Motorcycle Technology Commentary
I love to evangelize motorcycling and how it feels. Whenever I get the chance to talk about the benefits of riding, I do so without hesitation.
Knowing this, my friends often ask me my opinion and my opinion on motorcycles and motorcycles in general. I recently had such a conversation with a friend who was considering learning to ride a motorcycle and wanted to learn more about life on two wheels.
Although he is a MotoGP fanatic, and sometimes thinks he can tame a prototype machine, with my advice he will start on a more maneuverable bike. I will also encourage him to enroll in a rider safety course to learn the skills necessary not only to ride safely, but also to become another ambassador for the sport we all love.
A few days after our interview, he asked me to accompany him as he visited a few dealerships. I blocked off on a Saturday afternoon and off we went. We visited a few dealerships to see new and used motorcycles, as well as private sellers the next day. I won’t go into how some dealers were pushing him to go for a super sport, liter, or hyper-naked bike, but I will say, to my friend’s credit, that he resisted.
Then again, it was probably me saying, âThere’s no way you’re going to start on this. Forget it. âHe hasn’t bought anything yet, but the experience of helping him understand all of the options available on today’s motorcycles got me thinking: Have we reached the pinnacle of motorcycling?
Let me transport you many years ago when the internet didn’t exist and motorcycles were completely different animals. Features commonly found on modern bikes – inverted front fork, fuel injection, traction / wheel control, radial brakes, IMU, ABS, electronically adjustable suspension and digital instrument panels with data logging capabilities – were not the norm on the bikes of yesteryear.
Back then, it was hard to find a professional racing team that had all this electronic magic. When you have “learned” to drive, you have done so without any driving aids other than your appendages. Working on your motorcycle also meant taking out tools like wrenches and sockets; not your laptop or cell phone to download the latest fuel card / track.
A review of the bikes available today shows how much technology has advanced when it comes to motorcycles. The proliferation of technology is pretty remarkable, and you can’t go online or buy a motorcycle brochure without a manufacturer touting their electronic prowess (which, of course, is better than their competition).
It’s product differentiation in all its glory, and while marketers swear by it, engineers don’t care. Let me clarify this statement. The marketing department indirectly pushes engineers to produce or improve a product, and the results of their labor are quite astonishing. While engineers typically deliver, they are more concerned with “engineering” than with how the product is sold or positioned in the market.
All of the aforementioned improvements and improvements to the quality of parts and manufacturing processes of a motorcycle are engineering marvels. When you’ve got production sports bikes that hit 200+ horsepower, cruisers that can go 100,000 miles with just basic maintenance, and all of the mid-range implementing such advanced systems, where do we go from there? ?
If a motorcycle manager asked me “What would you like to see added?” To their 2018 bikes I’d probably say the standards for weight loss, higher MPGs, and keyless starting (which brands like KTM and Ducati already do). However, artificial intelligence, connected / self-healing motorcycle and interchangeable parts could easily be added to a list of improvements.
Since the future is unknown and the progress that can / should be made is purely speculative, we should talk about electric motorcycles for a second, though. This paradigm is a major shift for the industry, and although the Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) has been around for a long time and has reached a very refined state, electric motorcycles definitely hold promise. Of course, promise and practicality are two different realities.
A few weeks after my shopping trip, I spoke to my friend to see which bike he was leaning towards. To my relief, he narrowed it down to three logical and pragmatic choices: a new Yamaha SCR950, a Triumph Scrambler or a used Ducati Monster 696. Whichever way he chooses, I have no doubts that he will build the right skill base that will allow him to ride safely and correctly.
While we feel like we are at the top of motorcycle development, one can only imagine how much innovation is possible. Magnesium and titanium which may be outdated, and an even more exotic material could be the construction material of motorcycles (nanotubes maybe?).
I’m looking forward to that day so that I can look back and realize that instead of being at the top of motorcycle technology, we were only at the top of a small hill.