I’m half impressed, half disappointed by Yamaha’s new R1

On one hand, the R1, and its fellow 2015 ultra-bikes like the Kawasaki H2 and the new Ducati Panigale are amazing feats of engineering that we should celebrate for pushing the boundarys of what’s possible. They’re exciting, make a lot of noise and go very fast…. So what disappoints me about them?

The first issue I have is that these bikes, particularly the R1 and most likely the H2 as well, are so powerful that they would be essentially uncontrollable without the extensive electronic rider aids. Some aids I think every bike should have. ABS and Traction Control are important. When you go too far beyond those, you wonder why you can’t just make a bike with less power, that you can actually ride without relying on electronics to keep you from crashing. I think you need to find a balance between rider aids and keeping the riding experience as pure as possible.

The second and more important issue I have is that motorcycle manufacturers are overly focused on one-upping each other in speed and performance. Taking their eyes off key matters such as pushing motorcycling as a real alternative to cars as a practical commuting solution for the masses, as well as improving their environmental credentials. The fact that most bikes still put out significantly more harmful gases than cars is unacceptable in my opinion, and something should be done. Electric bikes are on the way, and some of the current ones are already very nice machines. Motorcycle regulators have done a poor job in enforcing Euro regulations which has been much more aggressively done in the car industry. They are starting to catch up now, but it’s been far too long coming.

As far as marketing goes, Yamaha and others make great scooters, but they don’t talk about them enough. The bread and butter of the car industry is in practical hatchbacks, and the sports car market piggybacks off that success. Fiat sell a huge amount more cars than Ferrari do, and the motorcycle industry needs to take note, and fast.

Sports bikes can’t come first forever, or motorcycling will risk becoming irrelevant among the general public. Motorcycles account for around 1% of UK traffic, and that is simply nowhere near enough. As electric bikes and scooters come in and the battery technology improves, a big push should be made to get that percentage up to 5-10% in the medium to long term. It’s about time that motorcycling was marketed as something other than just a leisure pursuit.

Is it better to act as if you don’t care about climate change?

It’s pretty depressing when I talk to people, and every time we get onto the subject of things like driving, people have no interest or just don’t know anything about climate change, or at worst don’t care at all. “It’s someone else’s problem right? It doesn’t effect me.”

I understand that, but I find it hard to not care. Maybe it would be better if I acted like I didn’t, or at least not talk about it as much as I do. Not everyone knows what Tesla is, they aren’t going to buy a Nissan Leaf, even the BMW i8 isn’t going to change their opinion on hybrid cars. Maybe the best way environmentalists like me can hope to make a difference, is just by letting things go bad. If we don’t do anything, and we just leave it to the scientists and car manufacturers to keep working behind the scenes, in the meantime the general public will continue to use up our fuel resources. Before long they’ll have no choice but to make an effort to change their ways.

Will it be too late by that point? Is it already too late to reverse the damage that’s been done to our atmosphere? I don’t know, but what I do know is that every day that we continue as we are, the job is getting progressively more challenging.

Perhaps the recent reduction in oil prices can be a blessing in disguise. Maybe it’ll help to deplete the oil faster and put us on the right track quicker, albeit while doing more damage in the process.

Simply put, we should probably stop ramming the facts down peoples throats and instead just quietly do our bit and hope for the best going forward. It’s like the I’m a Mac, I’m a PC ads. By annoying your potential customers, you’re probably not getting the desired effect from your advertising. You’ve got to allow people to catch up on their own terms, however painfully slow that feels to us as technology fans and environmentalists.

Will people swap cars for Segways?

The answer to this question is almost certainly no in most cases. Often cars are the best option for when you need to carry people and things around. Then there is also the problem for people who live out in rural areas where the battery life of a segway and it’s range on one charge just aren’t feasable for daily living.

So with that said, is there a place for these more friendly forms of transportation? Of course. There are plenty of advantages to these bikes / scooters for people who live within a short distance of a town or city centre. They also serve a use even if you would just like a mode of transport to go biking or having some fun with at forest off road trails. The segway XT is designed especially for this purpose, as are many motor equipped mountain bikes.

I also think these modes of transport will suit people who currently use bus services to get from A to B in their town / city. If you live within a mile or so of your work for example this would be a great solution to many people, eliminating various car ownership costs, not to mention lower the chance of being caught in traffic jams.

Obviously the cost is a great advantage but another advantage for me personally in the bike is that there’s no lessons required to use it as long as you know how to ride a bike, plus unlike a segway, the costs are significantly less and you’re far more likely to go unnoticed. As much as I like segways, it’s hardly true of a two wheeled scooter which you lean around to steer.

While many people will say it doesn’t eliminate the problem to the environment due to the fact that it uses electricity, which is produced mostly by burning fossil fuels and therefore still adding to the problem. However, although this is true, unlike greenhouse gas emissions which can’t ever be a good thing, electricity will be generated in environmentally friendly ways in the future more so than at present which is a great thing. I welcome wholehearedly the building of more off-shore wind farms and of course solar power, not to mention water. I see both these sources as being a great opportunity for everyone to save generate their own power in the years to come. I hope we will start to see more rooftop mounted wind turbines and solar panels as time goes on.

So essentially what I’m saying is that I think bikes, segways and especially electric motor assisted bikes are among the many solutions that will be the future of personal transportation. Well, at least until something else gets invented.