Motorcycle dynamics Seminar

Motorcycle dynamics Seminar

Most motorcyclists from road riders up through racers and on to race mechanics and engineers find it difficult to get reliable information to help understand why motorcycles behave as they do. Riders, both road and racing, want to understand more to help their riding technique. Engineers need the knowledge to help set-up winning motorcycles. As bikes become more technically sophisticated there is an increasing need for such education. The seminar addresses that need.

Click for Planned seminars    List of topics.   Participant reviews

The seminars

To help solve this problem, at least for the seminar audiences, Tony Foale has called on his 50+ years of experience, riding, racing, building and studying motorcycle behaviour to design a series of seminars on motorcycle dynamics. These seminars explain how tyres work, how we balance and corner, what stops us cornering faster, suspension, steering geometry, squat, braking, stability and much more. The duration can be adjusted to suit the needs of a particular group and would generally be from one to three days.

Who should attend these seminars?

Anyone wanting to improve their knowledge of motorcycle behaviour.

Road riders


Race mechanics

Suspension tuners




Learn stuff that you didn’t dare ask about before.

Although it is the mechanisms, of why a motorcycle does what it does, that form the bulk of the course content, ordinary road riders comment that their acquired knowledge and understanding helps a lot with their daily riding techniques. Engineers are usually focussed on their speciality and therefore can benefit from gaining a greater overview, helping to hi-lite how their part integrates with the whole.


The detail content can be adjusted to suit the needs of any audience and would vary depending on the course duration. Two days is the length of most courses given.

The content is presented with the aid of hundreds of Power Point slides and other props. The presentation style is non-mathematical, Tony has an ability to explain complex physics in everyday terms, making the content suitable for all levels of participant.

Back to top

When and where
This is just a provisional list of some public ones in the pipeline. Watch this space as there are several more in planning.

None definite at the moment but possibly Sweden in late June

Watch this space. There will be more coming.

Please contact for more details of upcoming events in 2018

Back to top

Do you want to organize a seminar?

Seminars can be booked by companies, motorcycle clubs, colleges, riding schools or any interested group.

Contact Tony Foale at 

Back to top


The following is a sample list of topics, for a 2 day seminar. This is not cast in stone and can be varied to suit the needs of the audience.

First Day 
Morning session.

· Welcome
· Outline of the seminar content.

Tyre characteristics, suspension and offshoots
· Basic construction.
· Differences between radial and cross ply.
· Why radials have lower profiles
· Some reasons why we need tyres.
· Tyre is NOT a gas spring. Force/deflection curve is basically linear.
· Suspension action of pneumatic tyre.
· Weight support. – how?.
· Optimum conditions for maximum traction.
· Tyre hop and damping.
· Suspension settings and differences between optimum for comfort and performance
· Contact area – variation with load.
· Some geometric effects of tyre width.
· Sidebar on basic bike geometry – rake and trail, as a lead-in to:
· Pneumatic trail.
· Mechanisms of tyre friction.
· General shape of force vs. slip curve.
· Driving and braking slip.
· Steering slip – slip angle.
· Camber force.
· Concept of steering and camber stiffness.
· Combinations of steering and camber forces.
· Required steering angles at given cornering speeds.
· Friction ellipse.
· Drifting and throttle steering.
· How tyre characteristics provide limit feel.
· Variation of grip with vertical load.
· Under/over-steering from tyre view point.
· Under/over-steering from steering and stability view point.

Afternoon session.

Balance and steering
· Some basics; momentum, centrifugal force.
· Gyroscopic tutorial and demo.
· Gyroscopic reactions important but NOT in the way that many people think.
· Free body motion, when a force applied.
· Balance – requirement that CoG is above line joining the contact patches.
· Basic balance of forces during cornering.
· Relationship between cornering G and lean angle.
· Turn radii at different speeds.
· Principles of lean-in.
· Basics of counter-steering – not an option, whether conscious or not. · Counter steering and body steering.
· Dividing the lean-in process into components. · Gyro only.
· Gyro + camber force.
· Gyro + full tyre forces.
· Full tyre forces – no gyro.
· Body lean only.
· The real story of body movement and things like “peg weighting”
· Two aspects of counter-steer – force and angle.
· Effects of tyre width on static steering torque etc.
· Factors that influence lean-in performance.
· Wheel and tyre Moment of Inertia.
· Trail.
· CoG height.
· Mass centralization. .
· Ultimate limit on lean-in performance.
· Load reduction on tyres during initial part of lean in.

