The 5 Biggest Changes in Motorcycling Over the Past 5 Years

Us bikers are a funny lot when it comes to change. For a bunch of people who roar around on our two-wheeled rebellion machines revelling in the thought that we’re different from all the rest, we still seem to be as stick-in-the-mud-ish as anyone when things don’t stay the same.

While staring down extinction in the form of plummeting sales, the death of internal combustion and a rapidly aging customer base, oh how we mocked those silly hipsters who flocked to the community with their youthful exuberance and industry-saving spare cash.

Then we complained about electronic aids ‘taking over’ from humans mere milliseconds before throwing our hard-earned money at BMW’s S1000RR with its 200 traction-controlled horses, clutchless shifts and hilarious computer-aided wheelies. And don’t get us started on those hippy-hugging electric bikes with their planet-twisting amounts of torque and non-existent running cost.

So, what’s really moved the dial in the past 5 years? Here are our top 5 developments in motorcycling that ruffled some old school feathers while also steadfastly proving to be a whole more fun than most riders could ever have imagined.

Female Riders

With female suffrage celebrating its 100 year anniversary in most Western countries around about now, it seems rather incredible that we’re sat here discussing something like this, but yet here we are. And is it any wonder? To this day, we still overhear old male bikers at popular rest stops espousing some pretty old-fashioned views about women and their supposed biking abilities.

Woman riding Harley Davidson Motorcycle in Industrial Area
Image: Asphalt & Rubber

Much to the amazement of motorcycling’s old mates, they don’t own the sport and no one’s really listening to their dyed-in-the-wool views on what women can and can’t do anyhow. Or to put it another way, if picking up a dropped BMW 1200 GS or kickstarting an old Harley is the sole test of motorcycling capabilities, there’d be an army of men out there that should be hanging up their helmets immediately.

So for the first time ever, women are now feeling that bikes are an enjoyable pastime rather than an expensive way to get more sleazy, ignorant comments. And from a manufacturer’s point of view, it looks a lot like they’ve just doubled their customer base. Just imagine what all that extra cash will do for their R&D budgets, design departments and new model releases?

Power Increases

It seems like only yesterday that we’d all stand around gawking like fools as that Hayabusa rolled into the carpark of our local meet-up spot. ‘It’s got 170 horsepower!’ we babbled as the rider took twelve attempts to reverse park the Cadillac-length behemoth.

Ducati v4 superleggera studio shot
Image: Ducati

Fast forward 10 years, and it seems like the ’Busa and Honda’s once mythical Super Blackbird are now underpowered and even a little – dare we say it – slow. Why froth over 170 horses when there’s Kawasaki’s H2 with 228 ponies or Ducati’s 152 kg (335 lb), 221 HP V4 Superleggera. Hell, that thing’s got too much damn boom-boom for World Superbike and it’s also road-legal. Just think about that for a moment.

Of course, all this furious power and near-lightspeed capabilities are only possible thanks to the new-fangled electronic doohickies Ducati and Kawasaki’s white-coated boffins and installed to stop us all from becoming red smears down our local set of twisties. So all you naysayers from 5 years ago, tell us again how ABS brakes are for learners who can’t modulate their stopping? We’re all ears.

The Rise of Electrics

We’ve all seen the YouTube videos of Teslas mercilessly kicking Porsche, Lambo and Ferrari butt. They don’t even seem to break a sweat doing it. So don’t kid yourselves, the same thing’s going to be happening to motorbikes before you can properly pronounce the name of Elon Musk’s kid.

Harley-Davidson LiveWire Electric motorcycle at night on street
Image: Harley-Davidson

Yes, Harley’s beautiful but cripplingly expensive Livewire may have produced a few chuckles and raised eyebrows, but their management knows better than anyone that internal combustion is going the way of the liquified dinosaurs it needs to make those old engines spin.

And while you may fret about missing the ‘soul’ of petrol engines and ‘that amazing exhaust sound,’ imagine for a moment your 2035 Yamaha electric naked, with its 250 horses, 4 year service intervals, chump change running costs and bottomless pit of arms-stretching torque. How will we ever survive?

The Offroad Boom

While it’d be hard to argue that off-road riding itself has blossomed in recent years, what is obvious is that riders who are looking for ‘the next big thing’ after cafe racers are gawking squarely at scramblers and trackers for their new hit of moto cool.

Ducati Scrambler Fasthouse Special Edition in Desert
Image: Ducati USA

And the manufacturers also see this. Just think of BMW’s scrambled version of their RnineT, Ducati’s Scrambler, Triumph’s retro, erm, Scrambler 1200 or Indian’s FTR 1200. Now, cast your gaze to the other end of the market, where Chinese-made beginner bikes that used to be cafe’d-up to within an inch of their lives are now leaving their Guangdong factories with knobby tyres and high pipes.

