My bike has 12 buttons on the handlebars... or, Are we ruining motorcycling?

Discussion in 'The Perfect Line and Other Riding Myths' started by canoeguy, Aug 11, 2018.

  1. canoeguy

    canoeguy Long timer

    Jun 14, 2011
    SW Virginia
    Just hear me out. I have a 2016 GSA. I can appreciate all that technology has brought us. I understand the amazing things that bikes in 2018 are capable of. Cruise control, ride modes, electronic suspension, massive power, and amazing handling.

    But sometimes I feel like it is just too much. Allow me to get a bit nostalgic as I have been watching old motorcycle movies and re-watching On Any Sunday. I can't help feel that we are losing something and we are doing it willingly, myself included.

    Motorcycles used to be touted for their simplicity and ease of use and yes perhaps a bit of dedication from their owner. I am certainly not suggesting that we go back to points and drum brakes.

    But we have gone so far beyond just making a bike run well. I have probably 110hp to the rear wheel and rarely use more than 60. I have five ride modes and only switch to rain because I have it and feel like I should. I have various settings for my suspension and being honest I almost never touch them.

    Strangely the bike I have felt most attached to is a KLR. Granted I upgraded the suspension and did a lot of work to it to improve its reliability and performance. I also took a trip through Central America and Mexico on it which if you have done a big trip you know it can cause a bit of an attachment to your machine. But still it has a raw simplicity that at times to me defines what motorcycling should be.

    There is a movement of guys on old school choppers that load up a duffel and just head out on the road. No Gortex, 40-50 year old bikes, and a sense of adventure. I have watched a number of Indy films about this and I find myself a bit jealous at times. I have a $300 sleeping bag and they have a blanket. I have 9" of suspension and they have a hard tail. They face an open road with no helmet and we talk about what bike has the best wind protection.

    I try not to use terms like soul and character when talking about bikes as it comes across flakey....but I suspect many of you know exactly what I am talking about. I know I am not the only one based on dedicated thumper riders and the growing cult following of the Himalayan.

    I know this is all personal choice and I can go back to the basics at anytime. In fact I already have the basics and while maybe not as practical as the GSA they tend to be more fun. Furthermore my next bike will be(I think) a DR650.

    But I can't help but wonder if motorcycles peaked in the mid 80's to early 90's. They were easy to fix. They had no electronic gizmos to fail. They were still a little raw but reliable. And I don't have any more fun now than I did then.

    I am not looking for an argument and if I was forced to ride a R80gs all of the time I might see things differently, I know that. Just wondering if I am the only one.

    Regardless I am just ranting but can I get an Amen?
    otto, bajaburro, 240ADV and 31 others like this.
  2. Tall Man

    Tall Man Emotionally magnificent

    Jul 14, 2007
    The Occident
    I like the fact that we can still choose our level of technology. 12 buttons, or 2.

    This is a Golden Age, and I'm glad for it.
    scottdc, jdfog2, vtvette and 29 others like this.
  3. Johann

    Johann Commuterous Tankslapperous

    Feb 11, 2006
    No nostalgia for hardtail suspension here. Most manufacturers realised in the 1940s that even the most rudimentary form of rear suspension gave the rear wheel a better chance of staying in contact with the ground and avoided passing every change in road surface to the frame of the bike and ultimately the spine of the poor sod riding it. You know how you can tell somebody that has ridden hardtail bikes for decades? They will look like Gimli from Lord of Rings but with longer legs and a strange side to side walk.

    There is a balance between technology and complexity. I think EFI has been a big step forward in reliability and longevity, same with watercooling, but where you draw the line is up to you,
    4bikes, local1, Bucho and 2 others like this.
  4. DesertPilot

    DesertPilot Been here awhile

    May 18, 2014
    Mountain View, CA
    It's simple. We pay several thousand more shemolians for extra horsepower, then we pay an addtional several thousand for the technology to muffle that horsepower to the level if would have been out if we hadn't spent that extra money in the first place. Makes sense to me! :D

    On a less cynical note, it's great to have a choice. I could nip out, buy a Paningale, set the traction control to 'Unmanly', and glory in the knowledge of what my machine could accomplish in far better hands than mine, or I could get an FZ07, spend a few bucks sprucing up the suspension, and enjoy having a simple bike I can flog as hard as I want. It's win either way. Though I suppose it's possible that one of these two options might be a wee bit cheaper...
    Gaazz!!, local1, beemerphile and 2 others like this.
  5. Tinker1980

    Tinker1980 Doesn't ask why, only asks how

    Dec 10, 2012
    Nowhere, OK
    I have always had similar thoughts... I remember an old motorcycle ad I saw in a magazine when I was a kid. The ad was for Triumph.

