With big changes predicted for land transport, and the future of motorcycles somewhat uncertain, what are some likely changes in the design of motorcycles to cater for two-wheel travel demand? To help us investigate this we’ll take a brief survey of the electric motorcycle start-up industry to see what the future of motorcycles might look like.
One trend that’s not a maxim but rather an interesting observation is innovative designs, especially with respect to electric motorcycles, seems to be coming from smaller companies. Of course any size company can be innovative. It’s just that work undertaken on the margins of an industry is risky and maybe smaller companies are less risk adverse, or know where they can compete with a competitive advantage over the big players, or are more flexible and dynamic, responding to trends and pushing into uncertain territory. Who really knows. Currently some the most exciting electric motorcycle work is being undertaken by small companies.
Does anybody read the owners manual of their new vehicle, or for that matter, any new gadget? This year we see the introduction of a new generation Suzuki Jimny. The Jimny model LJ (Light Jeep) first appeared in the 1970s and it was designed as a recreation and work-site mini-car that delivered mid-20th century vehicle technology, with excellent off-road capabilities in a really small form factor. Although a lot has changed over the years as Suzuki have improved each generation, introducing new vehicle technology, safety features, etc, the essence of the Jimny has remained the same across all four generations.
One aspect of owning the original Jimny, and this was probably typical of this era of vehicle, was the requirement for a hands-on, entry-level mechanical relationship with the LJ. Suzuki expected the owner to understand the basic components and abilities of their vehicle, roll-up their sleeves and sometimes, if problems occurred, work to resolve them. For evidence of this, just read the Suzuki LJ50 1975 Owners Manual.
A few commentators have postulated driverless (autonomous) cars will soon make motorcycles obsolete. It’s easy to make this claim, and with some justification. However it's difficult to conclude,
at this stage in early 2019, the death of motorcycling. One clear conclusion, nevertheless, is that development of new transport technology will likely have profound impacts across society, and
not just for motorcyclists.
From the perspective of motorcycle travel, it is interesting to speculate whether a future of driverless vehicles results in a transport system incompatible with the designs and models of motorcycles we use today. This would require an outcome where autonomous vehicles disruptive land transport to such a degree most current forms of transport will not survive. Predicting the outcome of rapid technology change is difficult. The only real certainty is change. In the following article we'll look at a few possible outcomes.
What are the necessary and sufficient conditions for adventure travel? First, it’s clear adventure travel is different from a holiday. Sure, holidays can have adventurous aspects, say your car breaks down miles from the nearest town or you decide to do a risky, fun tourist activity. Certainly adventurous but not really consistent with the spirit of the usual understanding of adventure travel. So what is adventure travel? Maybe it’s easier to show rather than tell.
For the December Travel and Moto Videos feature, we’ll highlight four travel films that might be considered adventure travel. Have a watch and see for yourself.
It looks like there’s a bright future for personal individual electric vehicles. A good example of this type of vehicle is the simple electric scooter. Future models could expand on this concept, adding additional utility like long distance commuter range, through to more complex semi-autonomous three or four-wheel vehicles or possibly even fully-autonomous by design.
At this stage it’s difficult to know how far and fast this vehicle category will evolve, although it’s probably fair to conclude its vehicles will be electric powered. Some interesting questions for this transport category include how these vehicles will be used, what type of technology will become most popular, and how adoption of these vehicles will change travel patterns and land use. In this article we’ll look at the first question. To help answer this question we'll consider what current motorcycle travel patterns tell us about the future of personal individual electric vehicles?
In July, Suzuki introduced their new fourth generation Jimny mini/compact car. This little 4WD has quite a lineage, going all the way back to 1970 when the original Jimny made its first appearance. Almost too small to be considered a real car, the little yellow Jimny featured a three-door Jeep style body on a ladder frame with a hi/low transfer case and rigid axle suspension making it a highly capable off-road machine, and powered by a rather fun and small air-cooled 2-stroke engine. Designed for work-sites and recreational off-road duties, over the years Suzuki have updated this little car, improving its on and off-road capabilities but one thing has remained constant, and that’s its diminutive size. In a world of super-size everything, with big SUVs all over our streets and large 4WDs dominating the off-road market, it's great to have a small, compact 4WD still on the market, although sadly it's not currently available in the US.