Second day.

Motorcycle suspension

· Why do we need suspension?
· Many conflicting requirements of motor cycle suspension.
· Some historical examples.
· What makes a good suspension?

· Suspension components – springs, dampers, linkages etc.
· Different types of suspension systems.
· Spring and wheel rates, sag, pre-load
· Wheel and spring forces.
· Stored energy in spring.
· Progressive vs. linear.
· Multi-rate springs.
· Gas springs.
· Characteristics of different suspension designs.
· Advantages and disadvantages of linkage systems over traditional twin shocks.
· Angled shocks, forward mounted shocks.
· Different types of linkage systems.
· Some myths. Honda Unit Pro-link and Yamaha cantilever.
· Criteria for comparing different designs.
· The importance of the tyre as a suspension element.

· Different characteristics needed for different jobs.
· Requirements for comfort.
· Requirements for traction.
· Requirements for impacts and jumps.
· Damping – what is it? – why do we need it?
· Friction and stiction damping.
· Tyre damping.
· Viscous damping.
· Damping methods.
· Bump damping.
· Rebound damping.
· Damper components – valves, shim stacks.
· Separation of oil and gas – reservoirs, pressurization etc.
· Damper adjustments.
· High and low speed damping.
· Bump response of different damping settings.
· Suspension models.
· Suspension frequencies – there are many.
· Tyre hop and damping.
· Sprung and unsprung mass.
· Front and rear coupling — Inter-dependence of front and rear settings.
· Wheel base effects.
· Suspension settings and differences between optimum for comfort, impact and performance.
· Lateral suspension.
· Effects of frame flex.


Depending on the audience the above could easily fill the two days, but if things move along quicker than expected, then some of the following topics could also be covered.

Geometry and layout

· Basic steering geometry.
· Effects of rake and trail.
· Wheelbase.
· CoG location.
· Mass centralization.

Squat and dive

· Some basics.
· Driving and braking forces.
· Effects of load transfer.

· Chain and swing-arm forces.
· Effects of sprocket sizes.
· Effects of sprocket location.
· Effects of swing-arm angle.
· Adjustment possibilities.
· Add-on gadgets for squat control.
· Alternative systems for squat control.
· Variation with suspension movement.
· Influence on traction and maximum acceleration.

Rear braking
· Wheel hop.
· Floating brake mounting.
· Myth of pulling bike toward ground.

Front braking
· Two reasons for dive – Load transfer and rake angle.
· Benefits and disadvantages of dive.
· Anti-dive systems.
· Unusual effects of front wheel braking.
· Wheel locking.

Combined dynamic effects
· Two wheel braking.
· Dynamic effects of preload
· Transient wheelies.
· Transient stoppies.

Back to top

Read comments by previous participants.

Chris Lessing. (GP suspension engineer.)
Thank you for an informative seminar which I would recommend to anybody irrespective of which level they are at. I will definitely attend more in the future and with different topics offered at the previous seminar which I missed I would like to catch up on this information. Having a lot of experience with suspension and set up at World Championship Factory Team level, I still felt my understanding of the motorcycle in general for set up improved and I am sure I will benefit in the future at the race track. Thank you for sharing your knowledge.

Paul Brisker.
Great job with the seminar – I really enjoyed it.

Andy Shawyer. (Showa R&D)
Thanks for the seminar. I thought it was a very valuable lesson, even for us suspension makers. It is good to get a good understanding of the whole system.

Nelson Williams. (Riding coach trainer)
Thank you for a great clinic! It answered many questions I had concerning my favourite vehicle. I am looking forward to reading your book, and getting a chance to experiment with the software.

