F3 Uses Aviation Technology to Provide Sportbike Racer Smoother Ride

June 21, 2007 - PATERSON, NJ - What does an engine mount for an E-2C Navy surveillance aircraft have in common with a steering damper on a high-performance sportbike? If you're professional road racer Mike Himmelsbach, you know it's all in the magnetorheological fluid.

The 14-time Grand Prix National champion is currently testing a steering damper designed by Form Fit and Function (F3 Engineering), a New Jersey company that develops and produces proprietary motion control products for military and commercial applications.

The secret to stability - both in the air and on the road - lies in magnetorheological fluids--- actively controlled fluids that change viscosity almost instantly and respond to dynamic conditions.

"The fluid is coupled with a closed loop control system to react to shock and vibration in under one millisecond, reacting to changes in near real time," explains Ken Rosenbaum, F3 General Manager. The steering damper prototype is expected to attenuate steering column vibration more than 95 percent.

A steering damper, or stabilizer, is an important piece of equipment to a sportbike rider, and acts like a shock absorber when attached to the steering linkage to absorb road shock and steering kickback, minimizing "head-shake". The damper enables a racer to ride faster and safer, which is critical in turning faster lap times and ultimately winning races.

So far, the prototype seems to be doing just that. Himmelsbach posted two CCS first-place finishes and one ASRA third-place finish during a recent day of racing at Summit Point Raceway in West Virginia during Memorial Day weekend.

"The prototype offers a wide range of adjustability; more than what is currently offered by any damper on the market…and this is the only dampener I've used that eliminated all "head-shake" coming out of Turn 10 at Summit" Himmelsbach said.

He continues to meet with F3 to make revisions to the prototype, with the goal of having a race-ready model ready to ride with the Himmelsbach Racing Team in September.

F3 originally began development of the magnetorheological fluid technology for managing shock and vibration in 2003 when they designed an engine mount for Navy aircraft that diminishes vibration and mitigates shock-generated displacement during in-flight turbulence and carrier landings.

"The impact of this technology is so far reaching," notes Dr. Odilo Vazquez, F3 President. "This is just one example of how this application can be used in a variety of arenas."

Himmelsbach emerged on the motorcycle road race scene in the late 1980s and continues to be a dominant figure in sportbike racing.

"I'm excited to be working with F3 on this project," Himmelsbach says. "It's great to have the opportunity to provide feedback that will ultimately result in an extremely functional piece of equipment."