Two-Wheeled Tech: The Latest in Motorcycle Applications

Drawing heavily from automotive advancements, the latest in connectivity, safety and convenience are infiltrating the moto world.

KTM has updated its small-displacement 2022 RC sportbike range with lighter brake and wheel components. (KTM)

With summer looming in the northern hemisphere and the global COVID pandemic slowly abating, it’s only natural for the focus of many enthusiasts to shift towards two-wheeled pursuits. Trends that are altering that automotive landscape are making similar inroads on the motorcycle front, with the SUV-equivalent “adventure bike” morphing the sales landscape, and digital connectivity features supplanting horsepower in the eyes of many enthusiasts’ must-have features.

With electrification making scarce OEM inroads , and hydrogen  offering a scant lifeline for combustion fans, the largest trend in bikes is connectivity and its associated safety benefits. According to a 2021 survey available from Research & Markets, the motorcycle industry’s connected technology investment between 2021 and 2027 is expected to see a compound annual growth rate of 54.7% (from $55M to $757M). Embedded connectivity hardware is expected to form the majority of that investment, a trend already keenly visible in the market. We’ve curated some of latest technology applications here, while remaining hopeful the sport retains its ability to help us occasionally disconnect.

BMW smartphone cradle

Many bikes you see on the road today sprout aftermarket cellphone mounts, and leave it to BMW Motorrad to intelligently integrate the nigh ubiquitous device. The ConnectedRide Cradle (above) lets BMW motorcycle owners secure their smartphones for navigation or other functions high in the pilot’s line of sight, and on compatible BMW models, it employs the grip-mounted Multi-Controller and BMW Motorrad Connected App to control phone functions. The cradle provides both Qi wireless charging or wired voltage via a USB-C connection, and a locking mechanism for security. The cradle is compatible with most BMW models with “navigation prep” and equipped with Multi-Controllers. Eligible smartphones must feature Bluetooth Low Energy version 4.2, and reside in a dimensional (height/width/depth) window between 130.1 x 65.5 x 6.9mm (5.1 x 2.3 x 0.27 in.) and 162.5 x 78.1 x 8.8mm (6.4 x 3.1 x 0.35 in.).

Bosch Help Connect

Taking advantage of smartphone ubiquity, Bosch’s new Help Connect system can use your device to automatically summon help in case of an accident. Combining a smartphone app that leverages the device’s built-in sensors, it uses an algorithm that evaluates speed, acceleration, and rotation to automatically detect a crash. If an incident is detected, the app can alert emergency services via the Bosch Help Connect emergency call center and direct services to the scene, transmitting current location, severity of the impact and optionally stored health data. The service is currently available in 11 European countries when using a German SIM card, and Help Connect is also being integrated into Bosch’s IMU (inertial measurement unit) as part of its motorcycle stability control (MSC) setup. Via Bluetooth, it can connect to a corresponding smartphone app to transmit data to an emergency call center.

Continental MultiViu Sports display

With a 7-inch version (above) appearing on the 2022 KTM 1290 Super Adventure S, Continental’s new MultiViu Sports display platform is a highly adaptable motorcycle instrument cluster based on a scalable development platform easily adapted to diverse applications. The automotive-grade display uses optical bonding technology to provide sharp images, and it will be offered in a number of sizes and aspect ratios in both portrait and landscape format. The TFT display features anti-glare and anti-reflection coatings, an 800x480-pixel resolution (for 5- and 7-inch sizes), a brightness value of 1,000 cd/m² and a contrast of 1,000:1. The Continental developer platform permits customized image content and simplified integration of external services such as weather info or music streaming, with future versions offering touchscreen functionality.

Ducati Futa ebike

What moto-tech roundup is complete without a blood-red Ducati – even one with pedals? The new-for-2022 Ducati Futa electric-assist road bicycle (above) is part of Ducati’s partnership with Italian e-bike manufacturer Thok Bicycles, and named for the famous Apennine pass. The Futa features a carbon-fiber monocoque frame housing a 250Wh FSA battery, and is electrically assisted by a rear-hub-mounted FSA System HM 1.0 250W motor that can provide 42Nm (31 lb-ft) up to the Euro assist limit of 25 kph (15.5 mph). A Garmin controller on the handlebar manages the five levels of assist, and an FSA smartphone app lets riders view system status and battery state-of-charge. Surely one of Ducati’s lightest-ever models at 12.4kg (27.3 lb), the Futa features wireless 2x12 electronic shifting, 160-mm brake rotors, and carbon rims fitted with Pirelli Cinturato Velo TLR tires. An optional 250Wh “water bottle” range extender is also available.