Clark Winn. (Ex. Indian engineer)
I greatly enjoyed the Redwood City seminar. Now that I’ve seen you working proofs, I can better understand your book. Fascinating stuff. Although the engineering part was what we came for, I got a kick out of your comments about your personal experiences & projects. I also thought the comparisons between familiar designs & your proofs was fun. It makes me wonder how much of the peculiar design choices are due to lack of understanding & copying, & how much are due to staying with the familiar & “it works, even though we don’t know why”.
Thanks for the seminar.

Jens Ploughmann
I want to thank you for an excellent seminar. It must have been really good, because after the drive home to Arizona, I have more questions than ever. Now the book and your CD of the class slides will come in handy.
I am amazed by how much information transfers from cars to bikes. All the rocker arm info is very applicable, and your layout of the turn-in sequence on tire slip angle made it all clear. Now at least I will have a clear understanding of why I fell down!

Bruce McNally (Accident reconstructor)
It was a pleasure to meet you at the seminar. I found a lot of the information useful and your explanation of the concepts to be tremendous.

Jim Montgomery
Thanks for the great overview of bike suspensions.

Marc Perez
I just attended the NYC seminar and it was outstanding. Tony has a quick wit and a keen ability to explain complicated physics with practical racing applications to non-intellectuals such as myself.

Charles Everitt (Moto Journalist)
I did enjoy your seminar immensely. The sheer amount and depth of information gives me plenty to chew on for some time.

Gary Grossman (Grossman Engineering, Inc.)
I attended your recent seminar in Los Angeles, and really enjoyed it. (I was there with Eric Anderfaas and others from the Rod Millen Group.) I’m a mechanical engineer in the automotive field, doing mostly composites and chassis engineering for racing and prototype cars. I have a fair background in vehicle dynamics and suspension design for automobiles. My objective for attending your seminar was to extend that knowledge into the motorcycle arena, and to get inspired to generate some ideas for motorcycle design & build projects.
The presentation was very well organized and presented. The presentation graphics were clear and nicely done. Mixing in some humor and anecdotes certainly helped to balance out some of the drier material. The Pro-Link critical analysis was interesting and useful.

Jerry Wills
The seminar filled in the gaps between 4 and 2 wheel vehicles, along with the coupling that short wheelbase and high CG’s create, but its all a compromise, when it comes to vehicles.

Michael Lyon
I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your Seminar I attended on Nov. 22-23 in LA. Being a mechanical engineer I learned a great deal from you, your book and I am hoping to optimize some improvements for my race bike using your software. Thank you very much!

Back to top

Magazine article

Tony Foale Chassis Seminar.

