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Do we need more Tech in motorcycling?

By 19.11.20217 Comments

In the last 10 years a LOT has changed in Motorcycle Tech. But have all these changes been for the better? That’s what I’d like to discuss! Obviously, this will be a more opinionated article, so please feel free to share YOUR opinion below in the comments.

Before we start, let’s break this up into some categories, because you might feel differently about Safety Tech compared to Comfort Tech for example.

Built-in Safety Tech

With built in Safety Tech I mean tech that comes with your motorcycle. Tech which improves the safety of you, the rider. A big one that we all know, and that has been around for a long time, is ABS. ABS prevents your wheels from locking up during hard breaking, making it less easy to slide, while shortening break distance. ABS works even offroad, and with the improvements over the years, nowadays you’d have to be a really good rider to outperform modern ABS systems. If you don’t believe me, watch this video where Bret Tkacs puts this to the test:

ABS has evolved immensely over the years. Most higher-end motorcycles of the big brands have cornering ABS now, where sensors in the bike measure your lean angle, speed, acceleration, etc. and adjust automatic breaking accordingly, decreasing the risk of you going down in a corner. Next to that there is traction control, wheelly control, and more.

For me, it’s hard to argue against this Safety Tech. Let’s be honest. Motorcycling is a pretty dangerous hobby. No matter how careful you ride and how good you’ve trained, some situations, like unexpected changes in road conditions and behavior of other traffic participants, are simply out of your control. Accidents happen! Any tech that reduces the risk of accidents and/or minimizes injuries is worth while in my book.

There are other kinds of built in Safety Tech that might be more questionable though. How about a tire pressure monitoring system for example? Or being able to connect your phone to your bike’s TFT and using the handlebar controls for basic phone functions? Does this make riding safer, or is it just a distraction?

Add-on Safety Tech

With Add on Safety Tech I mean tech that people add to their motorcycles later (or sometimes they are factory accessories). A good example of that are auxiliary lights. It’s been proven that a big chunk of motorcycle accidents happen because of the other party not seeing the motorcycle. And Aux lights reduce that risk. So, yes, in my opinion aux lights are important safety tech. I’ve installed aux lights on all my bikes over time. Other examples of Add on Safety Tech… well… I guess it depends how far you want to take this. Do heated grips make riding safer? How about a chain oiler?

Gear Safety Tech

Like motorcycles themselves, motorcycle gear has undergone some huge steps over the past 10 years. New materials and new manufacturing techniques have made gear lighter, stronger, more abrasion resistant, etc. For example, take motorcycle jeans. Just a few years ago Kevlar was THE thing in motorcycle jeans. With a separate kevlar layer you were able to slide on tarmac for a few seconds without your skin being pealed off. Now, kevlar and other materials are woven into the fabric, making the pants cooler, lighter and even stronger.  Also protectors have come a long way, from a material perspective, but also the way we wear them. I had an offroad accident back in May, breaking my leg, which made me rethink my whole safety gear setup.

One of the most recent developments in safety gear is the Airbag Vest. I’ve not tried one myself, but again, it’s hard to argue against safety. Of course budget and comfort also play a role in this. These are often times used as counter arguments against safety. How about you? Are you a ‘dress for the crash’ person or a ‘comfort above safety’ person?

Comfort Tech

Comfort Tech is tech that makes you, well, more comfortable on the bike 🙂. There can be quite an overlap with safety though. Depending on your situation, the climate your ride in, and your opinion you might feel some of these are more safety oriented than comfort oriented. Think, for example, about heated grips, heated seats, heated vests, cooling vests. Other comfort tech could be helmet com systems, hill hold control, a quick-shifter, automatic suspension, a chain oiler, etc. Do you absolutely need those? Do they help keep you safe? Or are they just nice-to-haves, handy gadgets. Do you belong to the ‘pure’, keep it simple, crowd?