Harley-Davidson Adaptive Ride Height

One of the cleverest innovations in recent memory, Harley-Davidson’s optional Adaptive Ride Height (ARH) feature for the all-new Pan America 1250 Special (above) can automatically transition the motorcycle between a lowered stopped position and a pre-set rolling ride height, reducing the seat height when stationary from 1 to 2 in. (24.5-49mm). The lowering total is determined by the Showa rear shock’s automatically selectable pre-load, which alters ride height when underway. ARH does not affect suspension travel or ride quality, and provides selectable sub-modes to tailor how quickly the linkage-based rear suspension lowers, the delay to when the lowering begins, or a locked mode for off-road riding.

Honda Africa Twin smartphone compatibility

Making it easier to get away but harder to escape, the 2022 Honda Africa Twin will feature compatibility with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto via its 6.5-inch TFT display (above), matching the full integration that first debuted for the brand on the 2021 Gold Wing. New Africa Twin owners will be able to seamlessly integrate applications and services including music, phone calls and messaging when paired with a required Bluetooth headset.

Kawasaki adds Bosch ARAS safety suite

Joining BMW, KTM and Ducati , Kawasaki has integrated the latest radar-based Bosch advanced rider assist system (ARAS) to a top-tier model, the Ninja H2 SX SE. The plushest of Kawasaki’s supercharged machines, the sport-touring H2 SX SE will feature radar-based adaptive cruise control (ACC), forward collision warning (FCW) and blind-spot detection (BSD). Both ACC and FCW use a forward-facing radar sensor, while the BSD function uses a rear-facing radar sensor to register objects in harder-to-see areas on each side of the motorcycle, illuminating a built-in LED warning light in the associated rearview mirror. The system will also alert if a lane change is indicated by the turn signal while a vehicle is detected in the blind spot, flashing the mirror LED.

2022 KTM RC wheel/brake upgrades

Reminiscent of Buell’s rim-mounted perimeter disc-brake system, KTM has updated its 2022 range of small displacement RC sportbikes with new lighter brake components and a lighter but stronger wheel design. This combination removed 7.5 lb (3.4 kg) of unsprung mass from the already lightweight RC 125 and RC 390 (above) sportbikes. The all-new braking components, comprised of a radially mounted front 4-piston ByBre (the “by Brembo” subsidiary) caliper combined with a 320mm brake rotor, with a single-piston rear caliper paired with a 230 mm rotor, saved 2.2 lb (960g) over the previous design. The new wheel design with fewer spokes and open hubs saved 5.3 lb (2.4 kg).

Marelli scooter inverter

Marelli will be supplying the inverter for the sleek new BMW CE 04 electric scooter (above). Developed and produced in-house by Marelli, the supplier will also be providing the component’s related software. An inverter enables conversion of the scooter’s battery’s DC power to the three-phase AC required by the electric propulsion motor. A two-wheeler’s stringent dimensional limits, external environment and required high power density increased design challenges. On the CE 04, the inverter delivers 43.5 kW peak at nominal voltage of 145V, with full performance (300 ampere rms) in the 115-175 Volt range. Marelli’s scalable architecture can produce more powerful versions (up to 450 ampere rms/348 volt) within similar dimensions.

Triumph EV prototype progressing

Triumph announced in February that it had completed the collaboration stage of its TE-1 EV prototype project  and would begin the electric motorcycle’s testing program. Triumph has been working with Williams Advanced Engineering, Integral Powertrain Ltd, and the University of Warwick on the development of the naked performance machine. The prototype demonstrator (above) is outfitted with a Gates Carbon belt drive, Öhlins suspension including a prototype rear shock and Brembo M50 monobloc calipers. It will undergo six months of rolling-road and track testing in preparation for active demonstrations and media engagement this summer.

Yamaha power steering

Yamaha Motor announced in March that it is developing an electric power steering (EPS) system for a “wide range” of motorcycles. Two Yamaha Factory Racing Team machines (a YZ450FM (above) and a YZ250F) will be fitted with the systems and compete in the 2022 All Japan Motocross Championship to gather data. The EPS system employs a magnetostrictive torque sensor (derived from Yamaha’s e-bicycle motors - see cutaway, below) that enables it to function as a steering damper and provide assist, improving stability and agility while reducing rider fatigue, the company claims.