It’s not too long ago that the only thing you checked for in a bike instruction manual was the tyre pressures and chain adjustment. Riding modes were known as ‘wrist’ and ABS was ‘just enough pressure’. If you buy a high end bike today it is going to come loaded with a lot of new electronic features that are filtering down even to mid range bikes. Some of these are added by manufacturers ‘because they can’ and some are as a result of legislation, and all mostly under the guise of improved safety. But the important thing is they all intervene at some stage in the operation and control of the bike that used to be purely under the control of the rider. How they do this and what you can expect to happen is only going to be found by reading the manual and finding a safe way to experience them in operation before you are either caught out or get too distracted fiddling whilst riding. Here are some things to thing about.
Manufacturers may use the same name for a feature that operates in a different way compared with the same on another bike.
Is everything actually set how you assumed it to be when you last rode the bike, been in for servicing etc?
What can be adjusted on the move or only when stationary?
ABS – Have you safely practised some emergency stops to know how it feels when it is operating? Do you know where it still isn’t going to help as much such as whilst cornering or whilst massive suspension loading shifts take place.
Cornering ABS – advancements to overcome the issues of heavy braking whilst leant over. Getting a feel for how that one works is going to need some carefully thought through practice.
Linked brakes – which way round is it? Some rear coming on with the front lever or the opposite?
Traction control – Off / on systems are fairly straight forward but where a range of control is offered where is the breakaway point? Even with TC the wrong amount of acceleration at the wrong time might see you parting company with the bike.
Hill Hold – no need to physical hold one of the brakes when on an incline but how is it triggered and turned off to avoid a stall or accidentally turning it off before you are ready to move?
Daytime LED running lights – we got used to not being trusted with a light switch many years ago and having dipped beam come on with the ignition. Now a bike may have a daytime running light such that dipped beam needs to be turned on again. Don’t be like so many car drivers out there that are no longer thinking about their lights.
Riding modes – what combination of throttle, suspension and power delivery curve does your bike control in the various modes? This differs very widely across different bikes.
Electronic suspension – What options have you got? How does the bike behaviour change during acceleration, braking and cornering with different settings, whether you have a passenger etc.
Where is all this development going ? Certainly not backwards. This year the new BMW R1250RT is launched with radar distance control to the vehicle in front. A problem only for a select few but you might want to know how that behaves and what scenarios might see you needing to change your bike trousers.
So, read the manual, try things out safely, know how some software genius in development has decided your bike should behave before you are forced to find out that it is counter-intuitive to what you assumed or learnt 20 years ago. Here at 3CMT we do back-to-biking courses for those who have been away for a while and are more than happy to help out with information and advice about all the new toys.