2009 Brings greener Motorcycles

<img width="200" height="150" class="floatleft" src="www.motorcycle.in.th/images/articles/2009_Brings_greener_Motorcycles_1.jpg" alt="" />OBD what stands for On-Board Diagnostics. If you were looking to one avenue of motorcycle development that's come on in leaps and bounds these last few decades then OBD is it.

Forget radial brakes. Forget dual compound tyres. Forget even the matter of screwing something like 200 horsepower out of a road-going 1000cc capacity motorcycle. No, the leading technological advancement of this new century is electronic.

OBD development has been led by the ever-lightening emission regulations. And while those regulations continue to cause problems for manufacturers - we're talking ugly matters like shitty jerky throttle response, eg, Yamaha FZ1, BMW K1200S - there has also been a fair gain in other dynamic performance areas. So we can be greener motorcyclists but also more controlled and faster motorcyclists.
Go back 30-odd years and the matter of fuel and spark was quite straightforward and almost entirely mechanical. Fuel was fed via a carburettor or multiple carburettors. Spark came via a magneto-generator and contact breaker points.

In the 70s bikes almost entirely converted to electronic ignition. The Japanese had it, then even the old Brit bikes were converted thanks to the like of Lucas Rita and Boyer Bransden aftermarket ignitions, which offered electronic control of advance and retard of the timing.

Fuel injection arrived at or around 1980 with bikes like Kawasaki's Z1000, but universal adoption would not arrive for at least two decades. Part of the slowness in adoption was the limited processing power of early Electronic Control Units (ECU) that accompanied the fuel injection. Carburettors could then still give comparable, if not superior, performance and tune-ability.

Today's fuel injection is far more advanced. To comply with Euro 3 emission standards, most today are of a closed-loop variety, which essentially is fuel injection controlled using data collected both upstream and downstream of the catalytic converter, so as to ensure emissions are the cleanest they can be at all times. The fuel mixture is monitored for richness or leanness, the emissions checked post cat and adjustments are made to achieve the optimal mixture. But the ECU will also be considering engine speed, gear ratio and, soon, even rear wheel traction too.

Traction control is nothing new to the car industry, who'll often refer to it as 'torque based strategies', which rely on a break between the throttle wire you operate and that by which the computer then operates the throttle valves themselves to effect all manner of modifications to ensure wheels stay straight and true. Sounds like Yamaha's fly-by-wire Y-CCT doesn't it? That's unlikely to be a coincidence and so it's likely this kind of traction control being used in MotoGP, probably finely metered so the riders can spin the rear wheel just enough to aid steering, but not so much as to bring on a high-side. Probably. And so it's quite likely after Y-CCT, Yamaha road bikes will soon have traction control linked to their existing engine management system.
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