This steering damper senses acceleration

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Unlike previous electronic steering damper designs, this new Ohlins unit fitted to the otherwise-unchanged 2013 Kawasaki ZX-10R uses acceleration and deceleration data, in addition to speed, to inform damping rates. The idea here is simple — propensity for instability increases not just with speed, but with the rate that speed is changing too. Higher damping rates are needed just as much at 55mph as they are at 155, if the bike is accelerating or slowing rapidly. By adding that data to the algorithm, Ohlins and Kawasaki are able to keep steering effort low, while expanding safety to lower speeds. That added sophistication requires a dedicated ECU located under the tank cover and comes with a $300 price increase (likely due to exchange rates). Using data like this is made easier by the adoption of traction control, which already gathers the data from wheel speed sensors.

  • NewOldSchool

    The prevalence of technology in modern super bikes is awesome, but with one huge concern (at least to me.)

    While the advance of mechanical changes to each new model has slowed some, new digital upgrades are happening each year at a faster and faster rate. These are making the next model year just slightly different and just thaaat much better to make last year’s model seem obsolete.

    It’s like when the iPod Touch first came out. It was the first and only time I played the early adopter card. Six months later the iPhone came out and I felt like a cave man holding a shiny rock. It was just thaaaat much better.

    I guess I’m just another traditionalist bitching about the waning simplicity of motorcycles. I just never figured Moore’s Law would apply to motorcycling. I’ll be here though, perpetually putting off the purchase of my next iBike because next year it might have a TOUCH SCREEN!!1!

    • aristurtle

      This could be fixed if there was a standard way to get data from the bike’s ECU to the steering damper’s chip. Then you could just buy the damper, bolt it on to your existing bike, and connect the data cable to a port on your existing bike’s ECU.

      But standards are tricky to get everyone to follow, so that probably won’t happen.

      • Holden and Annette

        Along the same lines, I wish and hope that the electric motorcycle makers would get together (legally, through a nonprofit consortium) and set a standard for plug and cable shapes and sizes and placement. Wouldn’t it be great if the plug were always in the same place (like, on the left side, under the saddle) from bike to bike?

        I wish they would standardize the hell out of cars. Put the fuel refiller door on the same side of every car. Standardize windshield wiper controls so that you don’t have to experiment (in the rain!) every time. We have a Volksie and a Toyota and it drives me crazy that the wipers and door locks and light switches all behave so differently.

        I can’t figure out those Toyota switches at all. Which symbol means lock and which means unlock? It’s like Martians designed those things!

        Sorry about derailing, but goddammit, get offa my lawn, carmakers!

        • aristurtle

          Actually, that’s a great example of the problem. Slow-charge cables are more or less standardized on SAE J1772, but for fast-charge, there are now two competing, mutually incompatible standards: CHAdeMO for Japanese carmakers, and a new one based on J1772 for everyone else.

          That’s the thing with standards: you wind up with so many to choose from.

          • Campisi

            To paraphrase XKCD (or whatever the designation for it is):

            “Problem! We have eleven different protocols to keep track of.”

            “Solution! We need a STANDARD for everyone to follow!”

            A year later: “Problem! We have twelve different protocols to keep track of.”

    • zero

      I hate to be pedantic but the iPhone came out before the iPod Touch.

  • Sean Smith

    Hm. Sounds just like every other electronic steering damper except for the part that it costs $300 and needs a separate computer. Here’s hoping that Ohlins saw too it that this one actually works. At that price point though, I’m highly skeptical, seeing as the going rate for a boring old 16 click Ohlins damper is about $425. Looking at the math, either the standard dampers are a huge ripoff or these special electronic ones for the zx-10r are made of cheese and filled with snake oil.

    • NewOldSchool

      But, but, just imagine the street cred you’ll get telling the brosiffs at bike night about the time your life was spared by your new electronical oily snake cheese!

    • stempere

      The way i read it, “$300 price increase” means it costs $300 more than a standard damper, so around $725 if your figure is correct.

      • Wes Siler

        The bike’s price increases a total of $300 for 2013. That likely has nothing to do with the damper.

      • Edward

        Kawasaki isn’t exactly an off the shelf buyer of parts. An aggregate increase of $300 probably reflects a lot of factors, such as exchange rates, that likely have nothing to do with the cost of any individual part.

        If this were an add-on option, that could be different (though again, it’s not like Kawasaki shops for their parts online).

        • Wes Siler

          Just to be absolutely clear: Kawasaki is not raising the price because of this damper. Instead, the price increase is likely due to factors like exchange rates, material price fluctuations and alterations in their supply chain.

    • BMW11GS

      Sean, I think there is some subsidization going on here. I am sure this part costs more than just $300 and Kawasaki figured if it could snare a few more buyers than it would be worth it.

    • dux [87 CBR600, 95 XR600R]

      Have you seen the price of cheese recently? The damper would probably cost more using dairy engineering.

  • mik lo

    Thanks Wes! Way to show your “ninjas” some love!! Also $300 seems reasonable to upgrade from last years ohlins that has to be sent out to be revalved to actually work.

    PS try to get us some info on the redesigned 2013 zx6

  • Skank NYCFastest

    I’m with Sean. The Ohlins on the 2011/12 did nothing. Click that bitch all the way up and still felt no resistance. If they can sell a bike with a fake damper whats to say this electronic nonsense will work. Only one way to find out I guess. I’d hate to be that test dummy.