Yes, you could probably argue that many of these bikes will never see dirt in their lives, but as with all those Landcruisers and Land Rovers, it doesn’t stop their owners from falling in love with the idea of an outdoor life or screaming around a flat track with their foot down and mud in their teeth.

Electronics Aids

We’ve touched on this already, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that electronic intervention has many more benefits than it does negatives. 5 years ago, it all looked rather hamfisted, nanny-esque and a little pointless. Sure, ABS might be OK for those of us without the proper experience, but for the rest of us? Obviously, we’re just too skilled to really need it.

BMW S1000RR HP Race Edition on track at sunset
Image: BMW Motorrad

Now, fast-forward to journos stepping off BMW’s uberrad HP4 at a loss for words after having their brains deep-fried and their top-shelf expectations shattered like a COVID safety plan at a spring break party.

Of course, the irony here is clear as day. While we’re now eating our words and riding like Rossi thanks to the very safety nets we were so skeptical of in 2015, much of this tech is already redundant or at least ready for a major overhaul with the imminent rise of electric bikes. Who needs quick shifters and engine braking when there are no gears and your permanent-magnet direct current electric motor stops and starts instantly?

Better Learner Bikes

This is going to make us sound old, but in our day, beginner bikes were an embarrassing right-of-passage that sorted out the wannabes from the truly committed. You try turning up to a ride with strangers on 1000cc Gixxers with your ’91 Honda CB250 and not feeling like a complete clown. It’s just not humanly possible.

Royal Enfield Motorcycles at Beach for Sunset
Image: Royal Enfield

And while some liberty-lovin’ countries are perfectly happy to allow complete amateurs onto litre bikes without helmets, most of the world’s riders know full well that you have to learn to crawl before you can walk. Of course, there’s always a classic bike from the 70s that will look cool and be relatively manageable, but what newb has the skills to fix a fifty-year-old, misfiring CB750 by the side of the road in a downpour?

But just look at the options now: Yamaha’s MT07, Royal Enfield’s 650 twins, Triumph’s Street Triple and the Ducati Monster 659 are all up for grabs along with a raft of other incredible, capable and decidedly non-lame options.

And apart from the undeniable coolness factor with all these bikes, there’s the added financial boon of not having to immediately upgrade your embarrassing training bike once you’ve earned your licence stripes. Show me a new rider that thinks an MT07 is beneath them and I’ll show you someone who’s got a hot date with a highside.

Yamaha MT07 riding at night in Tokyo
Image: Yamaha


Time for distinguished gents to register

It might seem early to be registering for the 10th annual Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride, but the event has been moved forward from September to May from this year.

Click here to register.

The ninth annual event went virtual in 2020 because of the pandemic, resulting in the number of participants and fundraising for the Movember Foundation being halved.

Now the men’s health charity event is permanently moving to May from this year.

Organisers hope the shift to May for the northern hemisphere riding season will better suit riders and increase fund-raising opportunities.

“We know how important it is to physically connect with our community,” the organisers said.

I’ve been to DGRs in various cities both here in Australia and overseas, and of course, the weather can be unpredictable.

While you can ride any time of the year in my home state of Queensland, DGR participants might prefer the more tweed-oriented cooler temps.

Veterans MC Victoria Chapter

Since 2012, the event has connected hundreds-of-thousands of classic and vintage style motorcyclists from more than 100 countries and raised $US27.45m for men’s health. 

Organisers hope to crash through the $US30m barrier this year.

Ride founder Mark Hawwa of Sydney says the ride will vary according to pandemic restrictions in each country with some being virtual as they were last year.

Fund-raising incentive prices are:

  • Four new Triumph motorcycles, one of which will be a unique DGR-branded custom for the winner of the 2021 Gentlefolk Competition;
  • Custom top-50 fundraiser Hedon helmets with a 10th year anniversary design;
  • Up 10 Hedonist helmets custom-painted by 10 renowned artists and auctioned off during the campaign;
  • Belstaff classic motorcycle outfits for top fundraiser and sprint prizes for event fundraisers; and
  • ELF lubricants prizes. 


Impact pads would make garments safer

Australia’s internationally awarded MotoCAP motorcycle gear safety ratings service has added ratings on safety and comfort for eight jackets and eight pants to its growing list of tested products.

The new ratings brings the total number of items of clothing to 297, comprised of 125 jackets, 80 pairs of pants and 92 pairs of gloves.

Draggin Holsehot jeans top-scored on safety with four out of fives, followed by the Klim Artemis with twi stars.

Only one safety star was awarded to Merlin Route One Hardy, BME Waterproof Herren, Melbourne’s Saint Unbreakable Straight, Bull-It Easy Tactical Cargo, Triumph Urban Jeans and Macna Club.

