Maybe I Don't Want to Be THAT Safe

As promised yesterday, here I am with a new editorial dealing with the ever-growing problem of electronics and motorcycles. There is no definitive right or wrong in this matter, but rather a matter of how one sees the act of riding a motorcycle.
I won't bash those who buy a bike because it's fancy to own one and ride it once a month or so, so please don't take this personally. But I happen to have noticed that people who ride very rarely tend to favor more and more electronics taking care of as many issues as possible during their ride.

I am not saying that these folks are the main force that drives the expansion of more and more complex electronic systems integrated in the motorcycles, but I strongly believe they are at least an important part of it.

Other people might simply be fascinated by gadgets and their "superpowers", while others will just go with the flow, looking forward to replacing their bikes with the newest, most technologically advanced ones.

It's hard to pinpoint the exact source of this movement, but I guess I was able to put several decent reasons on the list. I know I barely scratch the surface, and you should feel free to comment and add your personal view on the matter.

Confidence. That is the lack of.

Riding only a few miles per year, these fellows don't have the time to train their instincts and hone their skills, and this is a major source of lack of confidence. We all know at least one guy who rides rarely and we know how their lack of confidence in their skills causes them to be slow to the point where they become a burden for the pack.

Not having ridden in all scenarios

Second on the list is the fact that these fellows, who don't get to ride too much, often have zero experience in scenarios that are regarded as common by most others.

That is, riding in the rain, in foggy or cold weather, on dirty or completely unknown and difficult roads, riding at night or in mixed adverse conditions.

Not knowing what the course of action should be in scenarios that are far from ideal might cause certain riders to long for something that would eliminate hazards in their way if possible, or at least provide a warning in due time.

Even more, some of these guys might even agree to let the bike's computer alter riding parameters, such as engaging a different traction control setting, engine mapping, or speed limiter.

Unable to come with the right responses to ride safely in such conditions, some of the riders might replace the inner drive that should make them want to become better motorcyclists with the fast reactions of electronic systems.

Idyllic motorcycling imagery works against the riders

One of the anticipated functions of the interconnected system I was writing about yesterday was being able to have a bike communicating with others in the area and conveying info about road hazards. To me, this sounds almost romanticist, but not necessarily in a good way.

The idyllic image of a motorcycle being ridden during the autumn on a deserted countryside road with fallen leaves and all the classic wallpaper cliches has indeed nothing to do with what motorcycling is really about.

Riding a bike is difficult and risky, and even though seasoned motorcyclists would say it comes naturally after tens of thousands of miles, the reality and all the road hazards often make life on two wheels hard and dangerous.

Electronics may help you ride harder, but they won't make you a better rider

The sad fact about too many electronic systems taking care of what YOU should be taking care of behind the bars is that they CAN indeed help a guy ride harder in the rain, for example, but they don't make this fellow a better rider.

This is the blunt truth some learned to live with, and others simply attempt to refute, but without being able to offer solid reasons. Letting electronics do what you should be doing is the equivalent of mutilating the very act of motorcycling.

Instead of getting scared the first several times when the rear tire slides to either side when taking off from the stop in the rain or on wet asphalt and understanding what is going on, what was your mistake and learning how to correct you riding style, you just delegate this to a chip.

And next time you'll be riding a "dumb" bike or if anything happens to the chip, you'll most likely go down in the same scenario and say the bike sucks, when in fact it's the other way around.

The advocates of increasing the amount of electronic gadgets aboard motorcycles would argue that they make the ride safer, and riders like me, who say we are already overwhelmed by electronics would agree with this point of view.

It's maybe really soon when we will see motorcycles that can ride by themselves. The self-balancing technology is already here and there are a lot of guys developing it - it won't take an eternity to sort things out and it will hit the street.

Self-driving cars are already being tested on actual roads and marrying these two technologies is a matter of time. Autonomous motorcycles are maybe a decade or two away. They might be safer and allow faster rides in tricky conditions, but still, people astride them will not be "contaminated" with the bikes' might. They will not even be worth referring to as "motorcyclists," but rather as "motorcycled", if you catch my drift (with no traction control).

Maybe we don't want too much safety

It seems like the apparent safety is one of the aspects of a rider's life that maybe doesn't need changing. Old two-wheeled dogs will confirm this for you, even though some of them will bash even the ABS, which is one of the very few modern-day electronic gimmicks whose functionality is hard to deny.

The need to be a bit scared, aware and focused all the time is what makes riding such a great human experience. We may lack safety doing 100 mph while our contact with the road is less than the size of two credit cards.

The lack of certainty about what we'll find around the bend adds to everyday roads. The fact that we don't know how hard the rain will be is equally rewarding, even if we'll get soaked when we get to the destination.

All this lack of certainty and bounty of hazards is what makes us safe in our lack of safety. Myself, I won't let that go without a fierce battle, and I know there are so many riders like me out there.

Ride... safe!
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