Opinion: The case for less being more

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I’ve been accused of many things, but never of being an early adopter. I’m not one to wait in line for the newest gadget, or jump on the latest technological trend of any kind. I don’t own a smart home speaker and I’ve never even activated Siri on my iPhone. I collected vinyl long before hipsters revived the fad and drove up prices, and I’ll be enjoying my collection of records long after it’s seen as cool.

Before picking up the 2021 Yamaha Tenere 700 a couple weeks ago, I was warned to adjust my expectations. It is a bare bones bike that does without fancy riding modes and many of the creature comforts to which we’ve become accustomed on modern motorcycles. To which I responded, “Fine by me!”

The minimalism of the T7 is in stark contrast to the 2020 BMW R1250RT I’m riding this week, which is loaded with a truly overwhelming amount of technological gadgetry. While I’m admittedly guilty of enjoying the comfort afforded by cruise control and the raised power windshield on the highway, or the company of satellite radio on longer rides, all of these extra conveniences come at a price. Namely expense, weight and distraction to the rider. And that’s assuming everything works as it should. Repairing or replacing motors, sensors or modules is not only a pain, but also a strain on the pocketbook. ABS and traction control with lean angle sensors may help you get around a track faster, but I’m not out to break any records and prefer the visceral feel of doing it myself.

I’ve become quite accustomed to riding or driving a different vehicle every week. The first thing I do when I get on a new motorcycle is adjust the mirrors. The second thing I do is to inspect the hand grips, taking account of horn and turn signal placement. Some manufacturers definitely have more intuitive setups than others, which helps if you need to find them in a hurry without looking.

I had a close call while riding the T7 where my routine proved helpful. A young driver rolled a stop sign and pulled out directly into my lane without so much as looking in the direction of traffic. I simultaneously thumbed the horn to get her attention while grabbing the clutch and brakes with full force, narrowly missing her front quarter panel as we both came to a full stop – my thumb still blasting the horn. I’m confident this near miss wouldn’t have been a miss at all had I been riding a heavier, less responsive motorcycle with more complicated controls.

Had I been fiddling with the radio station or scrolling through the various ride modes of a more complex motorcycle, I may not have even seen her. As simple as some infotainment systems may be to use, they can still take your attention away from the very important task at hand – riding. I’ve avoided getting a Bluetooth headset for my helmet because I’d prefer not to talk to people if I can help it. That, and having music directly in my ears may prevent me from hearing a horn or oncoming vehicle.

Mark was at the Tokyo Motor Show several years ago, where a number of manufacturers announced new technology – all of which seemed to remove the rider from the equation in some way. Perhaps some day all the motorcycles we review will feature blind spot detection, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warnings and adaptive cruise control. I hope not. One of the many reasons I enjoy riding motorcycles is the reprieve they provide from our restrictive, connected, and increasingly automated lives. Given the choice, I’ll take simple over complex every time. Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to close my laptop and drop the needle on a record I haven’t listened to in a while.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Great Article. Cage drivers don’t see motorcyclists, we have to be ‘on guard’ all the time. The last thing I want on my bike is any distractions.

  2. Like I’m sure many other riders on this forum, I was convinced that more bells and whistles are always better than fewer when contemplating a new bike purchase. Even if they’re not used, they are still “there just in case” and may appeal to the next purchaser when it’s time to trade. What I’ve actually found is that safe motorcycling demands the rider’s full attention ALL THE TIME. Invariably, it’s that look down to the flashy new colour TFT screen or changing a setting that gets you into trouble, even when convinced its safe enough to glance down. I rarely even look at the speedo, the only instrument on my current ride, as keeping up with the speed of traffic is a reasonable enough metric.

  3. My newest motorcycle the Moto Guzzi V85 TT, comes with a host of features that I am not used to. I am using the cruise control, more than I use it in my truck, but that is primarily as it keeps my hands from going numb, a condition on every bike I have owned since my 2005 Wee Strom.

    Even though ABS has never kicked in on the other 2 ABS bikes I have owned, I am hopeful that someday, it will prove it’s usefulness in a moment of inattention, on my part

    It has 3 ride modes, one of which I won’t ever use as I do not ride off road as my skills on gravel SUCK. I might give the rain mode a try, but I have more than enough km under my ass & more than enough of those km in rain, that I honestly don’t feel a need for it.

    The biggest waste, IMO, that came with the V85 Travel edition, is the MIA blue tooth system, which allows you to pair your cell phone for calls & use as a GPS (mixed reviews on the GPS capabilities). I haven’t even paired the unit, as the last thing I want/need when on any motorcycle is my phone. Hell my cell isn’t even paired to my truck. I have a GPS to perform GPS duties & it’s not even a “proper” motorcycle GPS, but it does what I need/want when I need or want it to.

    I still love to toss a leg over my 2006 VS1400 Intruder & the little GROMs in my garage are an absolute giggle to ride, even without all the “features” on the newer motorcycles

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