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Motorcycle News, Editorials, Product Reviews and Bike Reviews

Zen and the Ride

Technology will soon make motorcycling something you do not recognize … although you may not fully understand why it is unrecognizable.

Hardware sensors and software algorithms will combine to allow a rider with no experience whatsoever to ride a course faster than Valentino Rossi. Lean angles, accelerative and braking forces will all be optimized to fully exploit the coefficient of friction available from the contact patches offered by the tires given the road surface conditions.

This all means that the rider will be able to ignore the ride. He (or she) can work on his tax return, for example, while riding. No need to focus on the task at hand, because there is no task. The forgotten part of motorcycling will be the essence of the joy it offers. Concentration. Focus. These are the foundations of joy when riding, or, at least, the traditional foundations.

You don’t need to understand Zen (“understanding Zen” is an oxymoron, but that’s an entirely different topic). Unqualified concentration and focus while riding a motorcycle (required because of the inherent dangers) bring a mental peace and joy that will be missing from our brave new world. Reason alone to hang on to the motorcycles that still require it.

See more of MD’s great photography:



  1. takehikes says:

    I’m less is more all the way. We are passing or past the tipping point of electronics and digital help making our ride better. It was nice to lose ignition points and have lights that are better than a match in the dark. past that I don’t care much for it. I want to ride and then be able to fix by myself anything that may go wrong. Not wonder what that burning electronics smell is. Fine, curmudgeon if you will but I’ve been doing it this way a long damn time. I know the zen of motorcycle riding and its why I ride.

  2. peter h says:

    …and you kids get off my lawn before I call the POlise.

  3. Troy F Collins says:

    I’m usually the kind of rider that enjoys the latest technology…..and can often be found spending well earned cash for the latest greatest.. I currently have a 08 CBR1000rr,07 CBR600rr and to satisfy the classical taste a 00 RC51 They didnt change the 2017 CBR1000rr enough for my tastes….and I wont buy another until they do….. Sure it does have added electronics..but not to my taste

    BUT if you take away from me…. an aspect of my motorcycling for eg.. “the aural sense of manual control” The art of a well timed upshift….the blip of the throttle and precisely judged trail braked downshift…..the gentle slide of a corner exit controlled by your right wrist and gauged by your arse….and wheelie control using your own rational and sensibilities….

    I just cant understand…for a street rider…particularly with a liter bike…that when flirting with all legalities concerned with… being easy to do… on the road….is reached well before the limits of the bike..with room to spare …that one would want to add electronics to find more speed…..and having said that…while giving up such a delight of mechanical control…..

    Electronics is great for splitting tenths on track…but I cant see the safety for a road rider

  4. Mr.Mike says:

    Once machines are smart enough to build better machines than themselves it’ll be all over for us humans, so get out there enjoy the ride while you can.

  5. John says:

    All the cowboys are dead, but I’m still riding. And probably having more fun than they did, too. Just a different kind of fun, on a different animal. As long as there is a joy in riding two wheels, I’m in. The key word is “fun,” no matter what the ride. Different strokes … . Like the saying goes, who cares what you ride, as long as you ride.

  6. Ricardo says:

    That’s it, there is a limit to all the electronics nonsense, in the future the machines will be running us and not us running them.
    I am keeping my ’78 Honda CB550k and ’85 Cagiva Alazzurra forever now :-).

  7. Shmitty says:

    The fact of the matter is that we are now living in the golden age of internal combustion engine powered transportation, and it’s not going to be here much longer. Although the automobile and motorcycle industries are still investing in their traditional models, the move to introduce more technology to include less operator interface with the driving/riding experience is just beginning. I have a hard time imagining as that progresses that the investment that will be needed for the safe incorporation of motorcycle transportation will happen. Since the motorcyclists are an aging group as we’re all well aware, who’s going to fight to keep motorcycles in the mix if it’s economically unfeasible to do so for the low percentage of people that want to ride? No one, that’s who. We are seeing the future of transportation evolve in front of our eyes and it doesn’t look like motorcycles are going to be there much longer. Enjoy the time we have left to us with the best motorcycles that have ever been made. It’s a rare thing to be aware that one is living at the best possible moment, and I think that this is the apex for motorcycling. Be sure to make the most of it.

  8. Vorax says:

    I have to disagree a bit. There will always be budget bikes that lack sophisticated electronic driver aids. Fancy electronics cost money to develop and add to the sticker price considerably. Not everyone can afford a premium brand or manufacture’s “flagship” bike.

