In the year 2096 (Exordium and Terminus)

Devitt have been arranging motorcycle insurance since 1936 and many changes have happened to motorcycling over these last 80 years. So what’s in store for motorcycling over the next 80 years?

2096

Dharmash Smith woke up early, buzzing with excitement. Today was his day; his renewed permit to ride had come through following his medical (compulsory now he had turned 55), his i-Harley was fully charged and he had a pass out from his partner to spend a day enjoying himself out on the King’s Highway.

MS-Brilliance Auto and Google Hero

Finishing his breakfast coffee, Dharmash remembered when he used to go with his dad and granddad to transport museums to look at the old petrol burning cars and bikes.  Historical marques like Vauxhall and Yamaha had been ousted by the mid 21st century by a winning combination of allegiances between software companies and vehicle manufacturers who together developed what became today’s highly efficient electrically powered vehicles. Those car and bike factories based in the – then – low cost countries like India and China had no legacy wedding them to antiquated designs and power sources, and so could move especially quickly to grasp the new opportunities presented by increased fuel costs and growing green consumer tendencies. Now the dominant vehicle brands included MS-Brilliance Auto and Google Hero.

Fossil fuel powered cars banned

All fossil fuel powered cars had been banned for environmental reasons. This was no great hardship for most people who for decades now had used driver-less, autonomous electrically-powered cars charged via induction loops buried in the tarmac. There were inevitably gripes in rural areas where many roads – except for the most major – had yet to be so treated, compared to London where virtually all streets had been powered up. Very few owned their own car now; most hired on an as-needed system, either on a contract – from minimal miles up to an unlimited, “all you can eat” plan – or on a “pay as you go” basis.

Increased anti-speeding measures

Four wheel motoring enthusiasts were very thin on the ground following decades of increased anti-speeding measures, from blanket coverage by average speed cameras through speed tracking via cars’ inbuilt GPS systems (a legal requirement since the late 2030s) to active speed control present in all autonomous vehicles. Plus since no-one needed to take a test to “drive” one of the autonomous cars, youngsters’ interests were no longer piqued by the idea of their own transport.

Britain leaves the EU

Similarly very few people now had a motorcycle licence due to the complexity of getting one. His granddad thought things would change when Britain left the EU but oddly enough the politicians still behaved as though they saw bikers as a soft target for voter-pleasing safety legislation. Anti Terrorism legislation had been misused to suppress demonstrations by the likes of MAG. Eventually motorcyclists’ numbers fell to where further reductions in accident rates were meaningless and at that point the legislators backed off.

Electrically assisted bicycles

The use of electrically assisted bicycles satisfied the short-journey commuter market. Those with a taste for something more powerful – often stimulated by watching Zero MotoGP where Chinese track star “Mike” Yip was top of the leader board on the works HP-Lifan – took pride in mastering the training courses and examinations required to gain a motorcycle rider permit, allowing them to pilot an electric motorcycle with a power output of over 250 watts.

Improved passenger comfort

The most popular style of bike featured both mid- and forward-mounted footrests (thanks to clutch-less direct drive and brakes operated via handlebar levers) and medium height ‘bars which lowered at the push of a lever. These, along with the alternative footrest positions, meant one’s riding position could easily convert from feet forward cruiser to sports GT. Ergonomics were as important now in motorcycle design as they had been for years in the car world. A small half fairing and built in, removable luggage capability increased versatility further. A flip up seat hump which swivelled back up to expose the pillion seat while becoming a backrest à la Buell’s RS1200 helped passenger comfort and safety.

Autonomous cars

Dharmash checked his helmet rear view camera’s signal was feeding through properly to the heads up display in his visor, and that the inflation canister for the built-in air bag protection in his riding suit was in place. Besides his bike, these were now the most expensive aspect of riding. Autonomous cars meant the end of SMIDSYs, and the huge reduction in accidents had lead to a consequent reduction in insurance premiums.

Reduction in accident rates

Autonomous cars meant that roads no longer carried speed limits; these were mapped into the legally-required black box GPS of the cars, instead. Independently driven vehicles like motorbikes required the operator to undertake rigorous training and evaluation to understand fully what speed would be appropriate under various circumstances. This was drilled in till it became second nature and Dharmash was no more likely to speed past a school than he was to stick his fingers in a live electric socket. And appropriate speed for road conditions resulted in a further reduction in accident rates with consequent lower insurance premiums.

Technology

The technology used in the early 21st century to track drivers’ behaviour had conquered the motorcycle market as well, and all bikes were now fitted by law with a little telematics black box. This gathered data on the rider’s behaviour while on the road. This included speed, cornering, how hard one braked and the times the bike was used. In addition it could track a bike’s whereabouts if it was stolen; and it would also instantly alert emergency services of the bike’s location if it was involved in a serious accident.

Motorcycle changed beyond recognition

No matter what his granddad used to say, bikers had never had it so good as now, Dharmash believed. In 1885, Gottlieb Daimler filed a patent for a “riding car” – a vehicle described as an “automobile with two wheels” or as we’d call it: a motorbike. Now in 2096 after 211 year’s development, the motorcycle had changed out of all recognition. 

Quite, clean and powerful

Dharmash could cruise down the road and, thanks to the quiet, clean and powerful electric motor, all he would hear were the sounds around him with nothing to disturb that other than the wind on his visor. Not even vibration would get in the way (at any speed) of a feeling akin to flying. With a twist of the throttle he could go from 0 to 100mph in one gear with no hesitation, stuttering or loss of power anywhere: a perfect power curve.

Some things never change

Hugely responsive, clean-power machines, better riding kit, fewer accidents, lower insurance costs: what was not to like? He opened the garage door. “Drat!” he thought – it had started to rain. Some things would never change.

So, what do you think could happen to motorcycling over the next 80 years? Tell us in the comments below…