    It read:



    "What is this thing, a motorcycle?"

    I've never had a bike with with more than two cylinders. I've spent the most saddle time on bikes with ONE cylinder. Yesterday, I bought my first ever motorcycle with fuel injection... and it doesn't even have ABS. The only buttons on the handlebar are for the high beam, the turn signals, the horn, on/off switch, and starter. There's one button on the odometer/speedometer. It's a quiet little 500 cc machine, as basic as one could want.

    I've been riding a DR650 for several years. I love the simplicity and durability, and you'd better believe that thing has a soul.
    kojack06, CCitis, local1 and 5 others like this.
  6. foxtrapper

    foxtrapper Long timer

    Sep 6, 2011
    Some bikes have a remarkable set of switches on the handlebars. But not all.
  7. ktmgeoff

    ktmgeoff Remember it's not a race!

    Jun 16, 2006
    Western Creek Tasmania ( sold the farmand moved)
    If you don't like too many buttons I suggest you don't buy a F1 car then.....seriously though, I started out on mini bikes with no rear suspension and my kidneys reminded me of this for many years, rode 250 IT Yamaha's etc and had pockets bulging with spark plugs to make sure we'd get home again. Nup, give me suspension, a $300 buck sleeping bag and a good helmet thanks. Haven't you realised why REAL riders look so grumpy, it's because their back is killing them, they haven't slept warm since they left home and their wind blown eyes feel like they've been poked with a burnt stick. :D
  8. flei

    flei cycletherapist

    Apr 1, 2013
    Western Mass.
    These go to 11. More is always better.
  9. Aj Mick

    Aj Mick Long timer

    Aug 31, 2012
    Phuket, Thailand
    Honda Big Wing had a promotion in a mall I popped in to yesterday.... I checked out their offerings with all the mod cons, and thought, "What's the point? If you want all the protection, buttons and gizmos, for what some of what those cost to buy and to run, why not get a small car?"

    I ride to get around; have been doing so for over 50 years, since I was a kid.

    For more than 40 years I have always owned motorcycles as my main motor vehicle. I don't change them often. I have owned just seven over the years.... so fourteen wheels but just one disc brake, on the Honda 1982 CB250RS I had in England for several years in the 1990s (until it was stolen). I have ridden a wide range of bikes over the years though, and enjoyed each for what they are. However, for my own purposes I am inclined to smaller more practical machines..... cheap and simple to maintain, easy to use to go anywhere and to park. That is the essence of motorcycling to me.

    My first couple of bikes had contact breaker points, which were a bit of a hassle, but only took a few minutes to check and set at the same time as doing an oil change. Still, the move to CDI ignition was a good move; I would not go back.

    Cable operated drum brakes vs hydraulic discs...... six one way, half a dozen the other from my point of view. Drum brakes are cheap and simple to maintain, and effective enough if you ride within their limitations. Hydraulic discs (with ABS and the like) are more expensive and complex, but more effective, thus preferred on larger, more performance oriented bikes.

    Each to their own, but being a man of modest means I prefer motorcycles that are modestly sized and equiped. I have only ever paid cash for the bikes I have owned, each costing way less than what ATGATT zealots advocate ya'll should never get astride a motorcycle without.

    While some reckon "Yah can't go for adventures and tour on a small, simply equiped bike", I say "You can."

    And I have travelled far and wide on simple, sub quarter litre bikes, around the UK and Europe, parts of SE Asia, and at home in Aotearoa..... trips of up to several thousand kms, going places and doing things that would have been beyond my means if I had sold my soul to owning any of those shiny button laden behemoths I saw in the mall yesterday.
    local1, Johann, nk14zp and 4 others like this.
  10. Redfish Hunter

    Redfish Hunter Been here awhile Supporter

    Jun 25, 2018
    Prairieville, Louisiana
    I will give you an Amen. (You did ask for an Amen)

    I also love having the freedom of choice. I also firmly believe in Different Horses for Different Courses.

    I have been running this:


    And I just added this:


    I love the FJR's electronic Cruise Control, electronic suspension, electrically adjustable windshield, heated grips, and all the information available to me with a scroll through the multiple menus. But the DR650's simplicity has its place and its appeal as well.