While the Holeshot jeans performed well, MotoCAP says it could have done better if the knee and hip impact protectors were better quality.

Many of the others did not feature both sets of armour, marking them down on impact protection.

It was a similar situation in the jackets.

The new ratings for jackets can be viewed here. The new ratings for pants can be viewed here.

Deakin Uni Institute for Frontier Materials Senior Research Fellow and Honda GB400 rider Chris Hurren says there is a need for a holistic approach to safety.

MotoCAP senior researcher Dr Chris Hurren
Dr Chris Hurren

He says rider jackets and pants should include proper impact protection, as well as high abrasion resistance.

Chris says many garments don’t come with impact protectors or only a few protectors.

“Some of the garments could be five star if they just had a full set of certified protectors,” he says.

“Then it’s the rider’s choice if they want to throw them away if they don’t want to wear them.”

MotoCAP is a partnership between Transport for NSW, State Insurance Regulatory Authority (SIRA), VicRoads, Transport Accident Commission (TAC), Royal Automobile Club of Victoria (RACV), Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMR), Motor Accident Insurance Commission (MAIC), Lifetime Support Authority (LSA), the Department for Infrastructure and Transport, Western Australian Police: Road Safety Commission, Department of State Growth, Insurance Australia Group (IAG), Australian Motorcycle Council and Accident Compensation Corporation in New Zealand.

Testing is carried out by the Deakin University Institute for Frontier Materials on behalf of the MotoCAP partners.


Yamahas recalled on faulty brake switch

The official recall notice issued through the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission says the faulty brake switch could “inhibit the cruise control and constantly illuminate the rear brake lights”.

“If the rear brake lights constantly illuminate, other road users will not know if the brakes are applied, increasing the risk of an accident or injury or death to the rider(s) and/or other road users.”

Owners of affected motorcycles should contact a Yamaha Dealer to arrange an appointment to have the brake switch replaced, free of charge.

Consumers can find their nearest authorised Yamaha dealership by visiting:

For further information, contact Yamaha by phone on 1300 593 600.


Maritha Keyser Cyclist rule endangers motorcyclists

Even though manufacturers and importers usually contact owners when a recall is issued, the bike may have been sold privately to a rider unknown to the company.

Therefore, Motorbike Writer publishes all motorcycle and scooter recalls as a service to all riders.

If you believe there is an endemic problem with your bike that should be recalled, contact the ACCC on 1300 302 502.

To check whether your motorcycle has been recalled, click on these sites:


Spain Looking to Tighten Grip on Moto Glove Use

When it comes to mandatory riding gear, most places require you to wear an approved helmet, but nothing else is required. It’s actually pretty weird when you think about it. A rider can go out on the bike sporting just about as much or as little protective gear they prefer.

Most riders raise the bar to wear an approved helmet, jacket, gloves, and in most cases riding boots/shoes but they have the choice – but they have the choice.

What about riding without gloves? Personally, I don’t leave the house without them, but that could be just me. Again, the choice is yours.

For our French friends across the pond – it’s been mandatory to wear approved motorcycle gloves for quite a while now. But they are about to be joined by Spain when it comes to mandatory riding gloves.

Dainese Druid D1 Long Gloves

There was recently a meeting with the DGT (Directorate-General for Traffic) and additional stakeholders surrounding the proposed increase use of air-vests – which are most commonly found to be used on racetracks. The meeting ended up spreading the fear of mandatory use of air-bag vests on or off of the racetrack and was adjourned.

Maritha Keyser Cyclist rule endangers motorcyclists

The meeting wasn’t completely wasted as it also pointed out that it would be following in France’s footsteps when it comes to riders wearing approved gloves. There was no specific time for the rule to take effect but it is sure to happen soon.

For me, this wouldn’t be big deal whatsoever. But how about you? What are your thoughts on mandatory gear laws?


Triumph unveils electric motorcycle

Triumph Motorcycles has revealed a sketch of what their electric motorcycle will look like – and it looks very sporty indeed.

The British company has been working for a couple of years with the British F1 team Williams after receiving millions in government funding to produce electric motorcycles.

Triumph has been surveying its customers since 2012 to see if they want them to produce electric bikes and in 2019 the company issued a trademark filing for the name “Trident” to be used for “all possible classes” including motorcycling gear, accessories, clothing and “electric machines”.

However, for the moment, the bike is called the TE-1 project and there are only a few vague technical details available.

They say it will have “class-leading power, efficiency, charging time and range” thanks to an innovative, lightweight battery.

“The all-new battery has peak power of 170kW and continuous power of 90kW, with a capacity of 15kWh,” their press release says. 

“This enables the motorbike to deliver 130kW of peak power and 80kW of continuous power.

“Class-leading system cooling combined with the optimum balance of power and energy means TE-1 can give the rider more electric power for longer and deliver outstanding performance regardless of battery charge. 

