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Groundbreaking motorcycle for the physically disabled designed by world champion – launch at the MP 18 Motorcycle Show

Press release – Published: 02.02.2018 13:00:00

Ulla Kulju , who works as a design engineer at engineering company Etteplan, began her road racing career three years ago and quickly became the first woman to win the world championship in disabled road racing in the 2017 competition in Le Mans, France. In Finland, Kulju competes in the general Finnish championship series.

– For someone who is paralyzed from the waist down, riding a motorcycle is technically more challenging. As an engineer, however, my job is to solve technical problems; so last year, during a coffee break with my workmates, I came up with the idea of designing an entirely new kind of motorbike, one that would solve the problems that someone who uses a wheelchair faces when riding a motorbike. My employer, Etteplan, supported me in my plans, and together we made these groundbreaking improvements a reality, recounts Kulju. 

3D-printed seat tilts for the driver

Using a 3D printer, Etteplan designed the seat and foot pegs for Kulju’s new motorcycle. 3D printing enables faster and more cost-effective production than before, which means individual parts can be printed quickly and materials are saved.

– My motorbike, created with the help of 3D printing technology, is a work of art and a good example of what can be achieved with innovative and creative engineering design. The new foot pegs make driving safer. It’s enough for me to lift my legs close to the bike, so that the magnet pulls my feet to the bike and locks them in. And with the new seat, I can shift my weight and tilt the bike, just like riders without a disability. It has been incredible to be able to approach corners at high speed and feel secure enough on the bike, she says. 

Kulju, who was paralyzed in a snowboarding accident when she was a teenager, says that on her previous motorbike she was unable to round corners as fast as her competitors, because someone who is paralyzed from the waist down cannot tilt the bike enough. Another challenge related to Kulju’s legs: if her legs, which were attached to the bike with velcro, detached from the bike at high speed, she would have to finish mid-race.

– I believe the new motorbike will give me a major competitive advantage in the coming season, as I take on the world championships again, sponsored by my employer. Etteplan is in the process of applying for a patent for the new seat, and my hope is to see the bike in production for the broader public so that other disabled athletes like me can use it too, says Kulju.  

The MP 18 Motorcycle Show will be held at Helsinki’s Messukeskus on Friday, February 2nd (10 am–8 pm), Saturday, February 3rd (9 am–8 pm), and Sunday February 4th (10 am–5 pm). Come and meet Ulla Kulju and see her new motorcycle at Etteplan’s stand 7d110 in hall 7! 

Etteplan in brief

Etteplan in Brief Etteplan provides industrial equipment and plant engineering, embedded systems, IoT (Internet of Things), and technical documentation solutions to the world’s leading companies in the manufacturing industry. Our services are geared to improve the competitiveness of our customers' products and engineering processes throughout the product life cycle. The results of Etteplan’s innovative engineering can be seen in numerous industrial solutions and everyday products. In 2016, Etteplan had a turnover of EUR 183.9 million. The company currently has some 2,800 professionals in Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany, Poland and China. Etteplan's shares are listed on Nasdaq Helsinki Ltd under the ETTE ticker.