Have you ever driven a big American sedan from the 1970s or early ’80s? Back in the days when big cars with big V8 engines burnt through fuel with abandon, while often producing surprisingly low horsepower, and wafted down the road gently pitching and rolling while cocooning passengers from any sensation connected to the road surface.
Aside from velour bench seats, an overflowing ashtray (hence the occasional burn in the burgundy buttoned and tufted velour) and air-conditioning, one of the other key characteristics of those big old land cars was a power-steering system so assisted it took nought but a single finger to steer that big wheel.
The steering wheel, like the suspension, removed unnecessary harshness that might have made its way from the front wheels to that cool and quiet interior. With cruise controlled pegged at 65 and one finger on the wheel, the world was your oyster. Not the safe way to drive but certainly the methods requiring the least effort. Thank goodness it was the time before smartphones.
Motorcycle power steering isn’t going to be that kind of thing.
Yamaha announced the company will be putting a new electronic power steering system for motorcycles through a research and stress test by equipping race bikes competing in the Japanese motocross series with the system. The EPS system for motorcycles is completely unlike that of automobiles and is designed to be a rider aid by combining both the functions and characteristics of a steering damper with an electric assist for the steering. The damper is intended for higher speed stability and the assist for lower speed maneuvers. The system will increase safety, stability and agility while decreasing rider fatigue according to Yamaha.
The key component of the motorcycle power steering system is a “magnetostrictive torque sensor”. Wow, that’s a mouthful so here’s what Yamaha has to say about that:
The system uses a magnetostrictive torque sensor, which has a proven track record with our electrically power-assisted bicycles, to detect torque. EPS works as 1) a steering damper while providing 2) assisted steering for the rider. The steering damper feature counteracts the outside forces sent to the handlebars from changes in the road surface and the like and functions primarily at high speeds. The assisted steering complements handlebar inputs in line with the rider’s intentions and mainly functions at low speeds. These two features together achieve assistive intervention that still feels natural for the rider.
So again, not like those 1970’s cars. The “MTS” works in conjunction with an actuator that turns electric signals into physical movement.
Yamaha says once the motorcycle power steering system has been proven effective the intention is to equip various styles of motorcycles with the electronic power steering.
Other companies are at work on power steering systems in the past so Yamaha’s system will not be the only one easing the wrists and forearms of riders. BMW had an autonomous R1200GS a few years ago so it obviously needed to have some type of powered steering mechanism and Honda too has been working on a power-steering system for the Gold Wing.