View from the Sidecar
2010 Métisse 8v Mark 5.
2010 Métisse 8v Mark 5
Claimed power: 97hp @ 8,000rpm
Top speed: 120mph (est.)
Engine type: 997cc DOHC air/oil-cooled parallel twin
Weight: 398lb (w/oil, no fuel)
Price: $26,500 (est.)
Availability: Early 2010
A quintessentially English golf club in the rolling Oxfordshire countryside is the unlikely home of a brand new British parallel twin motorcycle, the Métisse 8V Mark 5.
Although the Métisse name is usually associated with offroad competition machines, company founders and brothers Derek and Don Rickman made some exceptional road going bikes in their time. The first street legal Métisse (the name comes from the French word meaning mongrel) was produced in 1966 using a Triumph Bonneville engine. Gerry Lisi, who acquired Métisse from the Rickmans in 1999 and last year released the period-correct Steve McQueen Desert Racer (see the May/June 2009 issue), says he always intended to build road going machines using a contemporary Bonneville engine.
Despite an initial agreement with Triumph, the Hinckley firm decided product liability issues were too great and pulled out of the deal. Not to be thwarted, Lisi set about designing his own engine from the ground up, but still a parallel twin. He launched the project in 2003, employing F1 technology and an engine designer from the car racing world, and first fired up the new engine in 2008. The 997cc 8-valve DOHC twin recorded an impressive 97hp at 8,000rpm on the dyno — without an oil leak in sight and more power to come!
A complete prototype bike is now up and running and undergoing shakedown tests, and it looks like Lisi has achieved his goal. Combining classic style with modern running gear and a very modern engine, he now has a very cool bike that is expected to sell for around £16,000 (about $26,500 at current exchange rates) when the final version is announced.
Lisi deliberately went with an air/oil-cooled engine to maintain a link with the past, but future versions can move to liquid cooling from the basis created with this engine. The barrels actually have a gap between them to aid cooling above the horizontally-split cases.
The cases contain a one-piece billet, 4-bearing crank and twin balance shafts. Arrow steel connecting rods work the oil-cooled pistons, while an 8-valve head tops off the very good looking all-aluminum engine. Twin 42mm throttle bodies and electronics control fuel and ignition, and ensure it will meet current emissions standards.
Currently, a Triumph clutch and transmission transfer power to the rear wheel via a chain on the right side. A new hydraulic clutch has already been sourced, and a Quaife 6-speed gearbox is under development for the second engine, which is currently being readied for testing as development continues.
While the engine may be new, it is mounted in a tried and tested chrome-moly MK V duplex cradle frame with a just a few mods, while the bodywork is classic Métisse offroad apparel. The exhaust has been cleverly routed beneath the single seat and exits up above the license plate like a modern sports bike.
Non-adjustable 41mm Italian Paioli forks support the front end, while modern Falcon twin shocks with just pre-load adjustment take care of the rear suspension. Twin 320mm discs with 4-pot Brembo calipers backed up by a 2-pot 220mm item at the rear provide some serious stopping power.
Spoked wheels for the retro look are shod with aluminum rims wearing modern wide-section rubber to allow the bike’s performance to be used to the full, and a brief spin showed that once under way this bike performs in every department.
Boots can skim the tarmac with consummate ease and the bike holds its line through the bends without any problem, even on bumpy lanes, as one would expect given the machine’s pedigree.
The new engine is perfectly matched to the bike’s character. The exhaust note is terrific, and makes the whole thing feel and sound “proper” — and very British. It pulls like a train through the gears and well past the once magic “ton.” It’s as smooth as a modern four, and my only real gripe is that it needs a sixth gear, but that’s already being addressed.
This is, however, just the prototype, and work is still ongoing until the final specification is decided upon. Lisi says he’d like to have three variants including a touring version (no word yet on what the third version would be), all using the same engine in various stages of tune. Given my brief ride, I can’t wait for the final version and some long days in the saddle!