The past year was definitely a fruitful one for bike lovers. Many new motorcycles were introduced, as well as some new technological trends that became reality. From turbo-charged commuters to safety equipment integration with smartphones, 2015 had something for everyone.
A major change in the motorcycle industry was European legislation, which is a new set of emission standards. As it slowly goes into effect over the course of this year, manufacturers will have to step up their game. Engines will have to be improved so they’re within legal emissions ranges while not losing too much power. This means we’ll probably see a lot more liquid-cooled engines since air-cooling is becoming obsolete in the face of new challenges.
Road safety is also becoming paramount. Traction control and selectable ignition mapping were things that you could only see on race-worthy superbikes. Now you can find them even on scooters such as Piaggio's Beverly 350.
And finally, engines with smaller capacity and better fuel efficiency have proven to be much-desired goods in markets such as China and India. Combined, they represent a huge market for any manufacturer, and ignoring those demands would mean losing millions of potential buyers.
With that said, let’s have a look at some of the major tech trends that spawned in 2015, and some expectations from the industry in the year to come.
Strength and power of the newest superbikes is mind-blowing. Latest flagship models from Kawasaki, Ducati, BMW and Yamaha are all pushing around 200 horsepower, with the trend showing no signs of slowing down.
The future is looking bright for superbike enthusiasts, as more factories develop their own extreme models. We already had a sneak peak at Suzuki’s new GSX-R1000 that is set to release next year as a production model. Honda was good at keeping everything secret so far, but it’s safe to guess they have something up their sleeve for 2017 as well. Same goes for BMW and Ducati.
Then there’s Kawasaki, and their H2R supercharged beast. This monster was never built with regulations in mind, and it’s price will keep it exclusive to those rich enough to afford them. This rocket on two wheels was meant for closed circuit track racing only, since it’s 300 horse power would be impossible to tame on a crowded street. An obscene amount of power, the reintroduction of a non-atmospheric engine in a mass-produced model and the aura of exclusivity is what already brought a legendary status to this bike.
Small Capacity Engines
It’s not about raw power all the time. Sometimes you just need a simple, practical solution for your daily commute. Something small, with good handling, that will get you from point A to point B and use the least amount of gas possible may be all you need.
That’s exactly what BMW had in mind when they announced their collaboration with India’s TVS. Their aim? An affordable entry-level motorcycle that would bring good sales to both sides. And BMW G 310 R might be just that. For the European market, it’s a decent learner bike and economical commuter, but it could also be a key to unlocking the Asian market. Japanese manufacturers realized the customer’s needs and have been offering models in this capacity class for quite some time. Now it’s up to European and U.S. factories to enter the game.
Speaking of which, Harley-Davidson already showed us their player, the 500 cc Street. As weird as this might seem for Harley, given their reputation, it actually makes sense. KTM isn’t backing down either; smaller models of it’s Duke family are built in India by Bajaj.
The 300 - 500 cc class is bound to become quite interesting in the years to come.
The single most important word that will define the next period of the automotive and motorcycle industries is electric. Even though manufacturers all over the world are still clinging to gasoline burning machines, electric vehicles are slowly but surely emerging and gaining a foothold.
The main reason why it’s happening at such a slow pace is outdated energy storage. Battery technology hardly changed in past 20 years, and can’t yet compete with IC engines when it comes to range and refueling times. Scientists around the world are working hard to push the battery technology forward, so we should see drastic advancements in next 10-20 years. For now, there’s Empulse TT and Harley’s LiveWire as examples of what can be done with current tech. However, CEO of Harley-Davidson stated that their model is deemed too expensive with the range that’s simply not good enough, so they’ll probably postpone the production until better batteries arrive.
The good thing is, at least, the world is slowly realizing that it needs to wake up from this dream where fossil fuels are cheap and last forever. The stage is set for manufacturers of electric motorcycles, and those who already have commercial models out in the market are at an advantage. Now, it’s just a matter of time before others join in.
Image Credit: 246-You via Flickr Creative Commons