“The 360-volt system also enables a fast-charging time of under 20mins (0-80%), which is combined with a market-leading target range.”

That last statement is a bit vague, but could mean more than the 360km range offered by Zero Motorcycles with their extended battery pack.

After two years, the project has completed phase two of what they say is a four-phase program, so it could be another couple of years yet before we even see a prototype.

Tokyo Motor Show Yamaha Display

Add another couple of years before a production model is ready.

Triumph CEO Nick Bloor says the project will “provide one of the foundations for our future electric motorcycle strategy, which is ultimately focused on delivering what riders want from their Triumph; the perfect balance of performance, handling and real world usability, with genuine Triumph character”.

Williams spokesman Dyrr Ardash says the “next-generation battery technology” will provide “more power, for longer”. 

The company was the original supplier of batteries to the entire grid of FIA Formula E World Championship cars in 2014, a relationship that has been revived for 2022-23 season with Williams Advanced Engineering being awarded the exclusive contract to supply the Gen3 battery system. 

WAE also supplies battery systems to ETCR and Extreme-E.


Australia secures limited-edition Vespa

Australian importers have secured about 200 limited-edition Vespa scooters specially designed to celebrate the venerable Italian brand’s 75th anniversary.

The 75th anniversary Primavera 150 and GTS 300 models feature unique styling, special 75th anniversary decals, nubuck leather saddle edged in grey and chrome-plated luggage rack for a specially designed bag.

PS Imports Group Marketing Manager Dale McBride says “supply shouldn’t be too restricted with around 100 of each model.

The GTS and Primavera 75th models are due around late June/ July with pricing announced closer to arrival.

I’ve ridden many scooters and I have to say the best handling and among the best finished are the steel-body Vespas with their unique front suspension.

These two 75th models in retro “Giallo Pirite” metallic yellow should be very special, indeed.

One distinctive feature of the Vespa 75th is the chrome-plated rack and complimentary round bag whose shape replicates the typical spare wheel holder. 

Made from velvety-soft nubuck leather in the same colour as the saddle, the bag has a shoulder strap and clips on the luggage rack with a quick-release mechanism. It comes with a waterproof cover.

Like all Vespa special editions, the series is identified with a plate behind the leg shield.

CFMoto 700CL-X

All 75th models come with a 4.3″ TFT colour display and Vespa MIA smartphone connectivity system.

Each Vespa 75th also comes with a Welcome Kit, a vintage steel Vespa plate, a personal Owner’s Book and eight collector postcards with images from the eight decades of the Vespa story.

Vespa’s paint company, Piaggio, filed its first scooter patent on 23 April 1946, beginning 75 years of iconic urban riding.

Piaggio has now made nearly 19 million vehicles with the growth rate not slowing down.

Vespa produced 58,000 scooters in 2004, more than 100,000 in 2006, 180,000 in 2017 and 200,000 units in 2018.


Fears that report may vilify riders

A rider representative group fears that a Victorian Road Toll Increase Inquiry (RTII) report will vilify riders with inaccurate representations of the danger of riding.

This follows recent police media reports in most states that point out the increase in rider deaths this year but have so far failed to acknowledge the dramatic rise in new and used motorcycle sales in the past year.

The Motorcycle Riders Association of Australia has issued the graph below based on Australian Bureau of Statistics and Bureau of Infrastructure and Transport Research Economics data which shows motorcycle and scooter fatalities decreasing over the past 10 years.

The RTII report and recommendations to be tabled on Thursday, March 25, 2021, are expected to present “rubbery figures … obviously put together by non-riders”. 

The report will available by clicking here on Thursday.

An MRAQ press release says the Traffic Accident Commission has been reporting that riders make up 1% of road traffic but 19% of all road user deaths.

However, in 2020 there were 5,119,560 vehicles registered in Australia, of which 198,151 were motorcycles. That’s actually 3.87% nationally and climbing given the 22.1% increase in motorcycle and scooter sales last year. 

At the same time, new car sales were down 20.5%.

And with second-hand motorcycle sales not included in the data, the rider proportion could be much higher.

Deakin University motorcycle safety researcher Dr Liz de Rome has been claiming for years that motorcycles make up about 4% of motor vehicles. 

Motorcycle paramedics

If you count unregistered motorcycles, the percentage of motorcycles in traffic must be higher. “TAC figures are unreliable,” the MRAQ says. 

“TAC figures make riding motorcycles look more dangerous than it is.

“These rubbery figures may mean the people putting them together are incompetent, or it may be the anti motorcycle culture in road authorities showing itself. 

“No system develops reliable countermeasures to road trauma without reliable traffic/crash data. 

“RSV/TACs use of rubbery figures to justify spending and policies that have speed limits reduced and costly wire rope barriers installed while roads are dangerously neglected.”