Today, more motorcycle riders are hitting the road than ever before. Since 1991, sales of motorcycles have increased more than 90 percent, and statistics indicate sales will rise an additional 7.2 percent in 2016. With the increased interest in motorcycles comes a greater need for teaching riders about safety.
To help make bikes safer, manufacturers have changed the accessories riders use in addition to making modifications to the motorcycles themselves.
The intersection of new technology and a greater awareness of the need for safety has lead to the creation of safety-enhancing innovations. Here’s a look at some of the current and coming innovations.
Helmets play a major role in rider safety and today they have been improved to include such features as built-in GPS systems and built-in cameras to show rear views and eliminate blind spots.
Airbag vests and jackets
An estimated 2,200 lives are saved by airbags in vehicle crashes every year. Now, motorcycle clothing manufacturers are implementing some of those same safety features into gear for riders. Sensors in the clothing detect when a motorcycle makes impact, immediately deploying an airbag that protects the chest and vital organs.
LED lighting doesn’t just make a motorcycle look sharp, it provides greater visibility and plays a key role in enhancing rider safety. Not only can drivers see the motorcycle more easily but the LED lighting gives riders a clearer view of the road, particularly in unfavorable conditions. Many helmets are also now equipped with LED lighting to increase rider visibility.
For the past few years, manufacturers have been experimenting with different types of innovations in gloves. In 2016, look for that innovation to swing into production with advances like Bluetooth-connected gloves that allow riders to control smartphone and GPS functions by touching certain areas of the glove. (It’s important to keep in mind that these features should only be used when the motorcycle is not in motion.)
While some manufacturers are developing “superbikes” with more power, others are keeping their eye on safety and are lowering the horsepower. This makes it ideal for new drivers or those who just want a safer commute.
Complete system monitoring services including cruise control, semi-active suspension, and tire pressure monitors are being sold on some motorcycles in Europe. While some of these are available as aftermarket items today, look for them to begin working their way into American designs.
Borrowing from the automotive industry, manufacturers have begun exploring anti-lock brake systems for motorcycles. In Europe, legislation made anti-lock brakes mandatory on all motorcycles over 125cc beginning this year.
Accelerating or braking during a turn is a major contributor to motorcycle accidents, but new stability control systems analyze the traction control and lean-angle data to ensure the motorcycle receives only the right amount of power or braking.
Motorcycle boots often are overlooked, but they’re an important safety feature. As more attention has been drawn to injuries associated with poorly constructed boots, boot makers are introducing new, flexible impact technology to protect the foot and absorb the shock of impact.
“Aging riders are finding a need for easier to handle motorcycles, and manufacturers have responded with three-wheel instead of two-wheel vehicles,” says James Davis, who runs the website Motorcycle Tips & Techniques, which provides safety advice for motorcycle riders. The new breed of trikes have a “cool” factor in addition to providing more balance than a traditional motorcycle.
Although safety has always been a major consideration for motorcyclists, today it is more important than ever. James says that as the average age of riders increases and more advancements are made in safety, the rate of accidents should begin to decline.
“The most important safety innovation in the past several years is recognition of a ‘safety attitude’ while riding,” he says.
For more safety tips and advice, check out our three-part motorcycling 101 series:
Even with the advancements in motorcycle safety and technology, your motorcycle itself needs to be protected. Take a look at the insurance coverage you can get for your motorcycle from Nationwide.