In this post I discuss how the ownership of our bikes and our rights to repair and adapt them are threatened by recent business trends.
This is part six of seven in a series of blog posts on motorcycles and technology. The first part can be found here.
Co-founder & CEO
There is a silent shift in our economy, away from product ownership and towards subscriptions. Anything where revenue can be moved from one-off product sales to recurring subscriptions, will become cheaper to buy and more expensive to use. This even applies to vehicles. The reason is simple. It is easier for people to spend more if that spending is spread thinly out over time. We tend to subscribe to things, and forget that we’re paying a little bit every month. But if we’re asked to pay for something up front, it is easier to understand the cost. Investors LOVE this.
In the car world, this has come quite far, with BMW charging a monthly fee to use the heated seats they’ve installed in their cars. But it’s moving to motorcycles as well. Zero charges for faster charging, heated grips, and extra power. Remember, the hardware necessary for this is already there, they just deny you the use of it unless you pay.
This means that if you buy a motorcycle with “premium features” that you need to pay to unlock, you do not fully own your bike.
For less important things in our lives, that’s fine. Heck, I wouldn’t even be bothered if this was the case with my car. But my motorcycle is more. My motorcycle is an expression of who I am. It is the thing that brings me endless joy. If it isn’t mine, that’s a problem.
This is also the case when it comes to the ability to adapt your motorcycle. Traditionally, bikes are delivered with a minimum of equipment to keep costs down (and to comply with regulations). We buy the bike, and then we retrofit the exhaust, luggage, suspension, and other parts that make the bike right for us. It is clear for me that the manufacturers dislike this. Rather than being content with selling us the bike, they want to secure their future revenue stream by limiting how much you can adapt the bike to your needs before you have to buy the next one.
Bikes are also becoming harder to repair. There is a constant battle between the manufacturers and consumer rights organisations, where ownership of data, the right to repair your own bike, and warranty requirements are at the center. An important part of motorcycle culture is learning how to fix things, and taking responsibility for the technical condition of your ride. And what if you live far away from the official repair center? I’ve personally struggled with this when the brand of my bike didn’t have official representation where I lived, and few workshops wanted to take responsibility for any bike beyond the ones they were licensed to work on.
For me, these things are fundamental. When Ole and I set up Aware Moto, these were the non-negotiable values that we wanted to bring to the market. We believe that motorcyclists really want to own their bikes, that they want the ability to modify them, and to chose who repairs them. If there is anything I would like to ask the reader, it is to make their voice heard on this.
Any technology that removes ownership from the motorcyclist and is not repairable is unwanted.