Do you know how a motorcycle works? I mean, how it really works? Many of us know enough to service a bike and fix minor faults, but how often do we pause to wonder what went through the minds of the designers and engineers who conceived our favorite machines? Day in and day out, we turn the key, push the button and off we go. Occasionally we’ll fool around with the suspension settings or try different tires, but most of us really don’t have a clue what we’re doing. We know terms like ‘Rake’, ‘Trail’ and ‘Castor’, but do we actually understand what they mean, and how they affect our every day riding? Fortunately, most of the time we don’t have to. The manufacturers have it all sorted out for us, and all we have to do is go out and enjoy the results of their research and development.
A modern motorcycle is a very complex device, capable of almost insane levels of performance with minimal structure. We take for granted todays modern high performance motorcycles with 120-plus horsepower, driving upwards of 600lbs (including rider) reliably to speeds well in excess of 150 mph, all for less than $10,000. For those of us who started riding before the 1980’s, modern bikes are truly miraculous. Sometimes I wonder how it happened, how the ultimate performance parameters have been pushed from Bonneville to Ninja in such a short time. After a quarter century of riding, I thought I had a pretty fair idea of how it all worked. But the truth is I know very little about the science of the motorcycle.
Tony Foale, on the other hand, knows a lot, and I mean a huge amount. Fortunately for us he’s not afraid to share his knowledge. For $250 you can attend one of his intensive weekend seminars, like the one hosted in New York by Team Incomplete, a motley collection of racers and enthusiasts, last November. It was money well spent as for two days we studied the physics and dynamics of the performance motorcycle chassis. At the end of it, even though my brain throbbed, I knew a little more, was a little wiser, and was in greater awe of the technology we so casually take for granted.
Tony Foale is an engineer, researcher, inventor and motorcycle analyst. Originally from Australia, he moved to England in the early 1970’s to race at the Isle of Man TT. He started tinkering and building his own chassis. He must have been doing something right, as he was soon building chassis for other racers too. When a chassis he built to harness the awesome power of the then new Yamaha TZ750 won the British Championship without losing a race, he was in business. Later, he turned his skills to making one-off kits for streetbikes, and dabbling in what he dubs ‘FFE’ or Funny Front Ends, alternatives to the now near-universal telescopic fork. FFE’s include hub center steering, leading link forks, dual-wishbone ‘Hossack’ and single wishbone ‘telelever’ style front ends.
His most radical design, commissioned by a magazine in the mid 1980’s, was the QL (Quantum Leap), an unusual looking, but extremely functional bike built around a BMW 1000 engine, that he still owns today. He has also built frames for many other motors, including a Moto Guzzi V-twin quite similar to the one used by the factory today.
In 1987 Tony moved to Spain and published his seminal work Motorcycle Chassis Design: the theory and the practice. It was recently revised, expanded and reprinted, and no motorcycle engineer worth his or her salt should be without it. Today he works as a consultant to both car and motorcycle race teams.
His seminar draws heavily on all this experience and the book is included in the price, along with PC software for analyzing suspension dynamics. Using graphs, simulations and drawings, Tony talks at great length about how compromised motorcycle design is, and what the chassis constructor can do about it. Unlike a car, which is large, heavy and has two extra wheels to hold it up, a motorcycle is a very compact machine that steers not by turning the wheels, but by leaning from side to side. It’s also so short that whatever effects the front wheel will effect the rear, and vice versa. The center of gravity is constantly moving as the rider shifts around on the bike, and the whole dynamic can be easily upset by adding things like luggage, a passenger, or running on worn tires, or mal-adjusted suspension components, or countless combinations of these and other factors. Therefore the motorcycle designer has to weigh suspension and tire performance parameters very carefully early in the design process. On the race track, the smallest set-up mistake can cost anything from a few thousandths of a second at the finish line, the difference between winning and runner-up, to the destruction of machine and rider.
Tony makes his life out of gathering and analyzing data. For instance, he described a machine he built that measures how tire contact patches change under different loads and at different lean angles. His pragmatic methodology is reassuring as he discusses the problems of making a motorcycle work properly without being dangerous to the rider, balancing cornering speeds, traction, comfort and, that most elusive quality, feel. He is not so divorced from the subject that he fails to realize the importance of the rider, and what works for one riding style may not work for another. But ultimately, what impressed me the most was how interdependent the basic chassis elements (tires, suspension, wheels and frame) are to each other, and how much research must go into their design to make them work as well as they do.
This is not a course for beginners. In the audience was Chris Cosentino ( who is collaborating with Tony to build a single cylinder race bike that he’s successfully campaigning in amateur events on the East coast. Many of the other attendees already work as engineers or constructors, and were looking for inspiration for their own projects. Racers, Accident Research Specialists and even a bicycle frame designer were there to increase their knowledge about two-wheeled dynamics, along with enthusiasts hungry for more knowledge to help their bench racing exploits.
If your idea of motorcycle engineering is watching TV shows about custom choppers that look good but have handling characteristics little better than the Titanic, then a Tony Foale seminar is probably not worth wasting your time with. But if you want an in depth understanding of how a sporting motorcycle really works, plus a hint of what top-level race teams go through to make a bike and rider a competitive force, then it’s worth every penny. Unfortunately it’s not what’s on the Discovery channel tonight.

Nicolas O. Simon

Back to top

Sign up for update emails from Motochassis

We will never share your data.
* = required field

powered by MailChimp!