I haven’t been riding for very long, but I’ve noticed that motorcyclists generally fall into one of two categories: the ones that don’t want anything that could be considered a luxury, superfluous, or unneeded on their motorcycle, and the geeks.
I don’t mean that in a derogatory way – I’m a pretty big geek when it comes to certain things (the definition of “geek” being someone who is very passionate about something as opposed to a “nerd” who is very smart about something) and motorcycling is one of them. So when ABS started to creep more and more into the motorcycling world there were the staunch resistors who clamored “just learn to brake correctly!” and the ones that thought it was cool.
Maybe not needed, but still cool.
ABS isn’t enough, though. Not for a guy like me. I like the idea of the ABS on Honda’s Africa Twin where you can flip a switch or push a button and disengage ABS at the rear wheel only. That’s cool!
The latest is the European Union’s mandatory inclusion of the eCall system in all new cars (not motorcycles as of right now), which automatically detects a crash and calls emergency services. They say there’s a decreased response time of 40-50% which is a pretty big difference and one that you would certainly appreciate.
Unless, that is, you fall into the first category of biker.
Reasons range from paranoia that the government is tracking your every move to the practical – namely how this will effect the cost of motorcycles.
While ABS isn’t a requirement right now, it’s being added to more and more bikes, but at a premium. You pay for the option of having ABS, just like you pay for other options like cruise control or luggage cases. Some bikes come standard with ABS but (oddly enough) have a $500 jump from last year’s non-ABS model. Weird.
But I think that, when it comes to safety features like ABS or eCall, manufacturers should eat the cost.
I know, I know. Basic economics would say that a manufacturer shouldn’t eat the cost when there’s suddenly a higher production cost, but hear me out: With motorcycle sales falling and more people saying the reason they don’t want to ride is because it’s not safe, it makes sense to offer safety features for free. If you don’t, you give people more ammunition to hearken back to the “glory days” when you were free to crash and slowly bleed out in the middle of nowhere without having to pay an extra $300 just to help guarantee your life will be saved.
Instead, if manufacturers ate the cost, they could pitch their bikes as safer and still affordable. They’re still practical modes of transportation – something a lot of people are concerned with when it comes to motorcycles. They’re still less expensive than a lot of cars – another draw for the masses. And now they’re safer.
By doing this (and honestly, it probably wouldn’t have much an impact on the bigger companies), they can help boost their sales and any short-term losses they have from eating the cost will be made up with greater sales.
Not to mention the added benefit of a higher likelihood of a return customer.
I have a friend named Marc who bought a Kia Sportage. He drove it from the lot and within a day was involved in an accident that totaled the car but both he and his small child were perfectly fine. A little shaken-up, perhaps, but neither had injuries. He went back to the same Kia dealership the same day and got another Sportage. His rationale was that Kia had proven themselves in the crash and he’s been an advocate of the brand ever since.
And I know that we as motorcyclists don’t have the same luxury of crash zones and air bags surrounding us but imagine the pitch: A rider is out on a picturesque road – maybe on a snaky coastal road with the waves crashing nearby and the sun sitting just so on the horizon. It looks like any normal car commercial, just with a motorcycle. But oh no! The biker hits something on the ground, starts to swerve, loses control, and high-sides. He comes to in an ambulance as paramedics reassure him that he’s going to be okay. The bike called for them and they got there just in time. Thank goodness for that feature that was standard (and free).
Why was it free? Because Kawasaki (or whomever) thought that you, the biker, was worth giving every life-saving advantage to at no cost to the biker. They value you and want to make sure you stay as alive as you can.
How great would that pitch be?
Well, it would be a lot better if it came from one company before it was mandatory because once anther company expresses this kind of concern for its riders, all the others will look like they’re just trying to copy them. Similarly, if it becomes mandatory, the companies will look like they’re more concerned with meeting mandates than caring about the riders.
It sounds like a dream, but it’s a dream that would get more people at least interested in the prospect of motorcycling, which is more than what’s happening now.