It was in the beginning of the 90´s and I was pretty fresh in the Öhlins organisation. I was headhunted from the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Stockholm. After my engineering studies (1972) I decided to stay at the Institute and I worked half time as a teacher in chassis techniques and automotive dynamics and half time as a research engineer with a focus on Anti-Lock braking systems on trucks and cars. After 16 years at the Royal Institute I went to Öhlins and now I have been here for 21 years.
Just two years later yet another enthusiast were recruited to get the 2WD project up and running in full speed. Leif Gustafsson came to Öhlins from the Steering Damper manufacturer Unic.
Throughout the 2WD project there were a few, very important persons that pushed us further. These enthusiasts made it possible to pass barriers and accomplish things that looked really critical at a first glance.
One of these charismatic persons was Bob Trigg, an Englishman who worked for Yamaha Amsterdam as a technical consultant. He once work for Norton/Triumph but spent almost his entire career with the Japanese manufacturer. He picked the first bike to adopt the 2WD system on – a 600cc, 1 cylinder Yamaha produced in Yamahas Italian assembly plant, Belgarda and he was an excellent speaking partner at their Dutch headquarters.
It didn’t take long before the first 2WD system was born inside the Öhlins R&D department. It was a very simple application just to try out the original principles that we stipulated in the very beginning of the project. The hydraulic motor was situated on the front fork leg and it was connected to the front wheel hub via a chain. An identical motor used as a pump was located below the carburettor just above the gear box.
It worked absolutely brilliant from the very start despite the fact that the front fork was a bit weak. We got the necessary go-ahead to proceed with the project!
From there we took a Ténéré that was stronger, heavier and more luxurious than the 600 and we started to focus on a more large-volume production version with an emphasis on the design and over all “look” of the system. This prototype had quite a good looking drum brake like front hub incorporating the motor and reduction gear. We made the system more anonymous and made it blend in with the rest of the engine parts.
All the way through the end of the 90´s into the beginning of 2000 we continued to develop the system each time we got a new model to try the system on.
Yamaha really worked hard to find out just how the 2WD could be used in the vast model programs within the company.
One important focus for us at Öhlins was to find ways to minimize the work when installing and uninstalling the system on a bike. When we started out with the Belgarda made 600 cc bike we needed to install all tricky parts in advance on the bike such as the pump, filters and reservoirs. After that came the hooses and tubes and in the end we filled oil and pressurized it. It didn’t take long before we came up with a “cartridge” kit that made it possible for us to install the complete prefilled system in less than five minutes and uninstall it even faster.