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‘Old School’ Biker reflects on Honda’s self balancing motorcycle

It’s tough to let go of the exciting, inherent and often inevitable danger that is motorcycle riding. Will near future active safety technologies take the excitement and adventure out of motorcycle riding?

I always know when the weather’s changing, thanks to a long healed broken ankle and twisted knee earned the day that I “dumped,” my Honda CB 900 in gravel at 10 miles per hour on that cold and icy December morning. I’ve been thrown over the bars at much greater speeds -- hit the pavement at 40 MPH, and walked away with minor bruising. Yet having my 600 LB Honda of the time slip out from under me at low speeds -- with me subsequently twisting my leg out from under a still idling motorcycle, proved to be the most long term damaging accident in my life-time of 2 wheel motoring.

That self-balancing motorcycle feature would have saved my knee

As this not so old Biker reflected on Honda’s latest self-balancing motorcycle technology -- an intricate facet of Honda’s “Rider Assist” robotics gleaned technologies, I pondered the broad implications of “taming” the motorcycle riding passion that had driven elements of the youthful cowboy in me to the present day. Could a motorcycle be civilized, safe and also free?

Perhaps I’m reading a bit too much into Honda’s reveal of a self-balancing, self parking motorcycle. presented at this year’s Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas. After all, many Honda motorcycle models feature dual clutch (no shift) automated transmissions, state of the safety art ABS, electronically assisted braking, adaptive cruise control, and yes, what many life-time riders consider to be the height of redundancy, the motorcycle air bag. And yet, these technologies safe lives, limbs, hands, fingers, and most importantly to we that ride 2-up, preserve our passenger’s safety and well being.

I’ll stop short of praising the Autonomous motorcycle

It’s all good Honda: I love Honda’s ASIMO inspired gyro-balanced UNI-Cub. It’s very cool for transitioning across the broad expanse of a warehouse or office complex floor. But this is the freedom of the open road you’re messing with, or is it? Read about my first full size motorcycle here.


Interestingly enough, Honda’s “ the future’s knocking” motorcycle balancing technology does not utilize a gyroscope. Instead, side mounted ground sensors work with an (constant) oscillating front wheel to balance the motorcycle -- much as a bicyclist does when coming to a short-stop at a busy city intersection. Will this technology ever go mainstream? Only Honda R&D holds the answer to that question, yet the possibility of a self-balancing motorcycle is intriguing.

For me it all comes down to the Harley Davidson full dresser that no longer prominently occupies that strategic corner of the garage. And the same could be said for my past owned 600+ lb motorcycle collection -- they just don’t balance very well when being manually pushed, dragged or shoved out of a parking stall, into a down or uphill trajectory parking place, or across a wet, ice slick or graveled driveway.


The last time I dropped my 850 pound Electra Glide while moving it off of it’s kickstand, I couldn’t pick it back up. A self-balancing option would have remedied that situation, possibly resulting in a few more years of cross country ride time. For me, if the proposed self-balancing, self-parking option doesn’t interfere with the ride handling performance characteristics of the motorcycle, I say bring it on!