The inspiration for the C-Series actually dates back to Northwest London in the 1960s, where the iconic Ace Café – “the world’s most famous motor café” – was heralded as the birthplace of leather-clad rockers and their “stripped back” café racers.
People would take their Triumphs, Nortons and BSAs and strip them of their mudguards, chain guards, and other unessential features to make them as light as possible. Two of the most famous were the Grand Prix motorcycles of Mike Hailwood and Giacomo Agostini, who everyone remembers from the Isle of Man race in 1967.
The original C-Series was designed in 2016 with several features typical of those early café racers, including a rear cowl, low handlebars, and a body “stripped to the bare necessities”. The starting-point was the unique backbone – arched like the top of a question-mark – which delivered extra room for the battery which is critical for the powerful performance the team aspired to.
Two further editions followed in 2017 and 2018 – presented to great acclaim at the Melbourne Moto Expo – but it wasn’t until 2019 that the team had their “eureka moment” to incorporate the battery pack, motor and motor controller – collectively known as the powertrain – into the frame as the bike’s main structural member. The faux ‘fuel tank’ above would also provide room for additional components required for the bike’s electronics.
By attaching the motor and battery pack to the backbone, and making the swingarm concentric to the motor, the change made the whole machine more integrated and compact. From there it developed into the 2020 pre-production prototype, with an angular bellypan with air vents in the front, which provided greater ground clearance and better lean angles.
The other major change was the single-sided swingarm, cast in aluminium on the left side of the bike, which provides the distinctive ‘floating wheel’ design associated with classic endurance racers – and allows for much simpler and faster wheel changes.