Is Technology Robbing Our Riding Experience?
Clint Lawrence, founder of Motorcycle Shippers, industry consultant and ambassador of fun. [email protected]
Motorcycling is a way of life. But new technologies on the horizon might just change the very nature of motorcycling forever. While technology may promise to enhance the biking experience with bells and whistles, at the end of the day, is that what bikers really want?
The Great Biker Tech Debate
Bikers fall into two camps when it comes to new technology. Those who decry all new technology as ‘cheating’, and those keen to embrace all the tech advantages they can get their hands on. Tom Byrne, a motorcyclist and writer for Revzilla Motorsports, pointed out that one of the main advantages of new technology is its ability to improve safety for riders, car drivers and pedestrians alike.
Whatever old-school bikers think, though, these new technologies are not about to go anywhere. Harley Davidson has responded to a depressing 6.8% drop in global sales by rallying behind new tech. They just acquired Alta Motors, which has been producing electric motorbikes since 2010. The first Harley Davidson electric motorcycle will be released in 2019.
The rise of motorcycle technology
The motorcycle market has struggled in the aftermath of the 2008 recession as it tried to regain the sales it once held. In the U.S., Baby Boomers have dominated the market. But now, as new technologies take shape, it might just kindle new interest in riders who haven’t yet embraced the experience in the way their predecessors have.
These up and coming technology trends are, one way or another, redefining motorcycling as we know it..
- Communications Systems
Smart technology, like heads-up displays with navigation, is coming to motorcycle helmets near you. Tech like this promises to change the nature of motorcycling by feeding riders with information about the road ahead, including speed limit, maps, and outside temperature. It can also enable you to listen to music, take photos and receive hands-free calls. Some riders feel such tech disconnects them from experiencing the road. But, for others, the thought of blasting their favorite tunes while riding down the freeway is a dream come true.
- Driver Automation
Driver automation still has a ways to go, but bikers are already able to automate parts of their ride with traction control, throttle control, stability and brake assist. Several luxury motorcycle manufacturers, including BMW, are leading the way in electronic assist controls. While the new technologies make learning to ride easier for beginners, advanced riders may find themselves wondering if they are riding the bike, or if the bike is doing all the work.
- Electric Motorcycles
The old sound of a roaring engine may soon be replaced with a soothing hum, a memory and a squeal as you tear out on an electric motorcycle. In 2016, China had been the largest market for electric motorcycles. A report from TechNavio indicates that the global market for high-performance electric motorcycles will grow at a CAGR of more than 45% between 2016 and 2020. While electric motorcycles have their advantages, many traditionalists will likely prefer to feel the raw power of the ride.
- Self-Driving Motorcycles
One of the biggest tech trends in motorcycling may come from self-driving bikes. These motorcycles are the next big thing on the horizon, and may take all required skill out of riding. Still, some are excited about the prospect of using an interactive touchscreen on the bike for a hands-free riding experience.
It’s yet to be seen whether the investment in new technologies will pay off, as many bikers are still on the fence about whether technology will make riding easier or eliminate some of its most enjoyable elements.
One thing is certain: Motorcycle enthusiasts fall in love with the pure joy of the ride. But with the rise of new technologies, gadgets and smart devices, is technology enhancing what you love most about biking, or taking away from it?