Top 10 Digital Motorcycling “Firsts” That Have Been …



When did motorcycles go digital? When did electronics, driver aids and sophisticated displays take over?

At first it was subtle, that’s how they got you … well at least motorcycles didn’t quite follow the four-wheeled trend of slapping a massive iPad-like device on the handlebars for then wonder why drivers “might” be a little distracted on the road. I’m just saying …

The truth is, many technological innovations have their origin much further down the historical timeline than you might think.

And, just like ‘analog’, mechanical technological advancements such as advanced suspension, disc brakes or even liquid-cooled multicylinder engines forever changed the bike during the 1920s.e century, “digital” advances, mainly – but not all – in the 21st, have transformed our two-wheeled world.

But which are the most significant? So, without further ado …

1980 First fuel injection – Kawasaki Z1000H

In this modern age where virtually all production motorcycles are fuel injected with impeccable fueling, it’s easy to forget that it hasn’t always been so.

Remember the carbureted motorcycles of the ’80s and early’ 90s with their manual starters, fuel valves, and the occasional carburetor icing problem? Virtually all large motorcycles were successfully injected from the late 1990s onwards, but its pioneering use was primarily that of Kawasaki, going into production with the 1980 Z1000H (KZ1000 in the US) as it tried to keep its aging Z1000 ahead of new rivals such as Suzuki’s GS1000 and Honda’s CB900F.

In truth, although effective, it was not a huge commercial success, but it served as a test bed for the much more successful 1981 GPz1100B1. Honda’s first fuel-injected production bike, by the way, was the 1983 CX500 Turbo.

1988 First ABS – BMW K100RS / K1

Ten years after the introduction of the first anti-lock braking system on Daimler-Benz cars, fellow BMWs offered the first motorcycle system as an option on its K100RS SE models and K1 headlights.

Although crude and heavy compared to modern systems, it slowly paved the way for other manufacturers to follow suit. Honda first offered ABS on its 1992 Pan European ST1100A, with Yamaha doing the same that year with the FJ1200.

1991 First digital dashboard – Bimota Tesi 1D

A potentially debatable question, this one, according to the definitions. The 1998 Yamaha R1 was the first production motorcycle to have a significantly “digital” instrument panel, introducing a display with an analog tachometer but a digital LCD panel for the speedometer and accessories, a format that became the norm for most of the next decade.

But there had been significant offers before that date, albeit in a more limited sense of production. The previous year’s Bimota SB6R had a smaller LCD screen, the 1994 Honda RC45 had an LCD digital temperature gauge, and many bikes of the day had LCD digital clocks.

The 1992 NR750, on the other hand, had a substantial LED panel for speedometer, temperature, etc. panels for temperature, speed, double odo and fuel. And it was bad!

2006 First ride by wire – Yamaha YZF-R6

On October 31, 2005, Yamaha released details of its all-new 2006 R6 which, featuring a fuel-injected 599cc four-cylinder engine with four titanium valves per cylinder and a stunning 17,500rpm redline, producing a maximum power of 133 hp at 14,500 rpm stood out the most. to be the first production motorcycle with an electric throttle.

At that time, it was not a “pure” system – there were still throttle cables, but they made their way to a computer which then calculated the optimal throttle opening, operating the throttle by an electric motor.

Yamaha also didn’t maximize the potential of the system in terms of power modes etc. have today.

2007 First traction control / IMU – Ducati 1098 R

After launching its revolutionary “Euro-tourer”, the ST1100 Pan European in 1990, Honda followed it two years later with the ST1100A with both a rudimentary ABS system (see above) AND a control system. Pretty coarse traction (by modern standards) (TCS), too.

The modern TC system, however, which operates via the cutting power of the bike’s ECU according to sensors detecting the differences between the speed of the front and rear wheels and an IMU (inertial measurement unit) calculating the angle of incline bike, was developed by Bosch in the early 2000s and introduced with Ducati’s 1098R race-spec in 2007.

He had eight different TC settings, immediately impressed and quickly followed by most rivals.

2007 First Power “Modes” – Suzuki GSX-R1000 K7

Yamaha’s introduction in 2006 of electronic and electronic engine control units (ECUs – microprocessors that calculate and activate the required engine performance based on various electronic inputs) opened up the world of electronic “driver aids.” potential – the most obvious and immediately implemented. one being the switchable power modes.

Suzuki was in fact one of the first to offer this feature on a number of its 2007 models, most notably on its new GSX-R1000, which had three modes, but also on its goofy B-King, which had one mode. A and B., one full power, the other cut for wet use.

2008 First electronic suspension – BMW R 1200 GS (and others)

Here’s another moot question, depending on your definition of electronics. BMW’s brilliant ESA (Electronic Suspension Adjustment) system was introduced in 2008 as an option on a variety of its models and is essentially a push-button suspension tuning system that changes the preload of the rear shock absorber through with two (or sometimes three) settings via a handlebar control and a stepping motor.

Other manufacturers have since followed. However, things get complicated when you start talking about “active” “self-adjusting” suspension systems. BMW pioneered again when, with its high-end HP4 version of its S1000RR superbikes, it introduced its new Dynamic Damping Control system in 2013/14, which automatically adjusted the rebound and compression damping of the engine. shock absorber as you ride.

While its optional Dynamic ESA (D-ESA) system was introduced the same year on the GS and added an ‘active’ aspect to the ESA by incorporating a dedicated ECU and linking it to other settings and sensors on the bike.

2010 First Fully Integrated Riding Modes – Ducati Multistrada 1200 S

Ducati simply revolutionized the bike by presenting its all new Multistrada 1200 (or, more precisely, its Multistrada 1200 S) in 2010.

What set it apart weren’t the basic components – the decent chassis, retuned Testastretta V-twin and more were all familiar – but its fully integrated and adjustable electronic modes. In 2010, switchable engine power maps, traction control and electronically adjustable suspension were nothing new.

What was – and what the S did brilliantly (the base 1200 didn’t have an electronically adjustable suspension) – was hooking them all together into four different preset drive modes that completely changed character, performance, and ride. motorcycle comfort.

Today, this sort of convertibility (is that a word?) Is almost commonplace. In 2010, it was amazing.

2014 First ABS in the corners – KTM 1190 Adventure

After switchable power modes, traction control, drive modes and more, the last remaining electronic holy grail was Cornering ABS until Bosch cracked it down and KTM first introduced it. in 2014.

After all, ABS vertically, in a straight line, was easy to understand (but in fact of limited use). But the ABS when turning in a bend?

It must be some sort of witchcraft. In fact, it was, again, everything to do with IMUs and sophisticated computing and was so efficient that almost all high-end bikes now have them. But KTM (and Bosch) got there first.

The great German rival of Bosch, incidentally Continental, also developed its own system shortly after, supplying it first to the BMW S1000XR …

2016 First TFT Color dashboard – Ducati Monster 1200 R

Another first (we think) for Ducati – although if you know different things just remind us we are not perfect! Today, TFT displays / screens / boards have become the norm and seem to get bigger and more sophisticated (complicated) every year.

The first on a mainstream motorcycle, however, came, in 2015, on Ducati’s fully updated Multistrada 1200 S (although, being monochrome, actually looked like an LCD version) with the first color version in the year. next with his Monster 1200R.

After that, the floodgates opened. “TFT” of course, stands for “Thin Film Transistor” and is essentially a refined and more sophisticated version of the LCD screen that allows for a cleaner design, increased visibility, additional sophistication and functionality and more.

The old analog dials, in comparison, now look like something from the Stone Age …

Additional reporting by Ollie Barstow


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