Too Much Electronics in New Motorcycles?

I like this guys approach to practicality and riding…but I like the electronics and extras…;-)

SOURCE:  Autoevolution


Some will agree with me and some will barge in against me, and this is somehow natural after I openly ask: don’t you all think there’s too much electronics in the new motorcycles?

Some say it’s all about the natural industrial progress and I will definitely not say it otherwise. The motorcycling industry has come a long way thanks to the development of electronic devices and new technologies, just like the rest of the human civilization.

But where computers and other similar industries are naturally aiming for bettering the electronics which are their very nature, bikes are something completely different.

Now, I’m not exactly a fan of old air-cooled engines which become hellish hot under the summer sun, and neither am I a fan of constantly tweaking and tinkering around the bike. This is fun for a while, but I like a bike that rides well and rides far.

Still, the huge discrepancy between the way marketers present some of the new-retro bikes and what’s going on in the industry came to my mind. And no, don’t tell me that Harley or Victory have nothing to do with the electronic suspensions BMW, Ducati or Suzuki are now offering.

They are different bikes, yes, but I’m speaking here about the big picture, and when doing so, they’re all part of the big puzzle. And this puzzle is more and more loaded with electronics.

I’m definitely not passing a judgment here, as this seems like too huge of a matter to be discussed over a pint or two during a winter evening. It’s really hard to say that electronics are “good” or “bad”, whatever these notions may turn out to be, in the end.

One thing is certainly sure: there’s a lot of electronic systems riding with us and sometime FOR us.

Since we’re all mumbling and munching the same old phrases, such as “motorcycling is freedom,” “ride to live, live to ride, ” and the rest of the old clichés, I could have expected the motorcycling world not to embrace mingling the old-school bike DNA with the modern, sometimes, overkill technical electronics systems that easily.

Discussing this matter with some friends, some argued that these electronic systems are making bikes better: safer, more economical, and sportier. This might be true, but there still are some raised eyebrows.

Safety is definitely good, but I believe that after a certain point, this much technology is making the bikes smarter to our detriment. We, as riders, as machine operators, are getting dumber from the very riding point of view.

I have already met guys with both cars and bikes, who started to rely too much on the “smartness” of the bike. Their rides (cars and motorcycles) gladly took over some of the basic factors that a truly good rider should never forget about.

Some say that traction control is there to keep a bike on track and prevent a wipeout through the turn. Well, obviously yes, but as one embraces this reasoning, he or she forgets the most important of things. What causes the (hypothetical) crash: the absence of the electronics or the rider error?

The answer, my friends, is not blowing in the wind: it’s always the rider. Some systems may help him, but too much help adds rust to instincts.

And if one can no longer ride on (almost) any bike, any road, in any (decent) conditions, he or she is not worthy to be called a proper rider. Riders ride, and don’t bow to traction control, stability control and other similar systems. Sorry, but that’s how things are.

As for the economy, things are also a bit iffy. Most of the guys I know (including myself) have never ever wondered about the mileage of their first, and subsequent bikes. They, or should I say we, just wanted to ride, knowing motorcycling was never a cheap passion (or diagnostic, as one of my buddies calls it).

Who wants two-wheeled cheap commuting can choose from hundreds of scooters, ranging from 50 to 800cc, offered for anything between dirt-cheap to stellar prices. If 200 mpg is your goal, then the 1800cc Boulevard is not your ride, that’s it!

You pay for the way you want to ride, it’s all as simple as this. Of course, a good modern injected engine can be more economical than an older carbureted one, but hearing people constantly complaining about the mileage of their bikes is just lame and annoying.

There are so many other passions you can choose from, many of them so expensive making motorcycling look like you’re almost earning money. Still, it all comes down to the same thing: it’s a passion. Sheer functionality is a scooterland affair.

As for the speed and power, this is a much simpler matter: feel like you’re not riding the right bike? Tune and tweak it, and when all else fails, get another one. Expecting a s#!^load of electronics to do the job seems a bit silly.

