Advertisement - Continue Reading Below Dropping your bike at a stop sign or during a low-speed maneuver is the fear of any new motorcyclist. It's easy enough to keep your bike upright at speed, but sneaking through a parking lot, all that mass is dying to tumble. Honda seems to have the perfect solution, with a new concept bike that can balance itself either during a low-speed crawl or when stopped completely.
Honda Riding Assist was first demonstrated today at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The system is brilliantly simple: When engaged, the system increases the fork angle, lengthening the bike's wheelbase and, apparently, disconnecting the front forks from the handlebars. The system then uses minute steering inputs to keep the bike perfectly balanced, without the use of heavy gyroscopes or other mass-shifting devices.
The concept bike Honda built to demonstrate the tech can even silently propel itself along, following its owner through a hallway like an obedient puppy. Advertisement - Continue Reading Below Honda says the technology was developed as an offshoot of the Uni-Cub, the automaker's nifty self-balancing mobility unicycle concept. At the company's presentation at CES, Honda demonstrated Riding Assist by having a motorcycle slowly wheel itself onstage, following a Uni-Cub.
While Honda hasn't announced any plans to put Riding Assist into production, we wouldn't be surprised to see the technology included in a future Honda motorcycle of some sort. It's not exactly an autonomous, self-driving motorcycle, but it's a step in that direction—and one that, while slightly eerie to watch, would be a huge help to newbie bikers, or anyone who's struggled to squeeze a 900-lb.
Gold Wing out of a packed garage. via GizmodoSee Also: Leather Motorcycle Pants
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Small, powerful, and affordable electric motors have helped dozens of startups flood the market with increasingly practical personal vehicles over the last few years. A handful of products I’ve tried this year that show these concepts are progressing and evolving, too. There are modular electric skateboards, foldable scooters, and design-forward e-bikes now, and they all feel like genuine advancements of their base ideas.
This focus on developing alternative transportation is promising for commuters with some cash to burn, but to be honest, the most fun I’ve had on something with a small electric motor this year was when I got to ride the Uno Bolt a few weeks ago. The $1,500 Bolt is about as impractical as it gets when it comes to electric rideables. It’s sort of a self-balancing unicycle, but with chest-high handlebars and a big, fat wheel for stabilization.
It uses gyroscopes to keep you from tipping over, and that’s also how you modulate your speed — there’s no throttle. At 45 pounds, it’s heavy, but the shape of it is generally cumbersome, and not the kind of thing you could easily lug up the steps to an apartment or an office. In many ways it’s like the Ryno, a one-wheeled motorcycle we first saw back in early 2014. The Bolt even derives its inspiration from the same place as Ryno’s creators — Sean Chan, founder and co-inventor of the Bolt, says he wanted to make something that resembled the one-wheeled bike from Dragon Ball.
The Bolt differs mightily from the Ryno in its aesthetics, though. It’s much more Segway than superbike. And it’s not supposed to be a street-legal ride like the Ryno was. Instead, it’s probably destined for sidewalks and bike lanes, much like a Segway. If it were a little easier to ride, I could even see it replacing Segways as the preferred way to lazily tour a new American city. It works in pretty much the same way, but with the added value of a seat.
What’s more American than sitting? The toughest part of the learning curve on the Bolt is nailing the balance while you turn. After about 15 minutes, I was able to ride the Bolt in a straight line, but turning still required many errant foot plants, and I had to rely heavily on the handbrake to keep myself (and the Bolt) from crashing onto the sidewalks of Manhattan’s Battery Park. I recently learned to ride a real motorcycle, and trust me, two wheels are easier.
Chan says it takes most riders about 45 minutes to get comfortable enough with the full riding experience, so maybe I just didn’t have enough time to spare. Of course, he’s put in endless hours of riding time while creating the Bolt, and for every one of my abrupt stops, he pulled off what seemed like dozens of skillful pirouettes. Still, riding the Bolt was ridiculous fun, and it’s exactly the kind of weird vehicle I wish I could waste money and storage space on.
It very likely won’t take off in the same way electric skateboards or scooters have in big cities like New York, but I definitely won’t be surprised if I see someone whip by me on one a few times in the next few years. And when that happens, I’ll definitely be a little bit jealous. The Latest 2018’s new emoji will end the neglect of redheads By Vlad Savov Elon Musk’s Tesla overshot Mars’ orbit but it won’t reach the asteroid belt as claimed By Loren Grush 76 comments / new Chinese police are using facial recognition sunglasses to track citizens By James Vincent 3 comments / new Google’s Pixel Visual Core doesn’t actually work in the Pixel’s own camera app By Vlad Savov 12 comments / new Amazon starts delivering Whole Foods groceries by Prime Now By Sam Byford 1 comment / new Uber is just too underhanded to play the underdog against Waymo By Sarah Jeong 9 comments / new