    Lack of intrusive electronics is what makes lightweight and middleweight bikes so fun. Besides, all that fancy electronic stuff is just more crap that can go wrong with the bike further down the road. Just buy a cheap bike, mod it to your personal preference, and you can easily get your “zen” on.


    • sbashir says:

      Dumb bikes will not be allowed on roads in the future because they will pose a hazard to self-driving vehicles. Bikes will have to interact with all other vehicles on the road.

      • Texinohio says:

        I firmly agree with sbashir. Just as ATV/UTV and dirt bikes are now regulated to specific use areas, so will all vehicles that require human control.

        • Scott says:

          Kill me first.

        • Norm G. says:

          re: “Just as ATV/UTV and dirt bikes are now regulated to specific use areas, so will all vehicles that require human control.”

          by George I do believe that’s a veiled reference to short circuits…? okay okay maybe the future’s not so bad afterall. πŸ™‚

  9. Delmartian says:

    Ha ha. One day early for April Fools, but you still got me for a moment.

    • TunaPete says:

      Man, I let myself get sucked into the vortex of this “topic.” I was even wondering “would I ever trust the machine to perfectly analyze road conditions?” as I read the second paragraph. Well, P.T. said there’s one born every minute, and I could be used as exhibit A.

  10. skortch says:

    In the age of self-driving electric vehicles will there even be a point to motorcycles? Will they still be manufactured or even allowed on the road?

    Surely in the near future all transportation control will be in the hands, er, chips of some central computer system. You plug in your destination and sit back for a nap. Vehicles will be reduced to small pods on wheels that join up on highways and split off as we near our destinations. Or they’ll just be used for short jaunts to mass transit hubs.

    Motorcycles don’t really fit into that upcoming world. We’ve got a decade or two, max, to enjoy the ride, zen or no zen.

    • Mick says:

      Anyone who have been in traffic in any major Euopean city is going to very strongly disagree with you. I have been an expat here, Paris right now, for five years.

      Anyone who thinks that they are going to get motorcycles out of the hands of people who actually want to get from one place to another has got a very tough row to hoe indeed.

      Sure I can get to any spot about half way across Paris faster on a bicycle, if I ride like a major hooligan. For the rank and file, there is NOTHING that will get you across town faster than a motorcycle or scooter. Cars are slower than the metro for large portions of every day, that isn’t in August. The metro is half as fast as a bicycle or scooter from a place half way across town. Cars are for leaving town, or those unfortunate occasions when you have to bring too much crap along with you.

      I repatriate in less than 24 hours. And look at what you guys have done to the place while I was gone.

      • Jeremy in TX says:

        Mick, a Paris with nothing but autonomous vehicles would have no traffic jams. The two-wheelers would no longer be necessary to get from point a to b efficiently.

        • Mick says:

          I think that you may be overestimating their effect. Way too many cars on a road will still clog the road. The airport this morning comes to mind. Cars waiting to get though a gate are always going to back up. Motorcycles will always be able to move around them.

    • Tank says:

      The reports of the death of motorcycles have been greatly exaggerated.

  11. PN says:

    No, this isn’t true at all. You could stay home and “ride” your bike in Virtual Reality. No, the essence of motorcycling IS concentration, awareness, mindfulness, living in the here and now.

  12. Tommy D says:

    My 2016 R1 on the race track has the ability to make me feel like Rossi and I LOVE IT. Slide control is FUN. It works better than I ever imagined. Fly by wire is showing up in RC planes and drones with autonomous capabilities to keep newbs from crashing. Cool stuff. It’s all designed to have fun and yes you can SWITCH IT OFF. So you can experience the reality of being fully in control. What I don’t like is my Lowrider S ABS not being able to switch off. (How can I back that thing in with ABS?) Nannies that don’t switch off is something I’d like to attack.

  13. allworld says:

    Truer words can not be spoken

  14. Mick says:

    The drag car guys say that mere mortals can’t pull a fast time in a drag car because you have to learn to assimilate the information fast enough.

    So “riding” at a world class pace on a motorcycle that requires any sort of rider input at all is unlikely. Anyone without already considerable skills would make late, if they were made correctly at all, inputs.

  15. azi says:

    Gameification and the quantified self is the new reality. I know many hardcore cyclists that don’t consider a ride to be a “real ride” unless it’s on Strava.

  16. Fmdbh says:

    I have a 2016 KTM 1290 super adventure. It has 6 computers on board.
    It manipulates the speed the rotation of the wheels the lean angle and the brakes. It makes for a better ride.
    I’ve been riding for 50 years and this is the best overall bike I’ve ever ridden. It might be a little ugly but it handles great.

