This week at CES in Las Vegas, international electronics and engineering company Bosch showcased a suite of connectivity technologies for motorcycles. It starts with the Connectivity Control Unit, which connects the motorcycle’s on-board brain to the outside world, and ends with the Integrated Connectivity Cluster, which communicates with the rider through the motorcycle’s digital dashboard. In between is an interface called mySPIN that mirrors the user’s smartphone – whether running iOS, Android, or Windows – and any other Bluetooth or Wi-Fi device the rider wishes to use.
In addition to mirroring applications such as navigation and phone services, Bosch Connected Motorcycle technology tracks performance metrics such as lean angles and turn speeds. Safety systems may be more important: eCall contacts emergency services in the event of an accident, bCall helps you get a broken bike repaired, and iCall connects the user to roadside assistance services. And, of course, Bosch is already a leading supplier of ABS, traction control and stability control for motorcycles.
KTM will be the first manufacturer to use this Bosch connected motorcycle technology, but some features will also be aimed at emerging markets. The image above shows buttons dedicated to using the phone on what appears to be a Bajaj Vespa clone.
All of these two-wheeled technologies are impressive. But are they necessary? Or, perhaps more appropriate, are they in demand? Two of
Autoblog Motorcycling staff members sat down for a debate on the merits of all this cutting edge technology, and their thoughts have been distilled, point / counterpoint style, below.
Farkle or not Farkle
If you follow the adventure touring motorcycle segment, you’ve probably heard of the term “farkle”. Basically, adventurers have found the need to add a lot of chunks, balls, and gadgets to their two-wheeled mountain goats as manufacturers haven’t offered them as factory options yet. Some of the additions are practical items, like additional lighting and luggage racks. Others are high tech, such as bicycle navigation and video cameras.
Let’s not pretend, however, that farkling is a completely new business. Long before smartphones and navigation, I would laminate directions and maps and stick them on the gas tank. I usually park to check my map – but not always – mainly because it’s so distracting to look at a piece of paper with a hundred small roads and names on it. It is not as distracting to follow a line on an LCD screen that is directly in your field of vision.
I decided antilock brakes were a potential lifesaver on the road by the time I blocked the front wheel after an inattentive minivan driver pulled in my way from a fast food restaurant . I still love old, simple motorcycles. âStone ax,â as David Boldt puts it in his counterpoint below. But I do agree that modern bikes are safer and more reliable in everyday life. And we have to remember that motorcycles are not just an American thing – small-caliber scooters and motorcycles are used all over the world as a means of daily transportation, and these bikers deserve to choose if they want technology too. .
Will things like audio on the bike or simple turn-by-turn navigation systems make motorcycles less safe? No, I do not think so. And if you do, you are certainly free to ignore them. Farkle or not farkle is no longer the question, it is the reality. But, like so many technologies that infiltrate our daily routines, connected motorcycles like those launched by Bosch and KTM as defined above, always have an âoffâ switch. And if all else fails, you are still free to ignore that phone call from your spouse while driving.
– Jeremy Korzeniewski, consumer editor
Rolling into the future – little by little?
It is while reading an article of
Cycle Phil Schilling from the magazine I first discovered the term “stone ax” as a descriptive. The subject is long forgotten and seemingly impossible to recover, but it was referring to those bikes which, some 40 years ago, still touched the roots of motorcycles in their design and construction. The bikes (and times) referenced by Schilling distilled the essence of the motorcycle: an engine attached to what is essentially a bicycle. That’s how it all started, and for many that’s what a motorcycle should stay.
Of course it was then, and while Schilling may have envisioned the advent of anti-lock braking on bikes, it’s fair to assume he didn’t see the throttle mapping, traction control or, like Bosch now offers it, “vehicle intelligence” or in-vehicle audio / video. Schilling, now deceased, will be making stops in his grave if and when he learns audio / video in the vehicle. Its audio came out of the Conti pipes, and the video was what you saw and understood, not what you recorded.
Since my tire shots started in a department store, where Honda bikes were just steps away from cooking utensils, my motorcycle aspirations are firmly rooted in a place and time where bikes were. , well, bikes. With many Hondas of this era using overhead camshafts and – a few years later but before the end of the decade – a front disc brake, I certainly understood the benefits of the technology, but these technologies didn’t. have not supplanted the basic functions of a motorcycle. Even with overhead camshafts, better braking and improved throttle response thanks to the introduction of fuel injection, the importance of the rider – especially a skilled rider – remained paramount.
Forty years later, there is a real divide in motorcycle design in the motorcycle showroom. Small-displacement motorcycles sold at lower prices necessarily eschew the technology, in large part because customers won’t pay for it. Here at or near $ 6,000, even ABS is optional, and while the throttles can be electronically controlled, there is no ability to change this mapping. At the other end of the showroom, where performance bikes are designed to thrill and performance touring bikes are equipped to mitigate or diminish those sensations, the technology works almost without control. Improving safety with throttle mapping, better braking, and âvehicle intelligenceâ is worth it, but in at least some of these cases the product team assumes the driver is less skilled or distracted. And nothing could be worse for the industry, or this particular cyclist, than being distracted while riding a bike – even when the industry has essentially approved and / or increased that distraction.
I have a four year old Triumph Bonneville in the garage and am in no rush to replace it with something new. But when I pull the trigger on a new or newer bike, I’d much rather rely on my own skills and leave the nanny tech to the automakers. The automotive industry is all about mobility, so I prefer to stick with the more basic aspect of motorcycling and riding. In short, stone ax motorcycles.