Electronic Rider Aids – Motorcycle Commentary

Electronic Rider Aids Are Here to Stay | You OK with That?
Ducati Multistrada Enduro gauge displaying various electronic settings

Often, when standing at the gas station found near the base of your favorite canyon or in the paddock of the track, conversation hovers around the latest and greatest that manufacturers offer. As we throttle through 2016, the motorcycle market looks incredible.

And speaking as a fan of all-things-Italian that happen to have two wheels, I have to admit, there are plenty of manufacturers that don’t fly the red-white-and-green flag creating bikes that are remarkable both performance and technology.

Now, you’re if you happen to be in a part of the world that has made rider aid such as ABS mandatory – 2016 is the year that marks a change. I unequivocally agree that all new motorcycles above the 125cc displacement should require ABS.

Gulping down water and coffee at your favorite rest stop gives everyone a chance to look over the bike next to you, and talk about the one you’re interested in finally picking up this year. I was recently integrated into the Ultimate MotorCycling team, and I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to ride some of 2016’s fine offerings that make us all want to drain our accounts or genuinely consider signing on for questionable loans.

ABS, Traction Control, Wheelie Control, Inertial Measurement Units, Quick shifting, Electronic Suspension, Adjustable Riding Modes – these are just a few of the amenities that the consumer faces when deciding on a new motorcycle. When I received my motorcycle endorsement, I joined the ranks of the motorcycling community at a time when these amenities were reserved for high dollar flagship models. Today, I’m glad to see that some of them have moved from a luxury category into something that the consumer now expects.

Back at the gas station, there will always be the grumblings from the old guard, men and women who own boots that predate my existence, proudly proclaiming “I don’t need that getting in the way of my ride” or “it’s just another thing that can break.” But I have to wonder, why must we buck against something that is there to help? Surely, someone as innocuous Anti-lock Braking Systems mean me no harm when riding; to the contrary, it’s one small advantage and I’ll take anything I can get.

Curiously, when racing conversations began, I hear a lot of bashing electronic aid. But nearly everything we have in the consumer market was born from racing, and on the electronic side of things, that couldn’t be truer. Maybe I’m not a fast or aggressive enough rider to trigger some of these rider aid and have them negatively impact my time out in the canyons or on the track. That is a very strong possibility, but when I hop on my ’06 Ducati 749s that is devoid of all the aforementioned creature comforts, I miss knowing that those aids are there.

That can be a problem. For a new generation of riders, those who are going to be buying their first motorcycles in a market where electronic features are now ubiquitous, what does worry me is a complete reliance on those aid. If you find yourself on a motorcycle that doesn’t have those features, will you full-fist the front brake? I somehow doubt that this rhetorical hyperbolic rider exists, but there is a chance he or she is out there. Rider aids – regardless of how good – are no replacement for proper riding techniques. A full electronic suite isn’t going to compensate for poor throttle-control, horrible body position or bad tires. These aids were designed to do, but rather enhance the already basics of riding.

Motorcycle Rider Aids - No electronics?I’m not advocating that we do away with the old. That isn’t the point at all; if that were the case, I would have sold the 749s and sunk what little money I have into a newer motorcycle. Things change. Technology advances, whether we like it or not and the world will continue to turn with or without your approval.

I would argue against it and support your position if this were to negatively impact the riding community, but it isn’t. I’d argue that some of these advantages, whether you put them to use or not, help a rider focus. And for riders of different styles, most electronic aids are programmable to your riding styles or needs.

The new riding year is here, and for those who plan on finally upgrading (I too am one of those people), electronics are something that will most certainly be found on whatever pink slip adorns the buyer’s name in the coming years. So let us not throw sticks at the humble offerings that manufacturers have brought us or denounce these additions to be heresy in the name of all that is holy in motorcycling – let’s just hope that the menus are a bit easier to navigate as time goes on.