As we enter 2022, we look forward to another year of unique opportunities, game-changing technologies and, hopefully, market recovery. The past two years have been difficult for many people. Simply put, the pandemic has changed the way many of us viewed our jobs, our spending habits, and even our definition of “happy.” So, how about taking a look at what we see on the horizon?
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That’s right, we’re launching our 2022 forecast with the elephant in the room: motorcycle sales. If 2020 and 2021 have taught us anything, it’s that it’s probably the hardest thing to predict. Every time you think you know what’s coming, the world goes 180 and your head starts spinning.
So, will people buy more motorcycles this year than last? We hope the answer is yes, but there are several factors that will have a big influence this year. You probably don’t need us to tell you about the supply chain issues that have plagued businesses around the world. These issues ripple through every industry, affecting consumer goods of all types, sizes and price points. However, we are going to focus our attention on the shortage of semiconductor chips today.
There are reports that some automakers are excluding high-end technology from their vehicles. It’s because they just can’t get the control modules they need to power those systems. Or, to be more precise, the control module manufacturers cannot get the semiconductor chips they need to build the control modules. It’s not a kind of “which came first, the chicken or the egg?” enigma; control modules cannot exist without microchips, which are so rare. This means new vehicles can be built without features we take for granted, such as power seats, navigation systems, advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), digital dashboards – the list goes on. long.
The motorsports world is not immune to the effects of the chip shortage. Modern motorcycles rely on electronics just as much as modern vehicles. We could see a reversal of this trend over the next two years if the chip shortage continues.
The other important factor for sales this year will be the labor shortage. It also affects all sectors of the industry, be it manufacturing, supply, shipping, sales or repair. As companies struggle to find and keep skilled workers, they also struggle to move products.
So where are we? We’ve said before that we’re optimistic about growth in 2022, but our crystal ball just doesn’t seem as clear as it once was.
Lower the costs
Unfortunately, we don’t mean that manufacturers or dealers will “cut prices”. We’re talking about powersports manufacturers finding creative ways to cut operating and manufacturing costs to help them stay profitable. In some ways, that’s a good thing: cost reduction is what helps companies “weather the storm” and survive economic turmoil.
However, cost cutting can also have negative effects, including what we talked about earlier about eliminating some heavy electronic systems due to chip shortages. Or, manufacturers may seek to cut costs by replacing certain metal parts of motorcycles with cheaper plastic parts. In fact, it already happens to some motorcycles, like the Ducati Monster. Look closely at the engine covers, and you’ll see what we mean.
Technology takes a leap forward
Let’s focus on the motorcycle trends we see coming or growing in 2022. Despite the chip shortage and its effect on the market, we believe the trend of adding electronic systems to modern motorcycles is here to stay. When the supply of chips finally increases to meet demand, we expect to see a surge in electronic systems being added to motorcycles.
We have seen an increase in recent years of motorcycles being offered with advanced safety systems. These systems are generally focused on driver safety, but others are of the “creature comfort” variety. Cruise control, traction control, front wheel lift control and automatic braking systems (ABS) are becoming more common.
Adjustable Rider Modes allow riders to adjust features like throttle response, traction control and ABS with the push of a button. More advanced systems like Ducati’s front and rear radar technology control the motorcycles’ adaptive cruise control (ACC) and blind spot detection (BSD). Ducati also offers advanced systems, such as an intelligent cornering system and semi-active suspension systems from Öhlins, on some of their high-end motorcycles. This system has the ability to automatically adjust compression and rebound damping in response to riding style, based on information received from the inertial platform and other sensors.
Other companies are following this same trend. Yamaha is now installing cruise control, ABS as well as its state-of-the-art Yamaha six-axis Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) on several motorcycles, including the XSR900, MT-09 and MT-10. The IMU system was originally developed for the YZF-R1, but has evolved into a smaller, lighter unit featuring two sensors that measure three-axis angular velocity and three-axis acceleration, allowing for suite of driver aids including grade sensitive traction control, Slip Control System (SCS), Front Wheel Lift Control (LIF), Engine Brake Management (EBM) and a Brake Control (BC) system with tilt-sensing ABS. The MT-10 SP, the performance variant of the MT-10, features the Öhlins Semi-Active Suspension System, which allows riders to choose between three semi-active or manual damping modes.
Yamaha also seems to be opting for color TFT screens on its bikes. These new displays are brighter and easier to read, but the new rectangular gauges seem to lack the character of the previous generation. Compare the gauge of the 2021 XSR900 with the new 2022 model and you’ll see what we mean.
go to the top speed
When it comes to technology, we’ve barely scratched the surface. Motorcycles are becoming more and more advanced and, like it or not, they are attracting a new generation of riders to the world of motorcycles. But there’s another area where the technology is booming, and it’s not something that’s installed on the bike. No, we’re talking about smarter riding gear.
These days we are more connected than ever, so it stands to reason that cyclists want to feel that connectedness while riding. Last fall we saw the unveiling of the new Sena Quantum series of headphones with sound by Harman Kardon.
Every product in the Sena Quantum Series features Sound By Harman Kardon as well as Sena’s industry-leading Mesh Intercom technology. The Quantum Series includes upgraded 50S and 50R devices, the long-awaited 4K camera-equipped 50C, plus two all-new smart motorcycle helmets: the Impulse Modular and the Full-Face Stryker, each with sound unmatched by Harman Kardon.
These new headsets offer some impressive features, including:
- DOT and ECE classification
- Retractable sun visors
- Access to a voice-activated digital assistant (Siri, Google, etc.)
- Intelligent Noise-Control™, which reduces wind noise (Momentum helmet only)
- Ambient Mode, which lets you hear your surroundings more clearly without having to remove your headphones (Momentum headphones only).
Smart helmets and in-helmet communication are nothing new, however. Do you remember the SKULLY smart helmet? Of course, this one never materialized, but it did prove that there was a market for smart, connected headphones. Personally, I would buy one if the price was right; my wife and I have Sena SMH-10R headsets in our helmets, and they might be the best gear we’ve ever purchased. No more frantic hand signals and honking while trying to find a parking spot in town; we can communicate in real time.
Personally, I expect smarter and safer gear to continue to gain a foothold in the market over the next few years, especially after seeing Dianese’s D-air smart jackets and base layers. D-air smart jackets monitor what is happening around the rider 1,000 times per second and deploy as needed to provide the rider with maximum protection.
One thing is clear: the future of motorcycles and riding gear is looking exciting. We can’t wait to see what’s next.