According to recent studies motorcycles that are equipped with Anit-lock Braking Systems or ABS brakes are less likely to be involved in a motorcycle crash. Most motorcycles in the United States are not sold with ABS brakes and are not required. They are typically sold as an upgrade but are highly recommended as most brakes will lock up the wheel causing you to skid and crash in the event of a quick stop.
How do ABS brakes work?
An anti-lock braking system works by constantly measuring wheel speed. One common way to do this is with a small grooved ring near the brake disc often called a tone wheel. The wheel speed sensor sends the tone wheel readings to the ABS unit, which can determine whether the wheel is about to stop rotating. If it is, wheel speed information is used to adjust the pressure from the brake cylinder on the brake caliper multiple times per second.
Take a look at this video for a demonstration of what ABS brakes do when trying to stop on a wet surface.
From the video it is quite amazing the difference of traction and control you have when you do have an anti-lock braking system installed on your motorcycle. It truly is a night and day scenario.
Is it worth the cost?
Absolutely, we think it is worth the cost. If you are going to be riding on the streets and for long distances or even in any type of weather we highly suggest getting an anti-lock braking system with your motorcycle. It will help you stop when motorist make lane changes in front of you or in many emergency stopping situations. Experience is a must for every motorcycle rider but it won’t help you when in the case of a sudden stop on a wet surface.
There are several questions or opinionated statements about ABS systems that are just plain myths, take a look below for some of these myths:
Myth: ABS may allow you to stop with more control, but it will take you longer to come to a stop.
This myth is generally based on the assumption that a locked-up wheel provides the most traction possible. This isn’t true. A skidding tire has less traction than a tire that is not skidding.
Here’s how ABS works. Speed sensors measure the rotational speed of each wheel. If a wheel risks locking due to intense braking or slick conditions, the ABS unit modulates hydraulic pressure in the braking system. Not only does the system maintain the “sweet spot” of maximum stopping force that occurs before lockup, but by avoiding lock-up, the inertial effect of the spinning wheel is maintained, stabilizing the motorcycle.
By keeping the wheels from locking up and skidding when you grab the brakes, ABS not only allows you to maintain some control, but it allows you to stop in a shorter distance.
Myth: ABS modulates system pressure whenever you apply the brakes.
A lot of the rider bias against ABS is that the system is always active, modulating your brakes in all stopping instances and thereby affecting the riding experience. On the contrary, ABS only kicks in to prevent wheel lockup, such as during panic-stop situations or when you encounter black ice.
At other times, such as during typical controlled stops or slowing for corners, ABS does not affect how the brakes work.
Myth: All ABS systems work the same, making my sportbike stop like a big touring motorcycle.
Like any other computer-controlled function of your motorcycle—fuel injection, ignition curves, even valve timing on some bikes—ABS can be customized for a specific application.
In fact, today some ABS-equipped motorcycles offer different settings for different riding preferences or conditions. For example, a “rain” setting may activate the ABS sooner while a “track” setting may reduce the system’s modulating effects.
Myth: ABS is just another link in the system that can fail, and when it does I will have no brakes.
Not true. If the ABS unit fails, the braking system reverts to its traditional braking function.
Myth: ABS is dangerous off pavement.
It depends. In severe off-road situations, ABS does not always work very well. However, in most non-pavement environments, ABS-equipped motorcycles allow you to perform a panic stop or stop on slick surfaces with more control than non-ABS-equipped motorcycles.
An example of this type of scenario would be a sudden stop on a gravel road when a deer darts into your path. In this scenario, you would be able to use both brakes fully and come to a stop with more control on an ABS-equipped motorcycle than a motorcycle without ABS.
However, in true off-road situations, such as deep sand or very rough terrain, ABS may cause unwanted pressure modulations in the brake system.
These types of conditions are rampant in off-road situations, such as single-track trail. This is why it’s critical that ABS is optional equipment for dual-sport motorcycles and, when ABS is installed, an override switch is available so the rider can turn the system off when the bike is going to be ridden in true off-road environments.
Also, don’t forget that ABS is not always working: Unless you are in a wheel lockup situation, the ABS will not modulate the pressure in the braking system.
Myth: ABS can overcome a lack of riding skill.
Absolutely not. Neither ABS nor any other type of motorcycle technology can replace experience and proper training. For example, a rider who has not learned how to properly use the front brake will not stop effectively and safelty using just the rear brake, whether the motorcycle is equipped with ABS or not.
Myth: ABS only works with the rear wheel.
This is a strange one, but it’s nevertheless an assumption that we’ve come across in anti-ABS discussions with riders. ABS works with both the front and rear wheels to prevent lock-up. In fact, for most riders who brake most heavily with the front brake in wheel-lockup situations, the technology is probably more effective with the front brake.
Myth/Fact: ABS requires you to re-learn how to brake.
ABS does not affect typical braking function and, therefore, won’t affect how you brake your motorcycle in these situations. However, experienced riders admit that the presence of ABS may change their technique in some scenarios.
If you accept that ABS will modulate the brakes more effectively in a panic-stop scenario, experienced riders say they would be best served by simply braking hard and focusing on keeping the motorcycle upright.
That said, these same riders caution that more research, testing and curriculum development is necessary to make any definitive statements about exactly how ABS should impact hard-braking technique.
Myth/Fact: ABS is difficult to maintain.
This depends on the motorcycle—and the motorcycle owner. Certainly, some owners can service their ABS-equipped motorcycles just fine.
Others prefer to take their bike to the dealer. Consult your manual, honestly assess your own abilities and proceed with caution.
The good news, though, is that all modern braking systems—those with ABS and without—have relatively lenient maintenance schedules. Again, consult your manual.
Myth/Fact: ABS-equipped bikes are not safer. It’s just that riders who can afford and buy motorcycles that have ABS are more experienced and safer riders.
Without a doubt, correlation does not necessarily mean causation. Raw data that show bikes with ABS are involved in fewer crashes than bikes without ABS cannot be taken at face value as proof that ABS makes motorcycles safer.
That said, anecdotal experience suggests that the technology has significant safety benefits. After all, when interviewed about their experience with ABS in panic-stop and low-traction scenarios, longtime riders with a variety of backgrounds insist that the technology works (see “Testing Grounds: Experiencing ABS,” page 49).
What can’t be overlooked, however, is that while ABS has its benefits, there is one big caveat: safety will always begin with the rider. In other words, a skilled rider on a non-ABS-equipped bike will always be safer than an unskilled rider on an ABS-equipped bike.
After all, the key to not crashing is to avoid situations that make you likely to crash in the first place. This is where riding training and experience come into play. Ultimately, consumers will determine whether ABS becomes the defacto standard, but in the meantime, riders already have a healthy spectrum of choices available to them in the marketplace.
If you are debating whether or not to purchasing a motorcycle with or without ABS we hope that we have convinced you. ABS systems can make the difference between life and death, as serious as that sounds it can be true. Statistics show that motorcycles with ABS systems have shorter stopping distances, fewer crashes and deaths, can have savings on motorcycle insurance, and more. Save yourself and your money from crashes by having ABS on your motorcycle.
Overall, if you or a loved one are involved in a motorcycle accident please seek medical attention first and then call The Reinecke Law Firm for a free consultation at (800)275-8326. You may be entitled to compensation for your injuries, loss of income, property damage and more. The Reinecke Law Firm has helped thousands of motorcyclists for the past 30 years recover from their accidents and know how to help you with your case. Don’t hesitate to call, we will give you free advice right over the phone.