It’s intended to help railway workers perform maintenance more efficiently, but will it?
By: Janaki Jitchotvisut
What do railways and motorcycles have in common? Plenty, if artist Heqi Wang has anything to say about it. The Railway Motocycle is her design, and it’s an electric motorbike with a difference: It can ride the rails and the roads. Although it’s just a concept at this point, it’s definitely one that’s worthy of further study. Let’s take a look.
In 2022, railways are interesting to contemplate. For many of us, they’ve just been part of the landscape since before we were born, hauling items and people from one place to the next. They’re good for long hauls and short journeys alike. While they’ve evolved quite a bit over the decades, one thing has remained totally constant: Railways require regular maintenance.
Here’s where the Railway Motocycle concept comes into play. Railway maintenance can be tricky, mainly because accessibility isn’t always easy for workers. However, the Railway Motocycle concept can transform from a road-going electric bike to a rail-riding machine with a few adjustments.
According to the design, the bike makes use of cleverly designed body panels on either side of the middle. The rider can slide them down so they can securely grip a rail. When the rider opens the throttle, they can then ride down the rail, locked on top of it with stability as they go. To be absolutely clear, no details on how the system is stabilized are available at present, as this is just a concept.
Out on the street, of course, the Railway Motocycle is just a uniquely-designed electric motorbike—at least, that seems to be the idea. Power, battery capacity, top speed, and other features aren’t available yet, because this is still only a design concept and not an actual bike.
While it’s a unique and interesting design, and one that seems like it has intriguing potential, we do have some questions. The biggest one is, where is a railway maintenance worker supposed to keep their tools and other equipment? Can the Railway Motocycle tow a little rail-mounted cart behind it to load that stuff into? Some other electric motorbikes are quite good at towing, especially relatively short distances like the RM would most frequently traverse.
Another one is, while the design looks cool on paper and in renderings, how practical is it for an actual human to ride? The ergonomics look somewhat questionable for anyone who doesn’t want to (or can’t) crouch on a motorbike.
Still, the Railway Motocycle is an interesting exercise in connecting our shared future to the present. Using future solutions to solve modern problems and make our collective lives a bit better seems like a worthy and important goal to strive toward.