Are electronic rider aids a welcome enhancement or a crutch?
MOTORCYCLISTS FLIRT WITH LIMITS, both personal and mechanical. How much can the human body endure? How much power can we pack into a trellis frame? Recent years have added a third, electronic boundary. Traction control, ride modes, and antilock brakes make motorcycling safer and have given us another frontier to press. But do they numb the riding experience? What do they teach us? Are we better, more capable riders with them in place? Is rider skill on its way to being obsolete?
Do electronics intrude?
Modern ABS and TC systems feature customizable levels of intervention and quietly lurk in the background until called upon. But while traction control and ABS allow riders to get away with myriad “sins,” whacking the throttle open and slamming the brakes can still get you into big trouble. The best riders remain in control without relying on technology to save their ass.
What, if anything, do they teach us?
Motogp riders rely on traction control. It allows them to safely harness ever more power and maximize the machine’s acceleration, just as it does for the rest of us. But riders must still have strong control skills and effective survival strategies to prevent running wide in a curve or careening into a minivan. Progressively exploring the limits of adhesion with electronic systems as a safety net can help develop those skills.
Can electronic aids lead to false confidence?
The latest TC systems do allow for a degree of ham-fistedness, but unrealistic expectations will develop if you think a bike is not crashable. These systems manage available traction under braking and acceleration; they do not create more traction. Until our machines become entirely autonomous, human ability will continue to be the biggest variable on the bike.
Is skills practice no longer necessary?
While you can relinquish control to electronic nannies, isn’t it better to retain self-reliance? The best riders are comfortable with ABS and TC engaged, but they still practice threshold braking and precise throttle inputs without the need for technology to come to the rescue. As with our personal and mechanical boundaries, knowing the limits of traction-control systems and how to use them as a tool for self-improvement rather than as a crutch is essential to becoming a better rider.