    It's Good to have Choices.
    kojack06, yehaaa6, daveinva and 6 others like this.
  11. chtucker

    chtucker Been here awhile

    Jul 18, 2007
    sunshine state
    I never thought any of it was useful till I had it. I just bought a bike with a NAV V and I bought a Cardo Freecom 1. Having music AND my nav directions in my helmet was awesome. Seeing the map, having the speedo more visible than the stock was great. I did not mess around with ABS/ASC on the ride. Heated grips are lifesaver when it gets rainy/cold.

    I didn't use cruise control as the bike was new to me.
    Redfish Hunter likes this.
  12. workhorse

    workhorse Motorcycle as a medium of travel

    Jul 26, 2015
    The mountains of the mid north coast NSW
    Just ride an older bike.
  13. shinyribs

    shinyribs Thumpers for life

    Sep 24, 2011
    The South
    Not a fan of electronics, but do own 1 bike with basic fuel injection.

    My two favorite bikes don't require a battery at all. Had a couple CB's a few years ago that I kickstarted even though they had electric start, too.

    Simple is good. Clutches, carbs and cooling fins FTW :thumb
  14. ozmoses

    ozmoses Contrary

    Jul 3, 2009
    CCitis likes this.
  15. Snowbird

    Snowbird Cereal Killer

    Mar 19, 2008
    Between the Great Lakes and Appalachia
    Open that fucker up and let her rip!! Like another here, I have an FJR and I use every last horsepower the engine can produce. Horsepower is a tragic thing to waste. People worry about going fast, but there's a place and time for everything and a place and time to let judgement be the better part of valor. Third gear on the FJR is good for roughly 30 mph to 120 and with the throttle pinned, you better be hanging on. There are faster bikes, but my experience is enhanced by all those buttons. Cruise control, two ride modes, adjustable windshield and being able to adjust for riding with and without my passenger is great. My favorite feature is traction control because I can use the throttle to drift the back without fear. ABS is okay, but has always been over rated; but it's so good nowadays that I have little problem with it's presence.

    I love the simplicity of my KLR as well. It's a lot less to handle weight-wise than the FJR and it's taller bars make it easy to push around. But my favorite part of the KLR is that where I live I can choose a much, much wider variety of rides than I can with the FJR. I have a lot of hilly terrain here and excepting the main roads, there are a lot of unpaved ways to get around. I can take secondary roads until the point they turn to dirt, then climb that hill until it joins with a paved one, then turn off at the next upaved, riding several miles down the same hill on dirt until I hit pavement once again. The one thing I added to the FJR that the previous owner didn't is a set of Progressive suspension fork internals that fix the KLR's worst piece of hardware cheaply.

    When I take the KLR south for the winter, it allows me to ride the back streets and alleys of urban areas. You'd be shocked what you might find, if you've never done that, such as a small hog-raising operation right inside a major metro. It'll keep up with traffic easily (cars are so freeking slow!!). Buttons ans switches are not missed on the KLR.
  16. sleazy rider

    sleazy rider przemądrzały dupek

    Mar 6, 2007
    SE Michigan
    Just wait till all those fancy electronics are invaded by gremlins. It gets expensive again real quick.

  17. oldskool63

    oldskool63 Long timer

    Mar 14, 2014
    Tipton & Alpine, TN
    Damn gremlins. Funny story a few years ago I witnessed a brand new GSA 1200 go into NON start safe mode the 2nd day of a ride. He ended up having to tow it to the nearest shop. I'm on my trusty '93 KLX 650R, what a parity. Anyhow, he locked his steering that night and apparently the steering lock pin is motor actuated. Well the dirt/water caused it to bind and the security kicked in.

    Props to him though, he was giving the bike hell the first day :thumb
  18. AwDang

    AwDang Enabler

    Sep 1, 2014
    MABDR mile post 0
    Torque management control is in your right hand. Traction control is in your left, and wheelie, under your right foot.
    3rdeng, mitchxout, thechief86 and 2 others like this.
  19. BetterLateThanNever

    BetterLateThanNever It turns out you can't delete your account...

    Dec 31, 2014
    Ontario, Canada
    The one thing I'd strike from the list of 'pure and simple' attributes is carburetors. I get the nostalgic appeal, but there is nothing about them that is simpler, more reliable and easy to live with than fuel injection (which, as a technology, is older than anyone posting on this board). Some advancements can't be denied. EFI is, for me, right up there with pneumatic tires as something that's just plain better.
  20. BetterLateThanNever

    BetterLateThanNever It turns out you can't delete your account...

    Dec 31, 2014
    Ontario, Canada