    • sbashir says:

      It is not ugly. I have the 2015 1190 Adventure R and love it. In addition to the 6 computers, every functional part of the bike is controlled by CAN bus (Controller Area Network). Even if a bulb goes out or you try to use a different kind of bulb, the computer will throw an error. That is why if you want to change to a LED headlight, you have to fool the computer by drawing extra current. There are sensors everywhere, including the tire pressure monitoring system.

  17. carl says:

    Does it matter?? Motorcycle riding is going the way of the dodo bird, extinct. When all the fat old guys like myself die off, there doesn’t seem to be any youngins following behind taking up riding.

  18. Larry Kahn says:

    β€œI have met many Zen masters — they have all been cats.”
    Eckhart Tolle.

  19. Dino says:

    Love the Zen picture.

    As for the automated cycle getting that advanced to allow a novice to pace faster than a world champion, ain’t gonna happen.. Physics. Period. To go faster on two wheels would require more extreme lean angles, and the pucker factor at such extremes would kill the average Joe!

    • sbashir says:

      Physics is exactly what will allow the bike to go faster. That, and computation. Just like in anti-lock braking and traction control, computers can do the job better than humans.

  20. William Parker says:

    Unfortunately, with the coming Singularity LIFE itself is something we aren’t going to recognize…

  21. TF says:

    β€œThe test of the machine is the satisfaction it gives you. There isn’t any other test. If the machine produces tranquility it’s right. If it disturbs you it’s wrong until either the machine or your mind is changed.”
    ― Robert M. Pirsig

  22. Neil says:

    Yamaha SR400. My CB500F. Still old school. The big bikes are getting electronics already. It’s still expensive too. But less expensive than crashing. The Kawasaki Z900 has no electronics other than the slipper clutch. I can see though, things ARE moving in the E direction. FZ09/FZ10, for example. I don’t think it’s a bad thing, but riding over the limit on the street is still not a good idea. I see so many sport riding fools on Youtube next to guardrails in California. That’s not the place for it. Even doing The Dragon in Tennessee guys slide off into the trees and over the cliff. So I like the idea of slowing the pace a bit and taking in the ride, CB1100 style.

  23. CrazyJoe says:

    Didn’t a Google autonomous vehicle recently rear end a motorcycle cop? Do all those self braking vehicles suffer the same short coming? Hmmm lets see if my bike will stop before it hits thst truck. I doubt a two wheel machine can be made fool proof when a fool is operating it. The old adage never rely on your machine will be ignored with or without any life saving devices but as a motorcycle becomes more robotic it might become your best freind dispencing love advice and making you a better person it won’t be cheap.

    Mean while a rain mode might be a help to new rider and belongs on any bike along with anti lock brakes.

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      “Didn’t a Google autonomous vehicle recently rear end a motorcycle cop?”

      Not saying that didn’t happen, but I haven’t seen a news story for that yet. I did read where the autonomous vehicle was rear-ended at a stoplight. That has happened several times actually since Google has been testing its cars on public roads. It would seem that the problem is not the computers but their makers. As SkyNet can attest.

      A police officer did pull one over recently for going 24mph in a 35mph zone. That factoid was reported along with the most recent rear-end accident, which maybe got translated in social media world to “google car rear-ends police officer?”

    • Norm G. says:

      this is the recent story i’ve seen regarding an autonomous Volvo taking a digger in AZ. dated 3/27/17 it showed up in this engineering newsletter i’ve begun receiving. crazy thing is, i never signed up for any damn newsletter…? it seems the Terminator robots just began sending it to me email random-like about 3 months ago. saw it had some decent news on one my fave topics (dieselgate) so i just stayed with it…

      • Scott says:

        Just so you know, the Volvo was taken out by a girl who made a left turn in front of it without yielding. As has been the case with almost every accident involving an autonomous car so far, it was another (human) driver who caused the crash.

        I’m sure accidents and malfunctions will still happen on occasion with driverless cars, but the humans don’t exactly have a stellar track record when it comes to avoiding collisions, do we?

  24. Curly says:

    ‘There’s a force in the universe that makes things happen. You just have to get in touch with it. Be the bike Danny’.

  25. Jeremy in TX says:

    If we ever introduce that level of technology onto the roadways, I suspect motorcycles won’t be a part of the transportation equation. What would be the point of a self driving single track vehicle. Why would anyone bother? Would it even be thrilling, like a theme park ride? Surely not as the self piloting vehicle goes about its task of obeying it’s programming, cooperating with other self-driving vehicles maintaining safe distances and reasonable speeds for its passenger.

