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.