BMW Motorrad has filed patents to build a crumple zone for motorcycles, similar to the safety feature built into cars. In BMW's patent drawings, the front wheel of the motorcycle is transformed into a crumple zone in case of a frontal collision. The idea of the patent is to somewhat save the rider from full frontal impact forces; under current motorcycle design, in case of a frontal impact, the front wheel is sent to the side, and forces the handlebar out of the rider's hands, and in such cases, the rider receives the full brunt of the impact.
In BMW's patent images, a simple V-shaped component is placed just behind the front wheel, and will likely sit at the same height as the front wheel's axle, and will be a stressed member of the chassis design. In the event of an accident, the front wheel is pushed back but the V-shaped component stops it from being sent out to the side of the motorcycle, and holds it straight. So, in a sense, the wheel, rim, and forks act as a sort of crumple zone and absorbs a portion of the impact that the rider would have faced in conventional motorcycle design.
Crumple zones in automobiles first came into existence in the 1950s when Mercedes-Benz first developed and patented the design. Today, crumple zones are used in just about all kinds of vehicles on the road, except motorcycles. However, it remains to be seen if BMW Motorrad will pursue the patent designs to be used in a production model. And the design also serves as protection in a head-on crash, but it's not clear how it will prevent the rider from going over the handlebars in case of a frontal collision.