It’s that time of year again – that time where it’s my turn to do this week’s Top 10, and I’ve got nothin’. Time to make some predictions about the future, then! Let us prepare a beverage and gaze once again into the crystal ball.
Now that Harley-Davidson is basically staking its future on the LiveWire electric, and Ducati says it’s headed down that road too, along with KTM, Zero… somebody better come up with something quick! Wouldn’t it be ironic if it was developed by Honda, who’ve lately been working on a fluoride-ion battery with NASA and Caltech that could have 10 times the energy density of lithium–ion? Ride your motorcycle and fight cavities at the same time. Seriously, we’ll miss the internal combustion engine, but we miss steam locomotives too. There’ll always be museums.
Once you get past MotoGP, I hate to say it, but roadracing has become sort of passé, since most of the people who buy motorcycles can’t trim their own toenails anymore. Also, now that the riders are highly trained athletes on bikes that are way too fast yet almost uncrashable thanks to electronics, a lot of the thrill has gone. Watching fat middle-aged men wobble around on 600-pound ADV bikes, on the other hand, seldom fails to amuse. You know what’s coming, just not when…
And the only thing more fun than watching fat middle-aged men wobble around is watching attractive young women beat them down – and I’m not talking about the House of Representatives. Now that the MIC reports women make up 19% of our motorcycling community, we hope the feminizing trend continues, nay, accelerates. For one thing, women tend to be much better caregivers when we’re out falling off of huge ADV bikes.
And speaking of old guys wobbling round on big, tall ADV motorcycles, I predict outriggers, virtually an untapped market, will be the bolt-on accessory of the future as well as the most popular option on a range of motorcycles. Trikes are already big, but everybody doesn’t want to publicly admit they need to be on one. Discreet electric outriggers that let you lean in the corners, then deploy automatically at 2 mph, are the wave of the future as we Boomers increasingly segue into true codgerhood.
The Motor Company has never been anything but open when it comes to following the money, albeit after everybody else. Electric motorcycle? Check. Adventure bike? On the way. With the population aging and a large percentage of that population its loyal customer base, I see H-D-themed retirement communities springing up all across the Sun Belt, along with big demand for its trikes, golf carts and a whole new line of leisure MotorClothes and prosthetics.
Winters are getting more wintery and summers are getting hotter. We’ve had climate-controlled automobiles forever; why can’t there be climate-controlled riding gear? Behold the Feher air-conditioned helmet, DOT-approved and all yours for $549.95. Keeping a cool head goes a long way toward keeping your whole body that way, but why not something in a nice, air-conditioned Aerostich suit? Andy Goldfine where are you?
Hooking them young is what it’s all about if we want motorcycling to continue, and nobody wants to fight traffic to the outskirts of their megalopolis to let Junior ride for a couple hours. I predict the battery breakthrough will spawn a new generation of lightweight dirt bikes, that will, in turn, spawn new infill urban MX parks, where kids can roost till the cows come home on quiet, emissions-free electrics. KTM showed its new SX-E 5 mini last November at EICMA; it should be in US dealers this fall.
Who the heck wants to let a complete stranger borrow their motorcycle? Maybe not quite as many people as the number who want to let a complete stranger stay in their house, but if companies like Twisted Road become even 1% as popular as Airbnb, then it’ll be wildly successful. Lots of people have motorcycles they don’t ride very often; the opportunity to rent them out to responsible, insured riders for a day or three seems like a win/win for all concerned.
Honda showed its self-balancing Riding Assist Technology motorcycle just over two years ago. Aside from being self-balancing when stopped, it can also follow its owner around like a loyal hound. Once autonomous vehicle technology is grafted on to that, instead of having to remember where you parked, you’ll be able to have your motorcycle pick you up at the front door. Sleep at the foot of your bed. Roll over. Fetch. You probably won’t want to rent it out to anybody after all.
In spite of all our talk about the ascendance of electrics, the internal combustion engine still has a decade or two left. Now that we’ve squeezed about as much power as possible out of the four-stroke – 200-plus horses from a Ducati Panigale V4 – what’s left? Less weight and less complexity, that’s what, both of which are achievable by doing away with all those camshafts and valves and chains. The technology is now there to inject fuel after a two-stroke’s exhaust port has closed, which means there’s no reason why a two-stroke can’t run as clean as a four-stroke. Well, not many reasons. Right now, I’m pretty sure it’s the same evil forces who withheld the 200-mpg carburetor that are keeping the two-stroke from reasserting its dominance. Once that’s cleared up, we’re going to see a reemergence of the RD400s and other light, zippy, inexpensive bikes that made motorcycling great – but about four decades more advanced.