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Midual Type 1 €140,000 | 1036cc | 4-stroke flat-twin | 107bhp @ 7800rpm | 72.3lb-ft @ 6000rpm

Tested by: Alan Cathcart Photos: Kel Edge

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It’s increasingly difficult to dream up any new way of building a four-stroke motorcycle engine – with Honda’s MotoGP world title-winning V5 RC211V being the last notable such example over a decade ago – but now French engineer Olivier Midy has come up with something almost as innovative: his flat-twin Midual Type 1 roadster.

 

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Olivier Midy talks to Alan Cathcart

Olivier Midy talks to Alan Cathcart

Tell me about the engine

All 520 component parts were designed by Midy himself. The 1036cc Midual engine is a Dual Over Head Cam eight-valve flat-twin with vertically-split crankcases, whose cylinders being tilted forward by 25º provide space for the six-speed transmission to be mounted beneath the rear pot, combined with an oil-bath ramp-style slipper clutch, and straight-cut primary gears. Midy holds five global patents relating to its design and it accounts for 15,000 hours of collective work by Midual’s eight-person team – including his wife and brother.

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The one-piece 180-degree plain-bearing crankshaft runs on central plain main bearings and two outer ball bearings, with its steel conrods carrying three-ring forged pistons delivering a 12:1 compression ratio. A layshaft is mounted above the crank and driven directly off it, which in turn actuates the rear of the two high-pressure trochoidal oil pumps, whose pinion then drives its forward companion. That layshaft also drives the two camchains operating the twin overhead camshafts per cylinder, fitted with hydraulic tensioners. These operate the four valves per cylinder – twin 36mm inlets set at a 21.5º included angle to the 31mm exhausts – via cylindrical tappets.

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Twin 54mm Magneti Marelli throttle bodies each incorporate a single 12-hole Marelli injector positioned south of the butterfly, although the engine management system’s ECU isn’t one of theirs, but a Walbro specially developed for Midual. The twin separate stainless steel exhausts incorporate a balance pipe joining them beneath the engine, and each contains a catalyst inside the silencer, as well as a single lambda probe.

The Midual has been homologated for the street in France as Euro 3 compliant, and Midy is confident of meeting Euro 4 requirements in due course. The engine produces 107bhp at 7,800 rpm at the crank, with maximum torque of 72.3lb-ft at 6,000 rpm.

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What’s the chassis like?

An immensely stiff cast aluminium double-wall monocoque frame sourced from an 84kg raw casting which has been five-axis machined and manually polished down to the finished product weighing 24kg. It’s the subject of two further patents and 7000 hours of development work that takes hundreds of hours to craft. It incorporates the integral 14-litre fuel tank, so it’s a true monocoque.

The monocoque also incorporates the subframe for the dual seat, as well as ducts leading to the airbox feeding the twin throttle bodies, and it carries the Midual’s flat-twin engine as a semi-stressed member via twin boomerang-shaped cast aluminum spars. These support the radiator mounted above the front cylinder, thereby helping hold down the wheelbase to 1500mm, and at the bottom contain the pivot point for the cast aluminium cantilever swingarm. This operates the fully adjustable Öhlins TTX36 monoshock directly, without a link, with the shock’s upper pivot incorporated in the monocoque frame casting. This also includes the steering head, where angle may be varied by half a degree either side of the default 24.5º rake, with 100mm of trail.

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The 17-inch Akront aluminium wire-wheel rims (cast wheels are one of the many options – each bike is essentially built to order) carry Michelin Pilot Road 2 tyres. The design of the Spanish rims mean there’s no need for inner tubes. Twin 320mm Brembo floating front discs are gripped by four-piston four-pad Brembo Monobloc radial calipers, while there’s a fixed 245mm rear disc with two-piston caliper.

The Midual’s 239kg wet weight is split 49/51 % for a slight rearwards weight bias which will enhance traction – there’s no traction control, nor any other electronic riding aids. The fuel tank is centralised in the wheelbase, so there’s no change in the weight distribution or in the dynamics of the bike when the fuel level decreases.

The speedometer is in front of the one-piece taper-section handlebar mounted on 35mm risers which is made right next door to the Midual factory in Angers, by Neken, who make handlebars for BMW too. All other components of the dashboard are mounted in the upper face of the monocoque chassis, with the large tacho flanked by six smaller round dials, three each side – a clock, oil temp and oil pressure gauges on the left, and fuel, water temp and voltmeter on the right, with a quartet of warning lights in the centre, above the large red starter button.

Both the handlebar-mounted metal control units are made in-house by Midual. Out of the 1,550 components in this entire bike, only one is plastic and that’s the numberplate. There are the old-style BMW indicator buttons so you must push the button on the right to turn right, then press it again to stop it flashing, and the same thing on the left to turn left. You wouldn’t guess that Midy has been riding BMW Boxer twins for the past 20 years, would you?

