Gone are the days when half a roll of duct tape and a flat head screwdriver would repair your broken-down steed, now, you need to be armed with a hi-tech laptop, USB cables and special tools with peculiar shapes on the end, resembling some torture implement from the dark ages, just to get the bike to tell you why it’s feeling poorly and why the bloody thing won’t start. Those days of tinkering with your machine on the side of the road are now fading away quicker than a Frank Thomas textile jacket.

It was all part of the challenge, the ritual, the way of life as well as the journey and the adventure for many who would head out on their bike without a care in the world. There were no Hi-Viz jackets in sight and helmets offered as much protection as the colander used to drain the cabbage.

It all seems to be fading away, even the so called “Brotherhood” of biker’s thing. Once upon a time, a rider would pull up alongside you and you’d both get your hands dirty in an effort to get the bike going again. Tools would be strewn out across the pathway met by oily hands and an eagerness to succeed but that seems to be a thing of the past. We simply pick up our smart phones and call a recovery vehicle to save us and hey presto, as if by magic, we are saved within an hour by a well-groomed chap in overalls and perfectly pressed Hi-Viz vest, like some sort of recovery superhero

It’s as if the motorcycle manufacturers have taken away the very essence of biking, not intentionally I’m sure but they leave us little room in their design and engineering process for us to “play” about with our bikes or have a tinker with them, getting mucky in the garage and spoiling our Sunday best. Even hearing the wife whining or moaning that we spend far too much time in the garage and not enough of it sat in the living room with her and the dog watching the bloody soaps on TV.

It is a concern of mine I will admit, that if my bike breaks down, in the continent or anywhere else for that matter, that I can’t simply undo a few nuts and bolts, bash things about and give some wires a jiggle and all will be well again. The computerised motorcycle is a smoother, more comfortable affair, most of the time. However, the minute something goes wrong, it is virtually undetectable without plugging a computer into it. We can stand and stare at our lifeless machine for many minutes, scratching our man vegetables conjuring up many reasons why the damn thing has decided to stop and fail to start again without any indication why. It’s not even as if the bike would blow out plumes of horrid smoke or chuck out a load of broken pieces of metal, like a small child throwing their dummy out of the pram, or even wet itself by distributing oil onto the road and possibly onto the rear tyre, there seems to be nothing, these machines now just stop working and it’s like a woman in a bad mood, they just go all quiet and don’t speak to you!

It’s only until the bike is placed on the back of the recovery truck by the recovery superhero and returned home, sometimes hundreds of miles later, when it finally arrives back at the dealership and the fault is diagnosed. Which quite often, is a simple matter of a blown fuse or a loose connection or a faulty microchip in a motherboard that sits behind the headlight that requires the undergoing of no less than 491 nuts and bolts and a breakdown of the entire front end that involves 25 hours labour, which, somehow would appear to be your fault for riding the bike over a raised manhole cover in the road, or something equally as daft.

Some would say that technology has made us lazy. We can now put our lights on in our home without moving from our comfy chair, or we can even put the kettle on with just a swipe of our finger and the same applies to motorcycles, now we can start our machine from a key fob if you like, whilst sat in the lavatory reading the latest issue of our favorite motorcycle magazine. Technology for some may have gone a little mad and yes, it does bring wonderful things, such as smoother engine control and better braking and so on but the question still remains, is it depriving us of our heritage? our desire and willingness to get grubby and do what bike riders do, getting oily and dirty and tinkering with nuts and bolts, spanners and hammers and the like? because from where I am sitting, it’s all about plugging in laptops in and generating new software to make your bike go a little better, or to find out why it’s spat it’s dummy out again.

Perhaps then, that is why manufacturers are beginning to identify that bikes are becoming harder to fix in the home garage without the need for very expensive diagnostic equipment, unlikely to be afforded by the average bike rider and as a result they seem to bringing a lot more of the classic styled models back into play, albeit with some computerised jiggery pokery involved, however, it’s nice to see that the classic looks and styling of the retro models hasn’t gone completely unnoticed.

Perhaps they could bring back the retro styled and timeless classics from Kawasaki or Yamaha for example, I wonder!

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Chris Seagal
Motorcycle tours guide and explorer. RoSPA Advanced Motorcycle Instructor (Gold)

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