Introducing the BMW S1000RR HP4

I read motorcycle magazines. Alot of them. This morning I was reading about the launch of the new BMW S1000RR HP4 and was amazed at the technology built into this motorcycle. The really interesting thing about the technology advances in motorcycling is that every advance – E.V.E.R.Y advance is designed to help the rider get pleasure and performance from the motorcycle. That means that every advance is a continuous feedback loop that helps the rider, help the machine to help the rider to help the machine, etc etc. A bigger engine means nothing if you can’t ride quicker. Riding quicker demands more skill. More skill requires more from the machine to take advantage of that skill, etc etc. The latest round of technological wizardry on this new BMW relates directly to a recent online discussion I’ve had about the need and role of teachers in the education system. It also speaks to the change in designing instructional content I’ve been talking about for years.

Let me get right into this.

” The system is semi-active: it senses dynamic factors like road irregularities, lean angle, and acceleration, and electronically adjusts compression and rebound damping rates 100 times a second so that optimal damping is consistently employed…”

You don’t really need to understand the technical mumbo-jumbo here. You know the shocks in your car? On this motorcycle you can electronically adjust your suspension based on the road conditions and your skill level. Then based on the parameters you’ve chosen the system consistently checks all the factors that may influence your decision and keeps the suspension functioning at the level you’ve picked based on the environment your riding in.  This machine is intelligent! Its intelligence makes you a better rider and allows the machine to perform better, which makes you an even better rider, which makes the machine perform even better….

My favorite technology:

“Downloading data from the ECU to a USB key after every run provides information on several aspects including lean angle, throttle postion, fromt and rear wheel slip, RPM and postion on track via GPS readings.”


“Learning how to tune the HP4 requires reading a software manual, fiddling with a computer, mechanical work and riding”

Lets begin with the downloading data bit. An ECU is a chip that controls and monitors the bike’s settings. In this bike, you can download the data the chip is collecting and analyze the bike’s performance which is ultimately a reflection of your own performance as well. The crazy thing for me, is that none of this stuff was probably conceived of or designed with the help of an instructional designer (its all engineering) but is in fact in a corporate setting our burden. Which is how do we get our people performing their best using the systems in place and within the environment they work. And yes, many of you will be saying we have no say into how those systems are designed and my response is because your not qualified to have a say because you don’t go out there and learn about it and fit that into your own designs. In other words, our burden is performance and not learning. How we interface with the systems and how the systems feedback to us is EXACTLY what we should be doing. Systems here doesn’t mean technological systems. It could be the recruiting process. It could be inventory management. Whatever. The area where our skills fail is in designing things into the environment that will provide data back to us about the performance of the environment as a reflection of the performance of individuals.

The last bit of info is  the mention of learning to tune the bike. I love that the bike provides you with the data you need to self teach tuning the bike. It gives you the data that results from a properly tuned bike. This is all about this massive feedback loop I spoke of earlier where your not only getting feedback of your performance, your getting feedback that feeds the relationship between man and machine. Just tuning the bike, without changing your performance may have some results but they won’t be optimized. Changing your riding patterns will do the same. But fiddle with both and set your sights on greatness.

The article also mentions that on track days what the reporters find is that the riders will get together and review each other’s data to see what they could learn from one another. I love this. I love wrapping my head around this idea that each person will ultimately control their settings and their performance but that they have a network of other data from which to draw and learn from.

Don’t you think its time we began to embrace whats happening here? Don’t you think we need to learn from our engineers and business process people and begin to contribute at the level they operate? Isn’t this what technology should be about?

(The article quoted in this blog was taken from Cycle Canada, Vol. 42, Nov/Dec 2012)

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