For reasons we can only guess at, the U.S. military has sharply drawn down their use of motorcycles. Might there be an alternative? Georgia-based inventor Andy Keel thinks so.
Way back in the '90s Keel was looking to create an off-road vehicle for his own use, and he wanted to combine his passions of snowboarding and dirt bike riding. After much tinkering he came up with the Motocrossboard, a sort of off-road powered skateboard. It combined the knobby tire style of an off-road motorbike with the leaning carve-abiity of a snowboard. After working out the mechanical issues, Keel had his 74-year-old father—who was not a snowboarder, by the way—try riding the thing. It was so easy to ride that his father picked it up in minutes.
Manufacturing realities being what they are, it took until this year for Keel's Performance Concepts, Inc. to start production on the MXBs. Gasoline-powered models start at $1,799, and they offer an electric version for $2,699. But here's where this ties into the military motorcycles: to demonstrate how the MXB might be used in a military context, Keel put together a homemade pitch reel video, below. He put a paintball-gun-carrying rider--amusingly described as a "215 lb., out-of-shape 40-year-old"—on an MXB and had him zip around the forest, seeing if he could accurately shoot targets from a variety of angles while on-the-move:
Because we don't know why the military has cut back on motorcycles, it's tough to determine what military context a motorcycle might have; but if we assume that there's a patrolling application as shown in this video, Keel's creation demonstrates some obvious design advantages over a motorcycle. The MXBs are a lot lighter, at around 50 pounds, seem they'd be easier to shoot from, and would definitely be easier to jump off of in a hurry. They presumably use a lot less fuel. You could fit a lot more of these in the back of a truck than you could a motorcycle, and the maintenance on the smaller vehicles would presumably be easier.
Any thoughts? We'd be particularly interested to hear from any Core77 readers with direct military experience.