Since I also mentioned electronically-controlled suspensions, they seem to make life easier, alright, especially for enduro-touring bikes, which often have to withstand quite some rough times in unwelcoming scenery.

But hearing a chap wishing for such suspension on a Harley really puzzled me. So you’re a diehard chopper fan and would kill for the classic hardtail looks, but your buttocks are in fact so delicate that even a new-born baby could ride longer than you.

No, sir, you’re a lousy, whining rider wannabe who can’t muster enough guts to learn how to operate a motorcycle on different roads and under varying conditions, may it be searing sun, rain, cold and whatnot.

If a perfect ride is one during which you sit on a sofa and from time to time you allow the wind to mess up with your hair, then it probably better to watch a movie of someone else riding, and leave a window open.

All in all, electronics seem to be a thing we’ll all have to learn how to live with, but myself, I hope I will not be forced to leave my riding to them. Because I guess this would simply make me a lesser rider than my grandfather was.

Oh, and Casey Stoner also had some words on the electronics…


Author: advgrrl

Avid ADV rider! This Blog is all about the adventure in adventure riding. Researching new bikes, routes, accessories, learning about other riders and hopefully a great place for others to comment and explore with me. PLUS, up and down's, wildlife, my dogs, my life!

5 thoughts on “Too Much Electronics in New Motorcycles?”

  1. Put me in the air-cooled, non-fuel injected, no computerized anything. Maybe ABS would be a good thing to have but why rely on it. The new bikes are so much faster, quiet and efficient but I prefer the simpler, no dealer required approach.

  2. Hmm this article made me feel somewhat annoyed… sure there are people who believe traction control, ABS etc can break the laws of physics but give the rest of us a little bit of bloody credit!!

    My F800GS has no ‘rider aids’ beyond ABS… power too hard mid corner in the wet and you’re in a hedge. How many times has the ABS saved me? Zero to date on that bike, despite having ridden in temperatures down to -12°C including a snow storm in the Alps. I don’t hit the brakes any differently just because I know the ABS system is lying in wait…

    On the other hand, my R1200GS has every conceivable electronic toy available on motorcycles today… ABS, ASC (stability control) linking in with the electronic suspension and ride-by-wire throttle, cruise control, electronic braking distribution (pull the front brake and the computer adds rear braking as it sees fit)… etc etc… The ONLY times I’ve seen that ASC light flash is when the computer reduces power when I deliberately accelerate hard enough to lift the front wheel…. and in the mud on street tyres where it only allows the rear wheel to spin up to a specified speed. Again, I ride the bike in the same way I would if it had none of these features.

    What ABS, stability control etc provides me is a safety net for the unexpected. The rare moment where something unexpected interrupts the hundreds of mental calculations we all do in our heads every minute during the course of operating a motorcycle—an animal running onto the roadway… clumps of mud midway through a blind corner during otherwise optimal conditions… an unseen spill of antifreeze just before a traffic light on a wet road. In these scenarios, maybe the electronics will save me from coming off the bike, maybe they won’t, but they will give me MORE of a fighting chance to stay safe.

    People by nature are opposed to change/advances… Look at all the people up in arms about daytime running lights on cars reducing the conspicuity of motorcycles… Every research trial undertaken on this topic that I’ve read concludes the same way—the reduction in conspicuity is a hypothesis at best and no statistically significant differences in accident rates could be measured.

    But understanding and respecting the electronic aids is a learning process like any other. Take the bike out somewhere safe and ride it like you stole it so you can fully understand and feel these systems in action! Then you won’t have a panic attack when the systems intervene in a real life emergency (there are still people who pump the brakes on ABS-equipped vehicles after all). It seems the naysayers either haven’t done this, or are unwilling to do this. The fact remains, they offer the average rider, riding normally, MORE of a chance to avoid disaster… And by understanding/respecting these features, the informed rider has the added benefit and scope for utilising them proactively as desired rather than reactively/unexpectedly.

    Oh dear, was I ranting??

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