Community Commentary Lieback’s Lounge: Do Motorcyclists Need ‘Vanity’ Electronics?

Lieback’s Lounge: Do Motorcyclists Need ‘Vanity’ Electronics?

As a motorcyclist who desires full control over every possible adjustment on my bike, from one or two psi difference in a tire to a click of front preload, I embrace electronic aids with as many settings as possible.

But I’m one of a very few. The others are racers, fellow journalists who like to blab on about custom electronics, and the super-serious ADV or touring riders.

do we need vanity electronics?
The V-Strom 1050XT has minimal electronics – the perfect amount for 80% of riders

For all other riders, I’d argue 80 percent, the high-tech offerings may be considered “vanity” electronics.

The thought derives from “vanity metrics,” a term within the world of digital marketing and advertising. Many see huge social media audience or shares as positive for business, though the numbers tell otherwise.

These vanity metrics deliver a strong hit of dopamine to the business owners and drive up egos. But unfortunately, the ROI is not there, just as the ROI of endless electronic adjustments is also not there.

Let’s discuss two of my favorite adventure touring bikes—the Ducati Multistrada 1260 Enduro and the 2020 Suzuki V-Strom 1050XT.

In regard to electronics, these motorcycles are polar opposites.

For the Multistrada, you have nearly 400 choices of customizable settings throughout the four modes—Sport, Touring, Urban, Enduro.

Yes, 400.

Take a quick look at adjustment possibilities across the four modes:

  • Cornering ABS (three settings, plus off)
  • Wheelie control (eight settings, plus off)
  • Traction control (eight levels, plus off)
  • Sachs shock (fully adjustability)
  • Power output (three levels: high, medium, low)
  • Fork (four levels: soft, medium, harder, hardest)
  • Bike load (four settings: rider; rider + luggage; rider + passenger; rider + passenger + luggage)

As for the V-Strom 1050XT, things are much simpler. You have 21 choices of tweaks across three riding modes.

Here are the much-simplified settings:

  • Corning ABS (three settings, no off)
  • Traction Control (three settings, plus off)

That’s a huge difference, and this reflects in pricing. At $21,795, the Multistrada 1260 Enduro is nearly $7000 more expensive than the V-Strom 1050XT.

But do these electronics make the ride that much better?

Again, for 80 percent of buyers, I’d argue no.

I’ve tested both bikes and had a bit more seat time on the Multistrada 1260 Enduro. If I were considering serious off-roading or a trip around the world, the Multistrada would be the ride of choice. Some of that reasoning derives directly from the precision the wide arrange of settings allow.

Lieback’s Lounge: Do Motorcyclists Need Vanity Electronics?For all other riding situations, the choice is much tougher. Both motorcycles satisfy needs for comfort in town, on the highways, and around the backroads. For those situations, all factory presets would work fine.

There is absolutely zero need to take off one level of traction control or cornering ABS for these types of rides, which make a bulk of the riding times typical owners.

Very few riding situations reflect the need for dialing in precision on fancy electronics. The factory presets are perfect, even if they only offer two or three settings.

I’ve asked many fellow riders for their take on the endless adjustability of modern bike electronics, and most agree that these crazy adjustments are useless for the average rider. Some said they’d surely gloat about how many adjustments are available, though, in reality, they’d never change a thing.

I’m looking to expand on this topic of vanity electronics, and need some help.

What’s your take on bikes with crazy amounts of parameter adjustability? Is it worth it, or would you rather see a lower price and more factory presets? Let me know below.

Ron Lieback
Ron Lieback
One of the few moto journalists based on the East Coast, Ron Lieback joined the motorcycle industry as a freelancer in 2007, and is currently Online Editor at Ultimate Motorcycling. He is also the author of "365 to Vision: Modern Writer's Guide (How to Produce More Quality Writing in Less Time).

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