Suppose Akira had been set in 1919 instead of 2019 - what would Shotaro Kaneda’s ride be? Probably one of these things.
In 1918 Carl Neracher launched a revolutionary design of motorcycle. It blended contemporary automobile design with that of motorcycles to produce something that Neracher, an apparent fan of puns dubbed the Ner-A-Car. Aside from riding on two wheels and being steered with handlebars, Neracher avoided just about every other hallmark of motorcycle engineering - the basics of which have changed very little over the course of the past 100 years.
Motorcycles descended from and have largely kept the form of the diamond frame safety-bicycle, which also hasn’t changed much in basic layout since the 1890s. A diamond shaped frame, an engine where the bicycle pedals used to be, a front fork running though bearings in a headtube over the front wheel, and a rider sat on top. That’s just how motorcycles were, and have been ever since.
Neracher though, did not think a motorcycle needed to mimic bicycle design, instead he thought the automobile was a better basis for two wheelers. He laid down two frame rails parallel to each other, and like a car of the era, the engine and transmission where carried between the frames, the seat sat on top, and the wheels were connected to the ends. Rather than straddling the motorcycle and leaning over towards the handlebars, the Ner-A-Car rider sat more like the driver of a car, upright with their feet pointing ahead. Importantly, Neracher also did away with the traditional bicycle style headtube and front fork, devising instead an ingenious form of hub-center steering, the first of its type ever used on a production motorcycle.
Take a look at what Katushiro Otomo envisaged the bike of 2019 would look like:
In 1919 the closest thing to that was the Ner-A-Car, and actually the Ner-A-Car is more like the bikes of 2019 Neo Tokyo in basic layout than the majority of bikes in 2015 regular Tokyo. Or in the world. Bikers tend to dislike all the advantages of feet-forward design and hub-center steering because it “doesn’t look badass”. If only the average biker had any real concept of what badass is. Shotaro Kaneda knows what badass is. And if Shotaro Kaneda had been riding around 1919 Tokyo he may have likely ridden the futuristic and revolutionary Ner-A-Car.
The next question then is: will we have bikes like Kaneda’s by 2019? Not very likely. Currently there are bikes with hub center steering in production, and Honda just released a “feet-forward” model, the NM4 last year. But there’s no current production bike that features both. Further we’re still lacking a cold superconductor generator needed to power such a badass machine.