MODERN TECH: FRIEND OR FOE?
Are electronics really changing the way we ride on track? We head to a Donington Park trackday to find out
Most modern motorcycles come bristling with top-notch electronics. Launch control, traction control, anti-wheelie, ABS, cornering ABS, ride-by-wire and auto-blippers are all reasonably common on today’s latest and greatest., But do they really make us safer or faster? MCN investigates...
The silicon-enhanced BMW S1000RR rocked our analogue world in 2010. It heralded the start of the electronic rider aids revolution.
Here was a European machine that stuck two fingers up at the Japanese. Not only did it come with a Gsx-r1000/blade/r1/zx-10r-crushing 190bhp, it also boasted a plethora of ride-by-wire-enabled electronics never seen anywhere outside of rac- ing: traction control, rider modes, racing ABS, wheelie control and a quickshifter.
The Beemer quickly became a trackday favourite. Just throw some sticky tyres on and it would turn in lap times a racer would be proud of.
Blade and GSX-R1000 excepted (for now), every new big-capacity sportsbike worth its salt now has big power and advanced rider aids. But electronics have evolved at a rapid rate and the latest, cutting-edge sportsbikes have sophisticated internal gyros that allow such refined traction control they’ll hold you in a finely controlled power slide. They also have auto-blippers, launch control, electronically adjustable suspension damping and engine braking control.
But with these incredible electronic rider aids comes the inevitable debate. Do they actually work? Should bikes even be fitted with them? Some insist that bike control should all come from your right hand, using skills developed over years in the school of hard knocks.
Others feel more confident riding with their silicon safety nets. Up and down the country there are riders happy to lean on their electronic crutches at trackdays, pinning their throttles out of corners, rain or shine – happy in the knowledge they’ll be going home in one piece. There’s no denying that riding with electronics is safer, easier and less tiring, and because of the confidence they instil they can help riders lap faster. But do they take the skill away from riding a fast bike around a circuit?
To find out how electronics have changed the way we attack our circuit riding, we head to a trackday at Donington Park to speak to riders with and without electronically enabled sportsbikes. We also catch up with race legend Ron Haslam to get his verdict on the electronic revolution.
‘Every new big sportsbike now has advanced electronics’