Nowadays the majority of the motorcycles are coming with electronic and mechanical riding aids. From ABS to Hill Holder Assist. They are not only supports to rider but marketing material as well designed to generate advantage points for a brand in a market where all motorcycles look and feel the same.
More electronics make the difference and are perceived as added value.
Just an idea of what we are talking about: “Honda CBR1000RR-SP 217.5HP IMU platform six axes, 3 riding modes, 9 levels of traction control, 4 levels of launch control, 5 engine maps, 3 levels ending brake, 3 levels wheeling control, 3 levels of steering damper, AbS cornering 3 modes, bidirectional quick-shifter, TFT display...” and we did not mention the optionals.
This article is not the place to discuss technical stuff nor to examine the impact that electronics equipment has on price and on rider’s real help.
I will rather write about the laziness and induction of laziness.
If you plant anything, as small as a tomato seed, you need to dedicate time and effort in order to make it stronger from roots to fruits; in other words, you need to work to make it work.
We are naturally lazy: if the resources around are sufficient and if there is no need to fight for them we like to spend this time sleeping, physically and mentally. The nice life of the Mediterranean diet.
I am not suggesting that electronic aids on a motorcycle are designed for the laziness of riders. They are there for valid reasons: to improve safety while improving speed and reactions, to prevent riding errors while making rider less conscious, to improve quality of life by making advanced riding accessible to beginners.
It sounds quite good and good it is with the risk of turning the pilot into a zombie.
A motorcycle equipped with a wheelie control means you can open the gas release the clutch and fly away without thinking… heated grips give comfort when cold… leaning ABS allows to confidently slam brakes while cornering. One can safe energy to think about planning, safety, environment or to look at passers-by and enjoy the scenic ride.
Now imagine a motorcycle without electronic aids (quite difficult to find today on big cc.). Will it be worse? Not so sure…
Maybe a vehicle without all that fuss would improve feeling, sensorial perceptions, control skills, and brain connections: instead of the ECU the brain will do the job. Without limits and ranges controlled by ECU, the brain will have a free space to improve riding by taking “minor risks” impossible in a computer-controlled environment. A motorcycle without riding aids would definitely be a valid tool for the joy of improving riding techniques.
It is not surprising that we choose to buy the best electronically equipped motorcycles these days: it makes everything reasonable, safe and accessible. In the race to increase engine capacity, horsepower delivery and top speed performances the manufacturers realized that the step ahead in technology was not corresponding to better riding skills in the community. So, the peak of performance had to go under gelding making the “160 HP beast” bland and easy, relaxing the pilot, taking away the awe and respect, pushing everything in the lazy area.
In times not too far away, kids were looking at the bike dashboard to read the speed and to dream about: now all they can see is a blank screen. When we lit it up the amount of information is mind-blowing: it gives the satisfaction of doing something extremely complicated and dangerous (as the cockpit of a fighter pilot) but it is a short-lived and superficial satisfaction.
A Robobike is a safer, sexier, awesome bike but we really need all those horsepowers and all those gizmos to control them? What is the price we pay for a more complex machine? Are these robobikes bringing new young riders to our sport? Are we turning into a rich-only club bringing inequality in what is a very open community?