On Balance  

Schooled on rider safety

Well I’m off the bus. And a fine one-day tour it was.

That bus trip to the bike show at the coast is always a treat at this time of the year. A great way to get to the show and avoid both winter driving and the lineups at the front gate, plus the chance to renew old acquaintances and meet new ones. 

Here’s a big thank you to Dave and the gang at Bentley Motorrad for organizing it for us! 

I’ll mention right away, though, that next year’s trip is skating on thin ice, because it takes a pretty full bus to cover the costs, and there were some empty seats this year. So, do think about plugging that into your calendar for next year….

There used to be enough buses at the show that you had to make note of which one you were on. There was always the chance somebody would wake up halfway to somewhere they hadn’t planned to visit. Multiple buses at the exit from the beer garden made for all sorts of fun. But this year there was, well, ours. Don’t quite know what to make of that.

Anyway, I said I’d be looking into the future at the show this year, but I’m afraid the view was a bit constricted. Sure, there were quite a few of the latest models from Whizbang and Whoopdedoo Inc., but by this time of the year they’re all pretty much old hat, having been introduced to the press and friends sometime last fall.

Not me, of course. Like you, I just get to read the purple prose of the paid guys who get invited to those parties and do a little riding as well, in the course of things. By now, all that vicarious excitement and enthusiasm has rather taken the edge off the buzz about the latest update on the previously revised and updated model, you know?

There were, however, several electric offerings that I did finally get to see up close and personal, so job done there. Happily, some of the people representing the e-factor in the industry were not only very knowledgeable and keen, but also more than willing to talk at some length and detail about product and plans. Which they did.

Before I got to them, though, I got well schooled in the problem of rider safety from the industry perspective. There are several categories of problem, apparently, so in no particular order:

  • It’s too difficult. There are way too many complications to deal with to ever figure out how to build in anything like forward collision warning, or blind spot warning, that sort of thing. Could take forever, if they’re even working on it.
  • It’s too expensive. All that R&D, all those computers and sensors and wires and everything, that stuff would make bikes cost way too much. Nobody would buy them.  
  • It’s too bulky. There’s no place to put all that freakin’ fat heavy stuff, all those processors and modulators and, well, all that stuff. A bike’s small, not like a car, where you have lots of space. Well, OK, only some bikes are small. But there’s still no space.
  • It’s too, mmm, invasive. Gets in the way of the riding experience, ruins all the fun. Takes over and wrecks your day if you’re a real rider who’s on the ball and has proper skills. Motorcyclists want total control.
  • It’s not allowed. Those government regulators, you know, they just don’t let companies put safety technologies on their bikes, even when they really want to. No sir, government won’t let any of that stuff into the country.
  • It’s too soon. Bike customers aren’t anywhere near ready to deal with all that modern technology, they still need bikes to be just like they always were. Change anything too fast, and pow! There goes your customer base.

This could get long, but you get the drift. As a lifelong gearhead, with an interest in automotive safety engineering, let me just say it’s all pathetically familiar, too. 

So, then I went down the hall, and visited the new kids on the bike block, to see what they have to say about all the “problems.”

Damon Motorcycles is a genuine breath of fresh air — fresh B.C. West Coast air. They’re a new start-up, in Vancouver, and they’ve already built a high performance fully electric bike with state-of-the-art rider assistance technologies (ride modes, IMU-based motorcycle stability control, etc.) as well as a package of electronic rider positioning adjustments. But that’s just where it starts. 

Damon’s mission is rider safety, and to that end they’ve already engineered and built full 360-degree proximity alert systems that give riders both visual and haptic warnings of potential hazards. Those systems upload rider events to Damon, to allow them to continuously develop the bike’s sensing and response capacities. 

All that for $25K starting. 

Not too complex, or difficult, or disallowed. Not too bulky, nor invasive. Safety and total control, right here and now, not some future date after all.  


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About the Author

Bill Downey is a retired professional social worker in support programs for people with congenital or acquired physical and cognitive challenges, who was also a volunteer firefighter and a BCGEU health and safety advocate.

For many years, he has been a motorcycle riding coach/instructor with Kelowna Safety Council who spends too much time studying international traffic safety research and not enough time doing all the outdoor things a boy from the Okanagan should be doing.

He has lived a very large portion of his life on two wheels as a commuting and travelling cyclist, but, for the extra challenge, he is also as a motorcycle commuter.

By nature, he has a balanced approach to all things.

[email protected]https://kdsc.bc.ca

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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