Self-Driving Motorcycles Are Too Silly for Me, Thanks

They say the world is changing. It IS. And it has been so since the first dawn in the Universe. We are insignificant compared to the immensity of space, and that’s why changes seem to take place with a much greater speed, especially as mankind is making an accelerated progress as years go by.
Technology has made our lives a lot better in many respects, even though some complain that, at times, things are too much. The point of this editorial is not to discuss how useful technology is for us in various segments of our daily lives. Instead, I am about to tackle one of the subjects I constantly postponed writing on: self-driving motorcycles, and how I see them as silly, and anti-rider.

I will be blunt: a motorcyclist is a person who operates a motorcycle, on public roads, on the trail or on track. A rider, at least in my book, is a person who has grown to accumulate experience, who can and WILL ride in pretty much any conditions. Sunday riders, fairweather riders and the likes of those are motorcycle operators. For me, a true rider is, or should be, involved with his bike on a much deeper level, understand motorcycling and everything that comes with it. A self-driving motorcycle eliminates almost everything there is to riding, and the very idea sounds exceedingly stupid, save for the technological progress which will be derived from it.

For sure, the technologies to be implemented, tested and refined with such a project will turn out to be quite useful for other things. The world changes so quickly that it’s almost impossible to predict how personal transportation will be in ten years’ time… and I won’t even try to go there.

But the very idea of riding a bike you don’t actually ride is preposterous. Some say that even electric motorcycles are ridiculous, while others, more radical, won’t even ride a liquid-cooled machine. All this antagonism sounds like kids quarrelling compared to the self-driving bike, really. It doesn’t matter whether you like manual shifting and the associated clutch work, the automatic clutch and button shifting of a Yamaha FJR1300 or the smooth fully-automatic transmission of a bike: you are riding it, you make the decisions. On a self-driving bike, you’re dead weight. And you’re not exactly riding.

After talking to several guys about the self-driving bike, some of them even added that such a contraption would allow people who don’t ride to throw a leg over a motorcycle and experience what two-wheels are all about.

Frankly, I believe this is very wrong. Motorcycling just isn’t for everyone, and I don’t want this to sound like an “elite idiot,” but this is the pure, unadulterated truth. Just like driving a car isn’t for everyone. Or ski jumping. Or speaking German. Or painting. And the list could go on forever. Cut the “everyone should get a chance to… “ or the “you’re free to try” crap: it just doesn’t buy it. Of course, anyone could try to paint, but you see, no painting skills will possibly attract irony but will not kill you or other guys. Being a lousy rider will, and yes, it can also involve others.

I have a first-hand experience with a very smart lady (you’ll understand why) who enjoys the motorcycling world quite a lot. And by “a lot” I mean she took motorcycling training courses, got her A license and bought a small-displacement bike. She went out on the street and she was finally surprised to learn that trotting away in the parking lot was a lot easier and less dangerous than taking the same bike on to the public roads.

She also understood that controlling the bike and being aware of so many things around her were too exhausting for her, both mentally and physically. And since I told you she’s a smart girl, she graciously sold her quarter-liter chopper and prefers the safety of the car, a motorized vehicle she can actually operate exceedingly well. I am quite positive that even she would not enjoy simply sitting on a bike and letting the robot carry her as if she was a heavier backpack. And that is because this isn’t riding, not even for her.

The same goes for everything else there is to this technology. I bet that almost all the guys in the world who are riding a motorcycle and really love motorcycling will say the same thing. Man (or woman) and machine, wind in your face, blistering sun or rain clouds (come what may) above and the pleasure one gets from riding around the next bend, THESE are what make motorcycling such an addictive hobby.
Will self-driving bikes ever become a reality? Will we see Tom Cruise’s Minority Report self-driving car replaced by a self-driving bike? Possibly, transportation and transportation-connected technologies are evolving dramatically in the 21st century, so seeing a guy reading a newspaper while being on two wheels will not look that intriguing 20 years from now on.

But will he be able to beat Trinity and her Matrix Ducati? I bet my 20 years' wage he couldn’t. And that’s why I like rider-driven bikes!
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