Part of their original success during the motorcycle boon of the ’70s was born out of helping introduce new riders to the joys of motorcycling by producing a line of smaller, less intimidating machines than the competition. As a result, there has always been a residual element of safety that has surrounded the company. Continuing this tradition of accommodating nascent riders, Honda has developed the SMART (Safe Motorcyclist Awareness and Recognition Trainer), also known as the SMARTrainer.
'The SMART is a highly effective tool to help beginning riders – as well as returning riders who need a mental tune-up'
The Honda SMART is a traffic simulator specifically designed to give riders a safe bridge between a typical beginning riding course (which often take place in a parking lot) and the real-world scenario of riding in traffic and on public roads. The key is in providing a no-risk introduction to the hazards of street riding to compliment rudimentary instruction. In this day and age of video games, it’s important to point out that the device is not a riding simulator and there is no articulated movement. However, what the SMART lacks in actual physical riding sensation, it more than makes up for in providing an effective tool for rider education.
The key to the SMARTrainer is that it utilizes a motorcycle-like cockpit, with a seat, handlebars fitted with active throttle, front brake and clutch, and footpegs with rear brake and shift lever to fully mimic a bike. The SMART uses Honda’s proprietary software to present the operator with 17 different riding environments that unfold on the computer screen and respond accordingly to rider inputs. The choice of landscape ranges from city, mountain, and suburban scenarios, which can be rendered in daylight, night setting, and even fog, to help challenge reaction time and provide a valuable foundation to becoming a more defensive, safer rider.
The SMART is a highly effective tool to help beginning riders – as well as returning riders who need a mental tune-up – become aware of the potential dangers that exist for them out there in the real world just waiting to ruin their day; erratic traffic, bad drivers, merging vehicles, congestion, blind spots, etc. The motorcycle controls provide a practical, physical base for rider training, allowing the rider to associate the visual/mental aspects of traffic dangers and surprise situations with actual elements of application.
The SMART is surprisingly engaging. Confronted with a multitude of situations that might arise out on the street, the SMARTrainer places riders in potential situations with a much lower risk factor than the real world. Despite the somewhat rudimentary visuals and riding simulation, I found myself regarding the surrounding traffic with a strong sense of seriousness and the potential consequences of mistakes or oversight.
Once the training element is accepted, and the operator understands the goal of getting through the various asphalt jungle obstacle courses unscathed and within the law, is when the value of the SMART becomes apparent. The system portrays traffic and movement effectively enough to ingrain the importance of defensive riding, watching evolving traffic ahead, merging cars and trucks, hidden hazards such as pedestrians and bicyclists, as well as road debris.
The simulator allows the operator to review their performance in slow-motion and from a multitude of perspectives (side, overhead, behind, etc.) to better comprehend and evaluate the results. The SMART also allows the riders to put themselves in the driver’s seat of other vehicles to witness the run from that driver’s point of view. The SMART features an evaluation function, providing a detailed print-out for rider and trainer review.
The introduction of the Honda SMARTrainer is somewhat serendipitous, given the significant increase in interest about motorcycles among the general public due the recent spike in the price of gasoline. With the number of new and returning riders entering the marketplace, the SMARTrainer is poised to help a new generation of motorcyclists enter the fray with a greater degree of safety awareness than in previous years.
It certainly provides a much safer alternative to the way many of us older riders got our start, which amounted pretty much to a friend sticking you on their bike, showing you where the throttle, clutch, brake and shifter was, and sending you wobbling down the street to fend for yourself with little more guidance than a pat on the back.
The Honda SMARTrainer is presently in use in 38 Honda Powerhouse dealerships across the country. Call your local Honda dealer for more information.