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Should I buy one?

€140,000 may not be in everyone’s price range – and Olivier knows this: “I’ve always been interested in fine watches – even if I don’t have the money to buy any! – and it seemed to me that our best chance of finding a place for the Midual was to build an extremely high quality product that appealed to the same kind of connoisseurs who buy such watches – people who appreciate mechanical objets d’art as much for the beauty of their design and creation, and their complex, unique mechanical specification, as for their undoubtedly excellent dynamic function. So that’s our strategy for producing the Midual, and I’m very confident that we’ve chosen the right path.”

Midy already has orders for two bikes under deposit – even before its official launch.

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So what’s it like to ride?

Leading up to its Californian debut, I’ve twice visited the Midual factory – I first tested the development prototype and on a return visit, the first of the two pre-production bikes.

The beautifully upholstered 810mm high seat is a good place to spend a full day riding hard and fast, with the relatively low footrests delivering a comfortable stance, although your knees are slightly more splayed than would be ideal, because of the need to find extra space in the monocoque’s fuel tank.

The whole aura of the bike is exclusive and upmarket. Fit and finish is superlative, with every single component exquisitely made – I’ve never ridden anything before that simply reeked of exclusivity as much as this bike.

I personally didn’t like the semi-cruiseresque handlebar – I’d like something narrower that’s more pulled back, so I don’t have to lean as far forward with my arms out wide. However, with the handlebar manufacturer across the street, Midy can give each customer whatever they want. It’s a bespoke bike.

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It has a completely unique engine character, with absolutely no vibration down low and in midrange, while the unique exhaust note takes care of stirring the senses. It builds power smoothly yet strongly and not far from the 1300rpm idle speed, allowing you to cut down on gear-changing – you can ride through town at 30 mph in top gear, and the Midual will pull away smoothly with zero transmission snatch when you wind it open. The broad spread of torque makes this an enjoyable and satisfying real world ride, plus the Walbro ECU is well mapped, with no snatch off a closed throttle.

The gearbox’s shift action is light but positive, and the best I ever encountered riding a Boxer twin. The clutch was very heavy on the brand-new show bike I rode, whereas on the prototype it had been acceptably light. A faulty selector spring had been the reason it was also hard to find neutral with a hot engine, a new Italian clutch cable was fitted to give a smoother and lighter action. Things like this underline that I was riding pre-production prototypes which are still work in progress…

The handling is outstanding – it’s one of the most neutral-steering bikes I’ve ever ridden. While you have a single crankshaft rotating crosswise in the frame, it’s powering twin horizontally-opposed pistons, the dynamics of whose operation all but cancel each other out in terms of their effect on the handling, leaving just the minimal effect of the very narrow forwards-rotating crankshaft. So, blip the Midual’s throttle at rest, and the bike doesn’t rock’n’roll fore and aft beneath you. Out on the road this makes for an ideally balanced engine package. The low-down centre of gravity occasioned by the distinctive engine layout means it rides bumps very well at speed – I found a great fourth gear sweeper with some wicked bumps right on the apex, and took several runs at it cranked right over, without once managing to get the Midual shaking its head. The Öhlins suspension is just icing on the cake, of course, ditto the Brembo brakes which haul the bike down hard from high speed, aided by the nicely dialed in slipper clutch – though I found it best to blip the throttle for downshifts to get a smooth change, sometimes just to hear that sweet exhaust sing a little harder…

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There’s still one important issue that Olivier Midy and his team must address and are aware of – the engine vibration that cuts in at higher revs, which can spoil your enjoyment of the bike. On the prototype it started at 6000 rpm, as if someone had flicked on the vibrator switch. It lasted until 7400 rpm, when it began diminishing. On the new show bike the boys had succeeded in diminishing it, without removing it altogether – now it kicks in at 6800 rpm and lasts for 600-900 revs before gradually going away.

It’s hard not to stand in awe of what Olivier and his team have achieved. In theory, such an exploit as developing a completely new engine of any kind – let alone a one-litre twin as individual as this – should be out of reach of such a small company with minimal resources. It takes a rare commitment to investing twenty years of your life in working on developing and building your own completely new vision of what a motorcycle should be, but Olivier Midy is such a man, and the Midual the result.

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TECH SPEC

Price: €140,000 starting price (around £112,000)

Engine: Water-cooled, eight-valve, 180° flat-twin four-stroke 1036cc

Power: 107bhp (79.8kW) @ 7800rpm

Torque: 72.3lb-ft (98Nm) @ 6000rpm

Wet Weight: 239kg

Seat height: 810mm

Tank size: 14 litres

Contact: www.midual.com

 

 

Tony Carter

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