The History Of Motorcycle Fairings and Race Cowlings

Motorcycles are works of art. A large part of a motorcycle unique appearance is detailed in it's body's shape and size. The term motorcycle fairing is a commonly used term to describe the bodywork that brings the motorcycle to life! A fairing is a shell which is placed over the frame of many type of motorcycles in order to create a vivid appearance as well as help with aerodynamics or streamlining. The importance of a streamlined motorcycle was known very early in the 20th century. Racing motorcycles were often seen using some form of streamlining. The effects of a motorcycle fairing with regards to aerodynamic drag is very significant!

The term "fairing" was actually coined during its first use in the aircraft industry, which regards to smoothing the air flow over the aircraft. The early attempts at streamlining were unsuccessful and resulted in instability and other various problems. Motorcycle fairings such as those found on motorcycles like Honda, and Suzuki sometimes upset the stability of the motorcycle and produced something similar to bike shake, or handlebar shake. The original fairing was installed on a BMW motorcycle, the R100RS which was back in 1976. This was the beginning of the use of fairings on sports, touring and various other styles of motorcycles. Originally the cowlings were put around the front of the bike, which thus increased the front area of the motorcycle, allowing it to push wind and air easier. Eventually these cowlings became an integral part of the design. Modern motorcycle fairings were used to increase the frontal portion of the bike, typically by 5% or more compared to a stripped or naked motorcycle.

There are many different types of motorcycle fairings which are used for different applications. The stream liner is a full fairing, that is found on land speed applications as well as entire body of motorcycle is covered to provide the lowest drag resistance. Dustbin fairing, which is a single piece type fairing is a streamlined shell covering. This covers half of the a motorcycle, and has been said to look like the nose of the aircraft. This fairing was also sometimes called the torpedo fairing as it drastically reduced the frontal drag. It was later banned however by The International Federation of Motorcyclism from racing in 1958 because it was said they were highly unstable due to the wind pressure created by the frontal point. The dolphin fairing was called because the front wheel guard had a streamline look in the early models with the rising windshield part of the fairing resembling that of a dolphins beak when viewed from the side. These had became the standard type of fairing after the ban of the dustbin fairing.

The next type of fairing is referred to as the full fairing. Full fairings are typically found on a majority of sportbikes such as Honda fairings, Suzuki GSXR models, Kawasaki Ninja Models and various other models like the Yamaha R1 and R6. These types of full fairings on a race or sport bike are meant as an aerodynamic aid and the windscreen on the motorcycle is rarely looked through or used. It is more for aesthetic appearance. Fairings for motorcycles that are full typically aid in providing protection to the engine as well. In the event of a crash its typically the fairings that take the blunt force instead of the motorcycle's engine.