    • sbashir says:

      Unless they allow lane-splitting single track vehicles which can go through the traffic jams.

  26. beasty says:

    With the few riding years I have left, I’ll stick with the crude and unboring. Oh, and great write-up on the Harley Street Rod.(thumbs up emoji)(roll eyes emoji)(evil smiley emoji)(abs emoji)

  27. Norm G. says:

    re: “Technology will soon make motorcycling something you do not recognize”

    have at it boys, hopefully myself or my EYE SIGHT will be long gone.

    re: “No need to focus on the task at hand, because there is no task.”

    there is no SPOON…

    but for now “i’m all set with that” (South of Boston slang). i mean if the tasks we partake in as men don’t involve some risk of injury…? or worse death…? then my friend you AIN’T LIVING.

  28. David Fisher says:

    One of the main reasons we enjoy motorcycles is the satisfaction and challenge of riding well. We all know that motorcycles are not that dangerous, especially to others. When we mess up we are the ones who pay the price. What I would really like to see are self-driving cars. That would have prevented the 88 year old guy who pulled out of a parking lot 3 weeks ago and totaled my wonderful Honda 599 and nearly totaled me as well from doing something he should not have been doing in the first place.

    • Randy D. says:

      “1 of the main reasons we enjoy MCs is the satisfaction and challenge of riding well.”

      Exactly. Being a long time old rider(73) I don’t want/need ABS or any other added on safety features to enjoy riding. If I need that kind of stuff I’ll quit riding. But I do like my maxi-scooters no shifting acceleration and the better handling, better brakes that showed up over time. And most the newer bikes are down right ugly, impractical for carrying things besides yourself, IMHO. Centerstands have become rare now too. Wassup wit dat?

    • Scott says:


      The last time I was in a car with my 73 year old mother driving, it occurred to me that self-driving cars can’t get here soon enough! Yikes.

  29. Craig says:

    I still like my track days; going as fast as I can (not the fastest)and feeling like I’m flying and actually accomplishing something and learning something…

    Today’s people growing up in this technological world where a lot of stuff is done for them… to them learning and doing it without technology is a waste and dangerous. I can’t even fathom that view point. (At 53)

    But that said, I really want to ride a 1000 cc sport bike with full electronics just to see.

    I’ve always ridden smaller displacement as I can extract more of them vs. the other way around. And I like that… (then I have an excuse for not being the fastest.. haha)

    All said… it’s an amazing discussion, but yes, keep building these ugly bikes and good luck with the new gen being able to pony up!

  30. Left Foot Down says:

    You are correct Dirck. However there will always be those of us that won’t buy in. Authentic enthusiasts will prevail.

  31. mickey says:

    Good thing the manufacturers are making bikes so ugly now that I don’t want to replace mine anyway. Old bikes= full bore experience (although my CB 1100 does have ABS lol)

  32. Does Tom R says:

    Tongue-in-check, folks. Be sure to read the last sentence.

  33. Brian Dueck says:

    For the ultimate in laziness, why even bother to ride your automated motorcycle when you can have Motobot do it for you.

    (and keep in mind, this video is over 2 years old, imagine where this project might be now…)

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “imagine where this project might be now”

      good money says, preparing to rid Planet Earth of it’s “human scourge”.

  34. Eddie says:

    “Hardware sensors and software algorithms will combine to allow a rider with no experience whatsoever to ride a course faster than Valentino Rossi.” Pretty hyperbolic, don’t you think? ADAS might help you gain 2 seconds or 5 seconds a lap, but if a rider with no experience is going faster than Rossi, he’s a passenger in a theme park ride.

    • Dirck Edge says:

      Just wait.

      • xLaYN says:

        I agree with Eddie.
        You are part of the bike in the sense that your body and what it does is part of the bike inputs, being body leaning on curves the most obvious example as opposed as an self driving car (robot overlord version alpha (NG voice)) that carries you… you can move inside, sleep or check facebook FWIW without changing in a significant way the output of what the car does.
        May happen yes but probably will follow a similar curve to iPhone tech improvements where every year is less disruptive and more refinement (a.k.a. check Innovators dilemma)

        There’s an anime with name “Kino’s journey” of a girl and her bike, in one episode it’s explained that there is a symbiotic relationship between her and her bike where one provides speed and the other balance.

    • Scott says:

      Even if they arrived at the point of automated motorcycles that could lap at Rossi-like speeds on their own, there’s no way I would sit on the thing and “ride” it. That’s putting WAY too much trust in a computer chip. Besides, I can get just as much of a thrill riding my own bike at far slower speeds.

