September 2019

‘What will the future of biking look like?’

50 years ago Honda launched the CB750 and I was an eight-year-old kid with my nose pressed to the window of a bike shop, looking at a candy red and chrome dream machine. My dad took me into the shop and got me a brochure and I became a short-trouser’d expert on Honda’s 1969 colour schemes.

No bike since then has had the same impact; four-cylinders, disc brakes, electric start, proper service intervals and the kind of on the button performance previously only available to people who spent their weekends rebuilding over tuned hot rods.

The petrol powered motorcycle of 2019 is an evolution of the CB750. Or arguably, in the case of the latest, shift-cam, lean burning and ride-by-wire R1250GS, the 1923 BMW R32. But what an evolution. Electronics and emission controls have pushed things on. A modern motorcycle has an ECU with the brain power of a super computer, the performance of a star fighter and the easy rideability of a CB750. And there’s a lot more to come.

What’s happening in MotoGP is amazing too, with engineers responding to rule changes to push engine and chassis tech, allowing ridiculously talented riders to do extraordinary things – like using their back brakes mid-corner, at full lean, to make the bike turn faster. It’s like having a hinge in the middle of the bike!

Electric power will be part of the future too. Pip Higham, who’s spent his life making petrol engine’s go faster, and I spent a day in the Peak District playing with the new Zero SR/F. It’s got us closer to satisfactory answers to the how fast? How far? How long? How much? questions about electric bikes. Someday soon a plug-in motorcycle will have the same impact as the CB750 did in 1969.

What will the future of biking look like? Hopefully something like this picture. A sunny day in the Peak District, an empty road and a rider enjoying the ride on an amazing piece of machinery.

Back in the present, I read Jim Moore’s piece about petrol (p106) then went home and drained the carburettors on one of my old bikes. The amount of water in there was scary. I’ll empty the tank this weekend, and then refill with fresh fuel. The real solution is to use bikes more. Just in case you need an excuse. Enjoy the issue.

Hugo Wilson, Editor

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