Traction control? Yawn...

Much more fun to be had without it

My long-term Fireblade went back to Honda last week and, seeing as it’s sunny and mild outside now, I’m already missing it. It is one of the best 1000cc sports bikes out there, I don’t care what anyone else says, the way it makes its power is just perfect for fast road use.

With the Power Commander 5 fitted and the fuelling sorted my 2011 Blade performed as well if not better than the 2012 version. A surfable tsunami of torque from tickover to the redline – the perfect power delivery for making stupidly rapid yet silky smooth progress.

And whilst it may have had ABS (not nice on a track day, I might add, due to its reluctance to pitch forward onto its nose on the brakes), it didn’t have traction control and that, for me, was ideal.

In my book, traction control spoils a pure and simple experience. It simplifies something that’s supposed to be difficult. Supposed to be dangerous. Supposed to be painful when you get it wrong. To me, a man who’s flipped himself like a cheese omelette several times, a motorbike with TC is a bit like rock climbing with scaffolding surrounding the rock face. What’s the point? Why not just stay at home? And TC as a safety aid for street riding? People who highside on the road clearl aren't plumbed in for two wheeled transportation.

Also, isn't learning to use traction control infinitely more dangerous than learning to use an old-school throttle cable because it's not a retro-fit skill?

Rider aids like traction control can and will also help mask some pretty extreme quirks in a bike’s make-up. Take the BANG-BANG power deliver of the 1098 or 1198 Ducati – those huge pistons making their presence know on every firing stroke. Without the highly advanced Magneti Marelli traction control these things are almost un-rideable on the track because of the way they have to make their power. TC is a great way to mask a power curve that isn’t curving in the right places.

At the launch of the 2012 Blade, back in December, the new bike’s head of design was faced with a barrage of questions, well, the same question again and again. Everyone wanted to know why there was no TC fitted to the new bike when all its competitors bristled with computing power and potentiometers.

Mr Fukunaga’s (referred to as the capital F in Fireblade) patience was sorely tested but his response was consistent. The Blade doesn’t have TC because it has always been designed to be controllable and to put the onus of responsibility (and satisfaction) on the rider. He too clearly believed that this element of personal control was what made riding a motorcycle so special.

And you know what? That’s why it’s still the Billy Bollocks of 1000cc sports bikes (in my opinion). As a package, the sum of its whole, engine and chassis, it is fantastically communicative and an utterly user-flattering bike to ride. Fast or slow. Rain or shine.

And you know something else? This year’s BSB series (they’ve outlawed electronic rider aids) is going to play right into these attributes and if I were running a BSB team I’d be buying myself some Hondas or Suzukis.

It’s no coincidence that nobody will be running 1198 Ducatis in 2012…

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