      They have airliners now that could probably take off, fly to a destination, and land all by themselves. But would you fly on it if there wasn’t a real pilot sitting behind that stick?

      • Grover says:

        Yes, airplanes are capable of taking off and landing without the aid of a human pilot holding the stick. No big deal nowadays. There are situations (like a pilot landing a crippled airliner full of passengers on the Hudson River with no casualties) that may have had a very different outcome had it been a “pilotless” aircraft making decisions on where to put down. Statistics say that it would be a safer world if we eliminate the human element from control of all transportation and like it or not, that’s where we’re headed.

        • Scott says:

          I know that’s where we’re headed, and I actually don’t mind – as long as we still have the ability to opt out. For 90% of the drivers on the road, an autonomous car would be very beneficial, as well as safer for them and everyone around them.

          I just don’t see the point of having that technology on a motorcycle or a sports car…

          • sbashir says:

            When the roads are taken over by autonomous vehicles, manually operated vehicles will not be allowed. You will not be able to opt out.

          • Scott says:

            When manually operated vehicles are no longer allowed on the road, trust me… I will be “opting out”.

            I’m guessing you’re a big fan of the Terminator movies? Your posts seem to indicate that you would embrace a future where computers rule the pesky humans…

  35. Dave says:

    Nope. When the sensors tell the system that the contact patches are at their maximum, it still has no bearing on the fact that the motorcycle is not turning as sharp a radius as the corner happens to be and the bike/rider will still go off the road and crash. They’re just more likely to still be on their wheels when they run out of pavement.

    Unless the road communicates with the vehicle, riders will able to make the same mistakes they do now. With ABS and traction control, riding a motorcycle still takes every bit as much concentration and carries every bit as much consequence as it ever has.

    • Brian says:

      Thing is, the road *will* be communicating with the vehicle…in a sense. Current self-driving cars are constantly scanning ahead and calculating pretty much everything to do with the car’s performance and any potential obstacles. That tech will improve, and move to bikes. In theory, the hypothetical situation you raise will never occur: you’ll never be going too fast for a corner, because the bike will never allow that situation to arise.

      As Yogi said, predictions are hard, especially about the future…but if new bikes are still being built in 20 or 30 years, my guess is that the only way to hurt yourself on one will be to jump off. Assuming your advanced, total-coverage-airbag-equipped suit allows that to happen.

      • todd says:

        Self driving vehicles will not determine the fastest possible speed through a corner, they will be sure to be just under whatever speed every white and yellow sign tells them the limit is – adjusting even lower for “conditions “.

        • sbashir says:

          Yes, but race bikes will go at the fastest possible speed through a corner. It will be more a competition between factories than between riders.

  36. edbob says:

    Don’t get me started,…… well, OK. πŸ˜‰ My biggest pet peeve is with BMW. Years ago they swore they’d never turbocharge because the throttle lag disconnected the driver from the experience. Now everything they have is turbocharged, with almost a full second between the time you touch the accelerator and you feel anything. And if you want to go fast around any corner, just point the steering wheel and floor the accelerator. The car will get you through all by itself, with a trace of tire smoke if you have ‘sport mode’ activated…. No thrill. No rush. Just boredom as the car does all the work. With motorcycles though, the electronics only apply if you’re on a race track. Even with the best cornering ABS, you can still loose it if you’re leaned over on an unseen patch of gravel or sand. And so, if you’re riding a motorcycle on the street hard enough to utilize such technology, there are still a hundred other things that can kill you. If that’s not thrill enough…

  37. Scott says:

    Right on, man, right on…

  38. Grover says:

    Sounds like something the masses would enjoy; maximum thrill without the learning curve? What’s next, HAL coming into the bedroom and making love to your wife for you?

    • KenHoward says:

      Hmm, who would object to a gorgeous, 18-looking and very human-like Ms. HAL paying us a visit?

      • dt 175 says:

        yeah, but since we’re all old guys that hate modern, up-to-date motorcycle styling, better make mrs. HAL in the 45-60 range…

    • MGNorge says:

      If it enabled you to be off riding then having HAL back home “taken care of business” might be a good thing! :/ Like killing two birds..

      Seriously, with autonomous cars just around the corner it’s got the car world scared too. With ever more crowded roads it’s harder for enthusiasts to find the Zen they seek while riding or driving. A big reason for the popularity in track days.

      I don’t know, we live in a crazy world today.

  39. LarryC says:

    April 1st is still two days away.

  40. dt 175 says:

    but… we’ll still be able to be hit by a car, won’t we?