In the near future, when on-demand autonomous electric vehicles (EV) are the norm, and very few people own a car, what role will there be for motorcycles?
One can argue within 10 years, autonomous EV service based transport will likely be common place. The current vehicle ownership model is likely to move from most households owning at least one vehicle to most not owning any vehicles and using a short term, on-demand rental service, in the form of a transaction for a taxi-style ride; in essence, a trip based service you have access to via an app on your smartphone or whatever device rules our mobile future. Remember Apple introduced their mobile smartphone just over 10 years ago. Technology can drive change at a rapid pace.
Most people like to take photos when on holiday. To document their trip, maybe capture events, street scenes, the vibe of new towns or cities, certainly photography their friends and family, and for some, take landscape photos.
If landscape photography is a thing you do then check out the four YouTube channels highlighted below. Each channel has a different perspective on landscape photography, providing inspiration and technical advice, and in most cases, entertainment.
The four videos we have selected for this month introduce motorcycle touring as a fun way to see the world.
An Austin Vince (of Mondo Enduro fame) interview sets the stage for adventure motorcycling, followed by two videos documenting motorcycle journeys in Vietnam, a country where the motorcycle rules, and to finish, an interesting instructional video on how to ride a Ural side car, for the traveller that wishes to take a friend on their next bike trip.
The videos we have selected for this month showcase travelling and travel destinations using a variety of photography, sound design, and filming techniques.
Enjoy four short videos that use modern filming and editing techniques with maybe a touch of hipster style, certainly lots of timelapse, hyper timelapse and slow motion, every trendy edit transition you can think of, and, most importantly, plenty of amazing travel video.
The videos we've selected for this month focus on women riding motorcycles on long distance adventure trips.
Four women travelling the world by motorcycle: A video introducing a Southern Africa trip, a highlight montage video covering the Americas and Australia with some adventure hiking, the start of a world trip in South Korea, and an interview with Lois Pryce.
The videos we've selected for this month highlight some fantastic travel locations, with an emphasis on drone footage, to showcase the uniqueness of each place.
For January, take a few minutes to watch four videos covering Namibia, South East Asia, Australia, and Europe. The perfect inspiration for your 2018 travel planning. Or maybe inspiration for adding a drone to your travel video kitbag.
The videos we have selected for this month have a focus on overland travel, using 4X4s and motorcycles, in exotic locations.
For December, we have four videos covering 4X4 action in Australia and overland travel through West Africa, a long distance Eurasia adventure motorcycle ride, and a short road trip on a Triumph Tiger.
Motorcyclists are sometimes seen as individualists, choosing an unpopular and minority means of transport to commute to and from work or school. Surely a better alternative is to travel in a
modern car, bus, or even a train like most commuters, with all-weather protection, the full array of crash safety features and superior comfort afforded by over one hundred years of automotive
If we make the assumption that for each motorcyclist their choice of transport mode results in a net-benefit for them, then the next question, from a public policy perspective, turns to how does motorcycling contribute to the wider transport community. This is an important public policy question because the motorcycle is a minority mode of transport with proven user benefits, but disproportionately large private and public costs from road accidents. However, to treat motorcycling as a single issue, road safety problem is clearly an inadequate policy position. Let's see why.
In high income Western countries, limited policy development has defined motorcycles as a road safety problem with minor road user benefits. The overriding narrative is motorcycles are unsafe;
regulate for this safety risk.
It seems that motorcycles are the invisible mode in transport policy. Their use is too small to have a serious impact on the big transport issues of traffic congestion, vehicle emissions, accessibility, land use integration and the like. If it wasn’t for a bad road safety record and the resulting trauma, motorcycles and their riders would, it seems, not be included in transport policy.
