This Elaborate Sim Rig Will Make You Feel Like a MotoGP Rider
It's time to finally let you in on what r/simracing has been fawning over for months now
Ladies and gentlemen of DriveTribe, I present you the MotoTrainer, probably the most complex sort of sim rig you can find and buy right now, largely because you can actually use your own bike on it. Oh, and it can let you experience what Marc Marquez, Valentino Rossi and other MotoGP riders do on a given weekend. Somewhat.
It may be novel to most of you, but this isn't new to me at all, mostly because I've seen something like this on Reddit before.
u/iMachinist7 on Reddit put up a post nine months ago on r/Simracing about his concept to make a fully-rigged simulator that runs an Xbox version of Milestone's MotoGP '20 game with his actual Ducati Panigale superbike. It's wild, but it works, thanks to an Arduino-based link between the bike, an Xbox Adaptive controller, and the game itself.
This means that there are no "button" or "stick" inputs here. Instead, the in-game bike moves by making the bike actually work. So when you turn, you lean the actual bike and pull it up as you exit, while the brakes, gearbox and throttle on the real bike transmit the inputs made on the bike to the game itself. It's amazing to see it in action, but is a complicated thing to set up, as shown here.
Eventually, he managed to grab wireless sensors and make it work to ensure some cleanliness and ease of setup, making for quite a stupendous result indeed. And the reception in general is pretty encouraging, as iMachinist has showed off a novel change of pace to the usual 4-wheel sim-racing content out there. He's also documented the whole process well enough that I reckon a superbike owner can easily replicate the setup at their home, too.
MotoTrainer, on the other hand, is a completely different animal. Similar to full-motion sim rigs for cars, the Italian-made bike rig does about the same thing, but using actual onboard footage capture and special software that can analyze you "by monitoring the accelerator, front and rear brakes, gearbox and trajectories" for rider training, or can link up to either an Xbox or PC for game capture. A rider can lean up to 50 degrees (!) with this rig, which is ten fewer than the most severe angles riders take in MotoGP today but still is pretty absurd.
Here's WSBK great Jonathan Rea trying it on with a Kawasaki ZX10RR:
The most fun part about the entire thing is that three months ago, MotoTrainer caught wind of iMachinist's home-made setup and hooked him up with a unit that he got to link up with the Panigale setup. A month later, extra progress proved that the rig works, but both threads also shed light on what it truly takes to simulate motorcycles at the same level as cars today.
Key to this disparity is simply the raw sensation: while a car-based motion rig can reasonably approximate a cockpit's movement, bikes are wilder things, with every part of the bike contributing directly to how it moves in and out of corners. Lean angles aren't everything -- the MotoTrainer doesn't have a rolling road and won't allow you to turn the bike on for real (for obvious safety reasons), meaning you don't feel every vibration, even with the force feedback on the fork. It's why the struggle to create a motorcycling game that's more akin to iRacing than what we have today is immensely more difficult: unlike a wheel and pedal box, there's no real replacement for being on a bike, and no amount of gamepad optimizations can ever surmount that.
Does this mean that MotoTrainer is pointless, then? At €5,000 for the base version and €14,000 for the more advanced one that is co-developed with Dorna Sports, the MotoGP promoter, it looks like a less compelling option compared to just buying a winter-ready bike like a Ducati Scrambler or a supermoto, but I reckon I can see some use-cases for these that make sense. Racing teams, for one, can maximize a rig like this so riders can learn a track and pick it apart, while riding schools and rental companies can take a similar approach before they let learners loose on a real one.
Admittedly, I find the home-made rig more impressive than something store-bought, but it's cool to see that there are people who are willing to go this far. Besides, it's not like the sim-rig supplants the real thing -- in both cases, the bike needs to be there anyway, so it's just a matter of decoupling everything and setting off for real whenever. So as a supplement to your superbike, I reckon a trainer like this can work for you.
Additional reporting from TopGear.com