Top 10s

Ten motorcycling things that didn’t exist 10 years ago

Modern motorcycles are a feast of gadgets, high-tech materials and computing power. But it wasn’t always this way!

MOST modern motorcycles are a technological tour-de-force of high-tech kit, safety systems, performance-enhancing software and ultra-light and strong materials. You only have to walk into a showroom, and you can pick up a sportsbike that has parts fitted to it that were the sole-preserve of the WorldSBK and BSB grid just a few years ago.

Sometimes that rate of progression is so fast and so strong, we almost forget how we got to where we are today. So, to help you fill in the blanks, here are ten motorcycle inventions that didn’t exist in road bikes ten years ago.

Cornering ABS

Appearing midway through the 2000s, cornering ABS quickly became the must-have piece of tech the bike manufacturers were clamouring to get fitted to their bike. In 2020 it’s now commonplace, on everything from the top-spec sportsbikes to mid-weight naked machines.

We wouldn’t bet against some of the 125cc segment getting in on the act soon too, as the tech and hardware to create a cornering ABS system gets smaller, lighter and cheaper.

TT-Zero/MotoE (electric motorcycle racing on a grand scale!)

TT-Zero scrapes into this list, just – it was inaugurated during the 2010 Isle of Man TT races. And is sadly now looking at a bleak future, as the organisers have pulled the pin on the series. The team behind the event are hopeful that a manufacturer will back the event, helping to bolster the race’s dwindling numbers with factory-backed machines.

TT-Zero aside, ten years ago, the thought of battery-powered motorcycle racing as a support championship to the MotoGP circus would have got you laughed out of the pub. Today though, it’s a mainstay – despite its shaky and fiery start – and an event that looks set to remain a part fo the show for years to come.

COTA – The Circuit of the Americas

Weird to think that ten years ago one of the best circuits on the MotoGP calendar wasn’t even a glint in Hermann Tilke’s eye! It’s gone from a dusty and unused plot in Travis County to one of the best-appointed venues on the calendar in eight years!

As with many US ideas, the team behind the track borrowed elements from other global tracks to make the 3.4-mile circuit, with one of the best sections being the fast, flowing section that runs from turn three to the tight turn nine; most of that section was modelled on Maggotts and Becketts at Silverstone!

It's a shame then that the US hasn’t quite backed up the spectacle with a rider of their own to celebrate having started the decade with three to cheer on in Nicky Hayden (RIP), Ben Spies and Colin Edwards.

Airbag leathers

Okay, so the first early development airbag suits appeared around 15 years ago, but it took much longer than that for them to arrive on shelves for us to buy and wear.

Modern-day airbag tech has changed massively from those early, race-only versions we first saw. They are now smaller, lighter and more compact. They are also no longer the preserve of just the sportsbike riders and trackday heroes, companies are bringing out modular items that can be worn under convention motorcycle jackets and textile riding gear.

Bluetooth connectivity

Ten years ago, the most you could probably connect your phone to would be the Bluetooth speaker in the kitchen, today pretty much anything is fair-game to link your smartphone up to! You can even use your dog and bone to update the suspension settings of the Yamaha R1M, saves getting out the C-spanner I suppose!

Slide control

If you were getting the back tyre of your sportsbike out of shape in the last decade, it was probably succeeded by a big crash and a trip to the hospital with some blue lights flashing above you. today though a sportsbike isn’t a sportsbike without some form of slide control to help you prove to your peers who brave and skillful you are!

Getting your elbow down

Yes, I know that Rossi and pals have been elbow down riding for years, but it didn’t happen very often among the trackday crowd before a few years ago. Now a set of elbow sliders are as commonplace on a trackday as a battered old CB500 that’s held together with duct-tape is!

A British MotoGP winner

It took a while and yes, some people had started to give up hope, but on a wet afternoon at the 2016 Czech MotoGP at Brno, Cal rewarded his fans with a masterful performance to take Britain’s first MotoGP win for 25-years.

He didn’t stop there either, he went on to win the Australian GP at Philip Island becoming the first Briton to win at the event. Cal eventually finished the season in 7th place on 141 points.

Mainstream electric motorcycle manufacturers

The key word above is mainstream! Sure, there were electric motorcycles you could go out and buy in the last decade, but most looked like a university design project and some bolt-on parts from Amazon. It wasn’t until firms like Zero and Energica came online that the bikes got better and cheaper.

Today though it seems the major bike makers have cottoned on to the electric revolution, with some of them already selling electric machines and almost all of them working on something behind the scenes.

Kawasaki resurgence from minnow to WorldSBK domination

It’s hard to remember a time when Kawasaki wasn’t the force in WorldSBK such has been its dominance over the past decade, particularly the latter half of those 10 years. Between 2000 and 2009 Kawasaki notched up just three wins (two of which were for one-off Japanese wild-card Akira Yanagawa at Sugo) and was consistently rooted at the bottom of the constructors’ standings.

After its nadir of 2009 when it managed just 76 points to Ducati’s 572, Kawasaki changed its philosophy by quitting MotoGP, switching allegiance to the Spanish Provec team and investing in its ZX-10 Superbike.

Steadily, Kawasaki ascended the WorldSBK order leading to Tom Sykes’ title of 2013 before Jonathan Rea’s arrival in 2015 kick-started its run of five consecutive crowns. Between 2010 and 2019, Kawasaki won a total of 109 WorldSBK races… 

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