Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Uncrashable But Not Unbreakable

To those of you that read MCN you will have seen last week (Weds 9th January) the article on BMW's motorcycle that should be virtually uncrashable. Thought up by Josef Seidl the design is brilliant. Essentially creating the ultimate in rider aids. The motorcycle that should forgive you of most of your sins.

Though a few shivers did run up my spin. First the idea that this technology may make it to the racetrack. Could you imagine Valentino Rossi or James Toseland being replaced by rider's more like Steve Jobs and Mark Shuttleworth. If I want to see uncrashable motorcycles racing each other I can buy a computer game. With racing we want to see skill rule and mistakes punished. Even the current level of technology in racing is controversial and is threatened with regression. Which I can only support.

Then other issues come to mind. What of you and I, the average motorcyclist. In awe of the skill of our motorcycle hero's. It is one thing getting the replica paint schemes and gear, but actually getting on a bike in the belief that the technology will allow us to copy them. Kawasaki is one of the manufacturer's that use traction control systems in it's motorcycles, but unlike BMW, you will not see them organising press shoots and driving their machines at wild speeds over gravel. Instead they do not want to give the rider a false sense of security. For at the end of the day it is our sense of vulnerability that keeps us alive. Aids should be welcomed and indeed we should get as much if not more then our car driving companions. Yes, ABS, traction control and 'longitudinal dynamics' might stop the motorcylce from parting with the rider, but none of it will help at a junction when that car does not see you.

Another reason why this should be welcomed is in response to people like Rune Elvik who have started to call for the removal of motorcycles from the roads of Europe. Usually voices like this could be dismissed, but Mr Elvik is actually a respected road safety expert who has previously authored the "Handbook of Road Safety Measure's" and is currently a scientist at Norway's Institute of Transport Economics. While his calls for the removal of 'toys' like motorcycles, even extending to high performance & classic cars, the introduction of increased safety measures should ensure that voices like his does not herald the demise of motorcycles.

Indeed the situation for the motorist here in Europe does look dire, as we are increasingly strangled by further regulation, small minded people and having to be prepared to allow our motorcycles to control most of the ride. I find myself looking across to pond with some envy at a place where the idea of wearing a helmet is considered an infringement of one's liberty.

Keep the rubber side down.