Shôtarô Kaneda’s Motorcycle, For Real

For fans of the iconic anime Akira, there’s only one way to traverse the mean streets of post-apocalyptic neo-Tokyo, and that’s the futuristic mount of motorcycle gang leader Shôtarô Kaneda. It’s a low-down feet-forward machine with, we’re told, “Ceramic double-rotor two-wheel drive,” which we’re guessing is some kind of hybrid electric drive with what sounds like a gas-turbine motor. Over the years, there have been a few different attempts to create a real version of Kaneda’s bike, and we’re pleased to see the latest from ヲタ工房「ポンちゃンネル」(Ota Kobo “Ponchanner”). It uses a twin-cylinder Kawasaki motor in an entirely custom-made frame, with dual single-sided swingarms front and rear and hub-centre steering.

The full build in the video below the break is pretty long but well worth a watch, and it includes a lot of very highly skilled metalwork. It’s an interesting choice not to attempt to make a direct replica of Kaneda’s bike. Still, we think some of the differences are dictated by this being very much a roadworthy and everyday-rideable machine.

As is usually the case with these builds, as far as we can see, it has two chains and a rotor somewhere under the seat to get the drive under the rider. To replicate the original’s steering action, there’s a complex linkage at the front. The body panels are fabricated in stainless steel to a very high standard, and we particularly like the pop-out centre stand.

We’ve hoped for years that the arrival of hub-centre electric motors with useful quantities of power will revitalise the narrow field of Kaneda bike builds, and indeed, there seems to be someone building just that for sale. Meanwhile, we think this one is about the pinnacle of the art when it comes to internal combustion models. It seems attendees of a Japanese motorcycle show agree with us.

If you don’t know the original bike, this video should educate you. Once you build this, you only need an anime holographic assistant. If you prefer your motorcycles more old-school, that’s another possible build.

25 thoughts on “Shôtarô Kaneda’s Motorcycle, For Real

    1. You don’t (and can’t) physically turn the triple-tree at speed in order to steer a motorcycle. Look up countersteering if you want to learn more. The limited turning would be annoying while trying to park, but wouldn’t affect maneuvering in general. Centrifugal forces mean that if you try to rotate the steering column on its vertical axis, you end up leaning the bike on its front/rear axis instead. Which is how it maneuvers anyway, so this is useful. But no matter how much muscle you have, you won’t be turning the wheel much.

      That said, I wonder what kind of rake and trail this machine gets, and if the guy sorted out exactly how to calculate it with that strange steering geometry.

  1. I didn’t expect to find a future-past motorcycle project on Hackaday, and I’m delighted to have my expectations challenged.

    More please, especially motorcycles.

    (Also, separately, if you love bikes of the motorcycle kind and their various why’s and wherefores, you owe it to yourselves to read Kevin Cameron at Cycle World [ ]. He draws connections across different eras and machines and technologies like no one I’ve ever read).

  2. Nice. But reimagining a motor cycle is hard. Reimagining anything that is so circumbscribed in its packaging (two wheels, one after another, rider in the middle, front wheel steers, rear wheel
    powers) is tough. This is pretty good reimagining.

    1. Yeah, people try to reinvent various aspects of the motorbike (esp. front suspension) every now and then, but it’s a very old and well-optimized form, so getting in there and making your mark is difficult.

  3. I actually tried to build one of these things about 20 years ago. Hub centre steering was ok and this design looks pretty good. The thing that always blocked the project right at the design stage was the rear wheel drive train. Back then the options were either shaft or double chain and neither were acceptable. These days, the rear wheel on this type of design should be electrically powered IMO, which solves the main problem very nicely.

      1. I always figured that the front and rear wheels of Kaneda’s motorbike were some sort of electric hub-motors. There’s a scene late in the movie where the front wheel is a bit damaged and it’s arc and sparking, with another scene indicating the bike is a hybrid drivetrain design by having the petrol (?) powered generator charging-up the laser rifle.

  4. Very impressive. I’ll take a few compromises on copying the exact look if it makes the bike more functional. The anime implies Kaneda had a bit of difficulty controlling the original, if you watch closely.

  5. I used to live in Japan. I can’t imagine the hoops that guy had to jump through to get that thing licensed to operate on the streets. That was probably the most difficult part of the project. Kudos!

  6. I saw no evidence of an electric hub-motor on the front wheel and it looks like the too-low headlight would be obscured by the front fender/wheel. Still, very cool and amazing design.

  7. It is nice to see a bike oriented article, especially such a great looking one. Reminds me of Back Street Heroes, a mag I’m happy to say is still going, and which filled many a spare hour in the 80s for me.

  8. That is one very nice looking bike, and a very good interpretation of Kaneda’s from the movie.
    Akira is probably my all-time favourite Manga. It’s iconic, especially that bike.
    There is some seriously impressive work and engineering that has gone into that. It’s a work of art in itself!

  9. As a design exercise, this is very well done.
    As a motorbike… no. Power to weigh would be abysmal as it’s got to be nearly 300kg and, due to his 250cc restriction, that’s not going to pull the skin off a rice pudding and it has the turning circle of the QE2.
    Hey, don’t get me wrong: I like the bike and am very impressed in his engineering and fabrication skills but he could have done with showing his plan to one of us “more mature” chaps to refine it.

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.