now, I need to take a learner’s course in motorcycles.


Clifford Atiyeh

Clifford Atiyeh

Clifford Atiyeh has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own. Based in Connecticut, he writes for BestRide, Car and Driver, The Boston Globe and other publications.