Navigation Tech

As the developer of Scenic, this is a subject very dear to my heart. I started working on Scenic’s predecessor, MotoMap, almost 10 years ago now, because there wasn’t any integrated way to find, navigate and track routes and rides. This was the iPhone 3G era, and the App Store was still very young. There were no apps that could do all three things. In order to achieve this you had to scour fora, dedicated websites, etc. for nice routes, and then, if you were lucky enough, they were in the correct file format to transfer them to your expensive Garmin or TomTom (through USB cable mind you). If not, you’d have to find some kind of software that could convert this. A lot has changed since then. Now there are multiple apps out there who can do this, and modern Garmins and TomToms have improved hugely too.

One of the other reasons I started Scenic, is that I’m not a navigation wonder. Even with paper maps I have a hard time. I simply need a device that tells me where to go. For me, this is a must. Still, there are some, that prefer paper maps. Going old school. For those it’s more adventurous like that. And I have to admit, I do understand those people. Sometimes it’s nice to pick a general direction and just ride… get lost a little. How about you?

Future Tech

One of the reason why I wanted to write this article was because I heard about the Forcite ‘smart’ helmet being sold out in under 30 minutes. If you don’t know about smart helmets, they’ve been around in concept form for quite a while. I actually wrote about some of them 3 years ago in our April 2018 issue of Moto Monthly. In tech, 3 years is a long time though. Since then, the tech has evolved and ‘smart’ helmets are now readily available, although still quite expensive. Next to the Forcite, other brands are available too. Here’s a video listing 8 of them.



Do we need more Tech?

Tech propels society forward, and motorcycling is no exception. I myself contribute to motorcycling tech through Scenic and I embrace the safety that new Tech developments bring. BUT… if you ask me what was the motorcycle you had most fun with, the most adventures with… I’m going to say my 1998 Yamaha XJ600S.

2012 – me and my trusty old Yamaha in Norway.

This motorcycle is so simple, so pure. It doesn’t even have ABS. Heck… it has a carburetor in stead of fuel injection. Riding it is so pure, so serene, there are no distractions, except maybe range anxiety caused by the absence of a fuel gauge 🙂. It’s just me and the curves ahead. So, if you ask me if we need more tech in motorcycling…

…my honest answer is NO, we don’t!




Independent Developer of ScenicApp


  • John Reitsma says:

    Totally agree. My concern is that a lot of future tech looks like it requires surveillance by the rider, distracting from the riding experience.

  • Patrick Bloomfield says:

    I love the modern technology on motorcycles that allow us to enjoy riding with a greater level of safety without being invasive. However, I draw the line with these smart helmets. I find it hard to believe that a helmets built-in noise cancellation can compete with my moulded earplugs that reduce wind noise by 30dB. I don’t want to listen to music basted into my ears competing with the noise of the engine, wind and other environmental sounds. And I don’t want augmented information displayed in front of my nose and the environment that I’m riding through. The only reason I Cardo unit for my helmet is to hear directions given by Scenic, and I’m delighted that the latest version gives far fewer directions than before so I’m not unnecessarily distracted in almost every bend along the road.

    For me, riding is about escaping from the everyday hustle and bustle. I want to fully immerse myself in the experience with minimal distractions. It’s about the freedom of enjoying the landscape, the ever-changing road in front of you, feeling and hearing the noise of the wind, the rush of acceleration, braking and changing directions, as well as the feedback of the texture of the road beneath. When you’re riding in the zone, your mind quietens like a form of meditation I suppose.

    While driving my car will tell me to brake if I approach a parked car, especially if there is a bend in the road, and the dashboard flashes orange. The first time it happened, I almost crashed because I was looking at the dashboard wondering what the hell was going on. That is precisely the kind of experience I don’t want riding my motorcycles. As vehicles become more automated with tracking devices that can limit your speed and track you etc, I will stop buying new technology and stick with what I currently own.

    That’s a very long way of saying I’m with you – I’m a purist 🙂

  • Richard W says:

    I ride a tour (2018 Goldwing) and Cruiser (1999 Dyna) for reference of my perspectives

    Bike Built In Safety – ABS, adaptive cruise control, adaptive headlights, BLISS systems, TPMS, etc should be mandatory for new road bikes except those that are custom built from the frame up. Off road and adventure tour would have each type of tech outfitted on a case-by-case basis. These tech advances help reduce crashes and injuries. Black boxes will be coming for all motorized vehicles including our beloved bikes.

