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Opinions Driving On modern bikes

On modern bikes

Modern bikes are already in the past. Give us some true innovation please

Ediror: Giannis Zacharakis Photographs: Internet

Technology advancement is widely acceptable as a good thing. It gave us, fire, the wheel, writing, penicillin, personal transportation, electricity, the internet. It also made possible the escape from earth’s gravity and exploration of space. On the other hand of course, it gave us better weapons, it destroyed the environment and created needs that were never there in the first place. Now you need to change your mobile phone every year, just because there is a newer version of your perfectly working old one, just because they changed the 1Mpixel camera with a 3Mpixel one. There is no real argument to support such consumer’s habits, but generally its good for making money go around. It’s the same with cars, they tell you to change it with the newer better version of the same thing every three years. What for? The life span of a modern car is around ten (10) years during which it will serve you relentlessly. Same story with bikes, motorbikes that is. Only in that case the newer version comes out every two years. Two years! How much different can the newer bike be? And this brings me to the topic of this article. Which is how much of the technology that is invested in the new shiny bike you’ve just bought, you actually need and will use on public roads? In the old days there was one type of motorcycle so you only had to 24/12/2009

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Opinions Driving On modern bikes

choose the different manufacturer. But now specialization and specificity of bikes is so incredibly high that you need to spend an equal amount of effort to choose from the different offers. And I think it’s just a market trick of the companies so that they can sell you products that in most of the cases have decade old technologic ideas and implementation, but they can climb rocks driven with one hand. But is this what you really need for your every day life? And why do the companies spend all that financial and human resources to research, develop and manufacture those products? They advertise their technological advancement with huge fanfare every two years that a new model comes out. The advancement being a 5gr lighter valve spring! I do realize that for something like this they have invested 1,000 man months of their finest engineers and 1 million Euros of their money, but what is the difference reflected on the use on public roads? Anyone answering that it will make the bike faster and more responsive is day dreaming. Because if someone can make use of the differences in time on say the typical Sunday blast is probably called Valentino or Casey… And this might seem that it renders the importance of modern bikes questionable if not Piaggio mp3 problematic. Of course, it’s a very complicated issue involving not only the engineers and scientists of the brand, but also the sales managers, market analyzers, market policy decision making and all the levels of administration related to a market oriented world. Nevertheless, I cannot accept that simple things that would make our every day life easier, safer and happier have not been considered in the development of modern bikes. And for that I blame not only the bike makers but, and this is very frustrating, all of us who buy their products and consider our selves as bikers. It’s a very simple concept which somehow has been forgotten by everybody. I’ll try to explain my thoughts by giving two examples, one concerns a very simple feature that could make bike use a lot safer and one that would require a huge amount of research and development but the added value in safety would be enormous. In the car world is now common sense to put multiple angle side view mirrors. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about, these are the left mirrors of cars with the dotted 24/12/2009

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Opinions Driving On modern bikes

black line dividing the two different parts that offer different viewing angle. It’s a very cheap simple to produce part that increases the rear visibility significantly. This all makes sense when you enter a highway, you need to accelerate and change lane before the acceleration lane ends and you need to check what’s coming behind and to the side of you. Why bikes do not have that? Why the most vulnerable part on the road does not make use of something that simple? The other example takes the same concept a lot further. Why do bikes fall? Why haven’t the manufacturers spent their efforts in adapting gyroscope technology and incorporating it into bikes so that they can be self balanced? It might sound like science fiction, but there is Segway and the Piaggio MP3 that make use of this technology. It is not impossible to make a huge impact on road safety for million of people. And the examples I can think of are many; from a simple antitheft immobilizer, to ABS, to anti spin control, to a complete stability control, to semiautomatic transmission, to novel suspension systems. Some of these systems have been used by some manufacturers, but still there is a lot of debate on whether they are useful. I had an argument with someone who bought his bike (a Suzuki Vstrom 650) without the ABS system because it was lighter without it! What a stupid argument is that? How much can an extra half a kilo affect the performance of that bike to consider it against your safety? On the other hand, I think we need to acknowledge the brands that try to make a difference and dedicate an effort in innovation. I’ll try to describe some of these innovations that I believe have made a difference. The combined brake system from Honda first of all. It increases the active safety of the bikes by a significant amount. Especially the latest incarnation of the system, the one that is used in the new generation CBRs is something that all brands should adopt immediately. Staying with Honda the automatic transmission used in the DN-01 and the new VFR1200.

Honda DN-1 24/12/2009

Honda VFR1200 www.sparewheels.gr

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Opinions Driving On modern bikes

What a brilliant concept. I’m sure that it will make its way to all motorcycles in the next years, just like semi-automatic double clutch gearboxes made their way from supercars to simple cars (even a humble VW Polo is offered with one). We should not forget Aprilia of course when we speak about transmissions since they were the first to equip their Mana with a semiautomatic gearbox, but you need a big manufacturer like Honda to bring it to the public. You need the FIATs to and not the Ferraris to introduce innovations to the boad public, but you rely on Ferraris to make the innovations. Yamaha needs to be mentioned also for their FJR 1300 AS with a similar system but not quite as impressive as the two Yamaha FJR 1300 AS above. But we need to praise Yamaha for their courage to create one of the most important bikes of all times, the GTS1000. An all time classic, possibly their greatest bike of them all, with a revolutionary frame and front suspension. Trying to solve a century old problem of front suspension operation they created a timeless piece of engineering ingenuity. Again it was a small but brave and a little insane Italian brand, Bimota with the Tesi that first tried to replace the telescopic fork with a system incorporating a swing arm and hub steering. By suspending the arm with a spring and dumper combination to the frame and using push rods to activate the the hub steering they tried to isolate steering from dumping. The first attempt, being an Italian brand, was ridiculous, but proved the point before Yamaha came and improved it. It was the German precision of BMW though that brought it to the mass production. Their Telelever system is doing exactly the same thing, distinguishing steering form dumping, in a way that both looks and operation are familiar to the end user. And that is the great success of it, the user friendliness of it, apart from the impeccable operation, but that was the

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Opinions Driving On modern bikes

easy part, being Germans and all.To cut a very long story short, I need to say that there is a very long way to go for making modern bikes truly modern and making everyday usage more enjoyable and by far safer. But it turns out it’s not only up to the manufacturers to do that, because at the end they need to be profitable to survive; it’s up to us too and that’s something we need to understand and realize its significance. We need to make a stand and demand all those things that car buyers enjoy for many years now. Because the technology is right here and it’s a big shame that we do not have access to it. “May the force be with you”.

24/12/2009

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