We heard a story the other day, from an author in the UK, about what got him into motorcycles in the first place. He talks about being fifteen and sat in a small pub with his old man when he noticed a guy pull up on a classic Harley Davidson, a 1958 Duo-Glide in white and green. The thing was, it was absolutely pouring outside. The rain was coming down in stair rods. Anyway, the guy got off his motorcycle and walked into the pub, his hair, face and leathers absolutely sodden from the rain. This kid was kind of bemused by it all and so he said to the motorcyclist, “I bet you wish you had a car right now, huh?” That’s when the motorcyclist looked at him, smiled and said, “Nope. I just wish it wasn’t raining.” It was the coolest thing the kid had ever heard and it made the pedigree of Harley even cooler than it already was.
That’s the point, right. A motorcycle brand’s pedigree is its major selling point. Harleys, Triumphs, Royal Enfields, all of them. They all thrive off their history, which is why they have to be careful not to stir brand loyalty in the wrong way. As such, a lot of people think manufacturers have shied away from improving their machines too. A lot of people still think these two-wheeled beasts are dangerous, unstable and just one wrong twitch away from a call to a specialist in auto accidents and injuries. But that’s not the case. Not at all. In fact, so many futuristic improvements have been made to motorcycles over the years, it’s just you people haven’t noticed because the manufacturers have gone to hell and back to add these upgrades as subtly as possible.
To prove this, we’ve been out and about exploring the most incredible, modern and futuristic improvements put in the motorcycles of today, the kind that makes bikes easier for beginners to learn, safer for everyone to ride and yet just as enjoyable as ever. They’re quite something.
- Ride-By-Wire Has Changed The Game
Once upon a time, when a rider twisted the throttle, more fuel entered the engine, a move that was controlled by a cable and thus susceptible to human error, stalls and sudden loss of control. Nowadays, though, this system is controlled by something called ride-by-wire technology, which means an electronic signal is sent from the throttle to a small computer, and this is where the magic happens. The ECU thinks about how much throttle the rider has asked for, quickly compares it to the engine speed, actual speeds and gear and then, quick as a flash, release the amount of fuel it deems appropriate. Not only does this allow for a smoother ride and better fuel economy, it also gives the rider better control over the engine.
- Lighting Up The Future
Riding a bike at night is about as relaxing as a spa during an earthquake. Horrendous visibility, animals on the road, lower temperatures, all sorts of stuff that make it a nightmare and all of them made worse by the limited practicality of the headlight. At least, that’s how it used to be before adaptive headlights became a mainstay on modern bikes. The way they work is genius: when the motorcycle leans into a curve, onboard sensors start calculating the angle of the lean and uses the information to determine where to light up the road. Mmm hmmm. The headlight suddenly lights up the dark spots around a corner so that the rider can see areas otherwise hidden. Here’s the best part: they work. They really work. In fact, they’ve boosted the safety benefit of nighttime accidents by 90%. That’s amazing.
- About Time For Airbags
Ask anyone to name the main safety features of a car and you’ll hear the word airbag slip out of their mouth before anything else. After seat belts, they are the number one lifesaving feature of any vehicle, and now they have entered the world of motorcycles. If you are wondering how these work, clothing manufacturers have started to implement airbags into the gear that all riders typically wear – vests and jackets. Anyway, in these items of clothing are sensors that can detect when a motorcycle has been in an impact, instantly deploying an airbag (or series of airbags) that are designed to protect the riders head, chest and vital organs. It’s a huge step in increasing the safety of two-wheelers.
- A New Lease Of Stability
Cars have four wheels. That’s what makes them so stable. Bikes, however, do not, which is why instructors focus so much on maintaining stability when it comes to teaching new riders. You have to actively and constantly prevent your bike from falling over, which is an almost insane concept to accept. That’s why quality tires, shock absorbers and steering dampers have been so celebrated in recent times. The problem is, they’re not always enough to stop a bike going over or skidding. Luckily, there is a new tech on the block, the Bosch Stability Control; a computer that monitors a myriad of sensors. Here’s the best bit: should this computer sense a sudden loss of traction, it ignores what the rider is doing and regains control of the bike by automatically applying the disc and engine brakes. It’s incredibly clever and, as so many motorcycle journalists have said, makes crashing almost impossible to do.
- Helmets Are The Real Heroes
Helmets have always played a major part in motorcycle safety, but they’ve upped the game again by becoming super smart and packed full of features. We’re talking about augmented reality that projects a GPS map onto their visor, voice control so that they can make phone calls and listen to music without lifting a finger and, best of all, rear-facing cameras that project a live feed of the road behind into the rider’s line of sight so that they know what is happening around them at all times. It’s the future and it’s here.