To explore this idea, as a case study, let's look at how a modern transport strategy deals with motorcycling in a large Western city.
The videos we have selected for this month have high quality production values coupled with interesting travel based content.
For November, we'll highlight a long distance ADV motorcycle journey, overlanding by 4X4 in South America, vlog travel by Jeep, and clutchless shifting your motorcycle.
Most people love a Hollywood blockbuster, so while you're waiting for the new Star Wars: The Last Jedi movie to hit cinemas at the end of the year, why not check out a handful of videos that, although they don't have monster production budgets or famous actors, are often made with passion and creativity to produce a few hours of interesting and enjoyable entertainment.
For October, we'll highlight 4X4 overland travel in Australia, two small aircraft journeys, the journey to modify a small Yamaha bike, and the amazing skills of a stunt rider.
What if you wanted to travel around the world on a motorcycle, but had little money, certainly not enough to finance your multi-year trip. Would you delay your trip until you had saved sufficient funds?
Daniel Rintz’s approach was to work as you travel, stop when you need to, and travel slow, taking time to experience and interact with people from different cultures. The result in a journey
that’s performative, driven by experiences and the hard work required for long distance travel, rather than a trip set to a timetable and deadlines, like your typical holiday. It also makes for
an interesting documentary film.
The documentary Somewhere Else Tomorrow is a record of his journey. The film was released in 2015. A sequel is currently in the works, that follows Daniel and his girlfriend Josephine for three more years across the Americas and Africa.
Riding is an acquired skill, no one just gets on a bike and automatically rides with skill. Often you hear statements like some people are naturally gifted, they learn a skill faster than most. Or, the more you practice the better you’ll get, as your skill level will improve through repetition. Often skill is connected with instruction, as you learn a new skill through lessons or tutoring.
But what do we really mean by gaining a new skill?
And how can a better understanding of skill acquisition improve our riding?
If Moto 4: The Movie was focused on the rider, looking at why they ride and showcasing some pretty impressive footage of their prodigious talent, then The Assignment Inc’s new film, Moto 5: The Movie, seems to take a step back, in a good way, and focuses a little more on the fun of riding and, in particular, the environments they ride in.
This direction provides fertile ground for filmmakers to explore how different terrain draws out different possibilities for riding.
Of course, Moto 5 still profiles a handful of super talented MX riders. Each rider provides commentary about their life and why they ride dirt bikes.
And there’s a mountain of slow motion and aerial footage.
The overland motorcycle route from the UK to Cape Town, South Africa was made famous by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman in their 2007 “Long Way Down” trip. With modern, large capacity BMW touring motorcycles, backup vehicles and all the communication, navigation and camping technology money can buy, the two friends made a popular TV series documentary of their overland adventure.
It’s worth watching.
However, motorcyclists have been travelling this way for years and perhaps one of the more arduous journeys was undertaken by motorcycle pioneer Theresa Wallach, and her friend Florence Blenkiron, in 1935.
People ride bikes for all sorts of reasons; in fact, there’s probably too many to list. Some mostly ride for fun on weekends or for short trips over a day or two, while others use their bike to commute to work or school, a strictly utilitarian form of transport. Then there’s a small minority that undertake adventure travels on their bike to exotic locations. With the emphasis on adventure.
If adventure is in your blood and you ride a bike, Chris Scott’s book, Adventure Motorcycling: A Route & Planning Guide is a fun read and a very handy resource as you prepare for that big adventure.
It’s not uncommon for filmmakers to produce technically superb documentaries, showcasing how proficient they are at operating a camera, editing footage and post production, but somehow fall short in creating a watchable and compelling film (for people other than hard-core fans). And it seems sport based films are particularly susceptible to this problem of the technical quality of images trumpeting content - a good story.
One way to address this problem is to use proven documentary techniques such as a formal interview, b-roll to help place the interview in context and additional footage expanding and covering the story as outlined by the interviewee.
Thankfully, MOTO 4: The Movie does this and more.