    Bike Add On Safety – I’m a proponent of “light’r up” not black it out. Think all road capable bikes at a minimum should have fog or riding lights in addition to the headlights and in the rear at least two sets of lights that are vertically separated as well. Another system to consider are camera systems that record front and rear (no display for rider) for crash reconstruction. There are many cases where those camera systems have already proven that the rider was not at fault.

    Rider/Maintainer Assist – hill hold control, traction control, quick-shifter, automatic suspension, a chain oiler, should be optional.

    Rider Safety / Comfort – All the Gear all the Time. Better helmets, fabrics, armor, boots, and air vests reduce injuries and severity of injuries. Heated gear, seats, and grips can help keep the rider/passenger a human being vice a distracted and slow to react icicle. Same for cooling gear in hot climes. I also include noise cancelling technology in this category, Helps the rider hear over the wind and road noise and possibly extend riding years– how many older riders do you know that have or need hearing aids (I’m raising my hand). And it lets you keep audio and comms volumes lower not higher. Hoping the next major leap will be helmet manufacturers making custom helmet interiors based on each individual’s head. Better fit means less severe injuries. Smart helmets with HUDs are coming but I’ll wait till the tech gets much more mature before adopting.

    Comms/Navigation/Information – This all gets lumped together because it is almost always interdependent. This category can be the most distracting and dangerous and simultaneously be extremely helpful and increase safety. All three sub-categories will evolve and should. The focus and balance should be helpful but not distracting…easy to understand and use. My preferred nav system is my Goldwing OEM nav. It can do everything I need and then some – all without hanging a single thing on my handlebars or dash. Having apps like Scenic that are or will be Apple Car Play (ACP) or Android Auto (AA) capable is another step forward. Integration between the app, ACP/AA, and web based route planning where your activities on one will show up on the others without you doing anything are becoming the new standard. We need an industry standard that enables automatic integration of rider/passenger/group comms (like old school CBs or Sena Mesh 2.0) without anyone touching anything. Just select your channel and go. ACP and AA enable text and phone calls on the road – which can be a distraction…should they be kept? I can see a little case for phones, but not texts even when it is read to you and/or you can dictate a text.

  • Udo Hack says:

    I started motorcycling as preparation to retirement in 2016, according to EU law with 48 hp.

    ABS was a safety must for all my 3 bikes: Honda NC 700 S (A2, 2012), now my winter bike to prevent the newer one from salt. BMW GS 1150 (2000) and now NC 750 X (2020). I like the NC motor concept of low gas consumption and relatively high torque at <5000 RPM.

    Driving all year, heated handlebars and winter tiers are a safety issue for me. (I recommend Avon Trailraider)

    After a car overlooked and hit me on the GS in the middle of a crossing in spite of my right of way at 100 km/h, I was able to ride a bike again after 7 month. I changed all my clothing and helmet for max visibility to neon yellow/black. Since then I also have additional LED front lamps.

    As I trend to forget the indicator, I love the automatic signal reset.

    Curvy and safe trips

    • Guido says:

      Sorry to hear about your accident Udo. Luckily you are back on the bike again. It must have been a firm recovery. I didn’t mention High Vis gear in the article, so thank you for that addition. I think that makes a huge difference in other traffic participants not to overlook you! Stay safe!

  • Quin Mar says:

    Anything that simplifies Hondas version of Apple CarPlay – yes. Their horrendous up/down only UI buttons and no touch while riding an Africa Twin needs help. Very distracting rather than less distracting as Apple intended. How is CP dev going Guido? Do you have access to a CRF1100?

    • Guido says:

      CP dev yet to start. No accesss to Africa Twin. I have a CP test rig and CP in my car. Screen / controls interaction is shielded anyway. Apps are very limited in their influence regarding that.

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