Nobody is really sure if these are actually cars or bikes

Motorcyclists are so used to riding without a roof covering them that it makes you wonder why manufacturers are so insistent on trying to reinvent the motorcycle to incorporate a roof and so offer more weather protection.

The resulting concepts, prototypes and production models have all tried to come up with something different but have ultimately failed to convince customers that a roof is the thing they really need. Are the manufacturers at fault or are we motorcyclists too stubborn to accept something that is new and potentially better? Are roofed motorcycles merely an answer to a question that no-one was asking? Here is our run down of the top ten best attempts to make a motorcycle with some of the advantages of a car while still retaining the advantages of a motorcycle.

10 Lit C1

One of the problems with creating a more car-like environment for a rider to sit ‘in’, is the difficulty of getting your legs to the ground to stop the thing falling over. The Lit C1, an electric self-balancing scooter utilizes gyroscopes to achieve the balance, which means that the rider’s feet never need to touch the floor, which in turn means that the rider can be fully enclosed by a roof and doors. Lit claim the C1 is 1/4 the weight, with 1/6 the battery pack, 1/10 the parts count and 80% more efficient than a mid-sized EV. Unfortunately, it is also 90% less practical, carrying only two passengers and with little luggage space. Steering is drive-by-wire electric and there is a steering wheel, not handlebars. Claimed range is 150-220 miles and top speed is 100mph.

9 Peraves Ecomobile/MonoTracer

Peraves was founded in 1972 by Swiss commercial pilot Arnold Wagner. By 1982, his first prototype of a fully-enclosed motorcycle was finished and, amazingly, the Swiss government – not normally the most liberal when it comes to motorized vehicles – declared it street legal. Initially powered by a BMW R100 boxer engine, this was later changed to a BMW K100 four-cylinder engine and later still to a BMW K1200RS engine, some with a turbocharger, giving up to 190 horsepower and a top speed of 196mph! The cockpit was fully enclosed so the MonoTracer used stabilizers that flicked out below a given speed and retracted once on the move.

8 Quasar

The 1970s were a hotbed for all sorts of bizarre designs with about as much style as a pair of flared jeans. The Quasar was one such design and first appeared in 1976, featuring a strange reclining, feet-forward riding position, the rider sitting underneath a roof, with car-type windshield ahead, cleaned by a windshield wiper. There was even a heater although quite how the heat did anything other than disappear through the large apertures is anyone’s guess! They were powered by the 850cc, four-cylinder engine from a Reliant Robin three-wheeler car. Unlike the Lit and Peraves (see above), the rider had to put his feet down to balance when stationary and only 21 were built between 1976 and 1982. Motorcycle racer Phil Read rode a Quasar in top hat and tails to Buckingham Palace to collect his MBE! Quite an entrance!

7 BMW Simple

Anything but simple, this BMW concept was never properly launched and pretty much disappeared without a trace. The BMW Simple is more of a cross between a car and bike than others on this list, in that it has three wheels – two at the back, one at the front – as well as fully enclosing bodywork. Whereas in most three-wheelers, the rear wheels would stay upright while the bodywork could pivot around them, the BMW Simple features leaning rear wheels and the rider would influence the turning of the vehicle by leaning in the direction he wanted the vehicle to go. In case you are wondering, Simple is an acronym for ‘Sustainable and Innovative Mobility Product for Low Energy Consumption.’ BMW shied away from calling neither a car nor a bike: it’s a Mobility Product! Whatever that means.

6 Toyota i-Road

It wasn’t only motorcycle manufacturers who were thinking about making motorcycles more weatherproof. Of course, you could argue that the Toyota i-Road is an automobile concept and not a motorcycle concept, but given that it resembles some entries on this list, it deserves its place. The i-Road has two wheels at the front and a single wheel at the back, and it leans like a motorcycle, the front wheels tilting as on the Yamaha Niken. The front wheels are electrically driven and the rear wheel steers at lower speeds, a bit like a fork lift truck. Up the speed and the Active Lean Technology takes over, with an electric motor to tilt the bodywork, while a steering wheel tells it which way to lean. It’s small, maneuverable and can slip through traffic, while the ‘driver’ stays warm and dry. Does that make it a motorcycle? The jury is out.

5 Honda Elysium

A concept from Honda back in 2001, the Elysium featured a sliding roof, making it a convertible! It was powered by a 750cc flat four engine mounted directly underneath the rider’s seat that drove through a hydraulically controlled, continuously variable transmission (CVT) with options for both fully automatic or manual operation. This set it apart from the recently-launched Yamaha T-Max and Suzuki Burgman 650, both of which were establishing the Maxi-Scooter class. Despite the production-ready appearance and distinctly non-concept bike styling, the Elysium was destined to never go into production which we have to regret if only for that flat four engine.

4 Peugeot HYmotion 3

The wheel arrangement of the Peugeot HYmotion 3 will be familiar to anyone who has ridden a Piaggio, Yamaha or Gilera three-wheeler scooter, with two leaning front wheels and a single rear wheel in a scooter-sized package. The Peugeot not only had a roof, but it was a hybrid, in that the two front wheels were driven by twin electric motors while the rear wheel was powered by a supercharged 125cc single cylinder engine developing 20 horsepower. This makes it perfect for cities in which there are low emission zones while the top speed of around 70mph makes it suitable for out-of-town work, the petrol engine removing range anxiety.

3 Benelli Adiva

The BMW C1 (see below) has a lot to answer for and one model it inspired was the Benelli Adiva. This really was simply a scooter with a very slim and therefore questionably effective roof, that would fold away into the trunk space behind the pillion seat, which at least gave the pillion something to lean against! Quite why you would need to fold the roof away was never explained but at least the Adiva went into production and lasted for five years as a Benelli, before Adiva was spun off into a separate company that survives to this day as a Chinese manufacturer as, indeed, is Benelli.

2 Adiva AD3 400

And here is that bike. In the process of changeover from Italian to Chinese ownership, the Adiva became a range of models, the difference being the engine displacement, from 200cc to 400cc, and the addition of twin leaning front wheels, very much in the mold of the Piaggio MP3. The windshield is huge and cleaned by a car-type wiper, while the roof can still be folded away. The engine is sourced from Peugeot and is a single cylinder engine producing 36 horsepower and driving through a CVT transmission. The styling is still very much Italian which is no surprise as both Adiva and Benelli might be built in China, but the styling department remains in Italy.

1 BMW C1

The father of them all or, at least, the one that everyone remembers. The BMW C1 was conceived to combine not only the convenience of a motorcycle and the weather protection of a car, but also the safety of a car, as the roof structure doubled as a roll-cage. In some countries you could ride one legally without a helmet and the upright full seat featured head-protection ‘wings’ as well as a seat belt. The only problem is that it was heavy – 400 pounds was as heavy as the 1000cc sports bikes of the time – so the Rotax 125cc engine struggled, although the 200cc engine from the same manufacturer was better, but not much. It remained in production for two years only.