We normally keep an eye on the CES show in Las Vegas, so we know what new cameras, TVs and gizmos we’ll be wasting our money on over the next few years. But we don’t often see much about motorbikes. Which makes this little conceit even more interesting. The good guys at Honda only went and wheeled out a new self-balancing concept bike, based on what looks like an NC750S, to show off just how clever it is these days.
The Riding Assist concept is bloody smart, and uses tech knowhow gleaned from the firm’s slightly-creepy ASIMO robot, and mad Uni-Cub self-balancing unicycle concept machine. Now, old-tech says you use gyroscopes to self balance – large, heavy flywheels spinning at high speeds can provide a stabilising force to hold two-wheelers upright. But they’re terribly heavy, use a lot of power, and then when you do want to lean over – for a corner, say – the gyro’s forces then get in the way.
Enter the Honda boffins. This new system works a bit like when you’re static on a pushbike, with your feet on the pedals, and wobble the steering from side to side at the traffic lights. The small movements cancel out the tendency to fall over, and despite not moving forward, the bike stays upright. This concept bike initially pushes the front end way out when it goes into its self-balancing mode. That helps balance straight away: a steeply-raked-out fork is very stable (that’s why cruisers with kicked-out forks steer so slowly). So moving the front wheel forward gives more inherent stability. It also disconnects the fork from the handlebars, keeping the pesky rider inputs away.
Next, a computer controlled actuator moves the now-disconnected bottom yoke from side to side, like a cyclist at a red light. In Honda’s video, the system allows a bike to follow a conventionally-attractive ladyboffin through a futuristic-looking laboratory at walking pace. It even gives us a cheeky wee nod, the smug bugger. Using the NC750 with its DCT automatic transmission obviously helps here - no gear or clutch selection needed.
What the actual feck is this all about? Well, Honda says it’s about helping novices move at walking speed without falling over like a drunk auntie on inappropriate stripper shoes at xmas, which all sounds fine. But we’re interested in the more esoteric uses – surely something like this will be the answer to shit wheelies the world over? Stabilised horn monos for all, on 500bhp turbocharged Fireblades, delivered to your door by a conventionally-attractive ladyboffin. You heard it here first.