Should you blindly trust your motorcycle's ABS?

Should you blindly trust your motorcycle's ABS?

If you have been on a bike for more than five minutes, there is a significant change you tried your skills on a motorcycle without ABS.

After all, bikes have been around since the second half of the 19th century, and only around 1988 was the first ABS introduced on a bike - as an extra on the BMW K100 - and only in 2016 did it become mandatory by law for all new motorcycles.

And let’s face, it is an insanely good safety feature with more than proven benefits over the years that it has been around.

So, if I am the first to admit that ABS systems on bikes were a definite game changer in terms of safety, why am I even asking if we should trust them?!

Well, I believe the new generation of electronic aids on motorcycles combined with subpar teaching methods are creating a new generation of riders that are not entirely in harmony with their bikes, and that can be dangerous.

Motorcycles are not like any other vehicle, regardless of all the safety mechanisms they may have.

As such, it is a crucial part of our safety as riders that we clearly understand where we end, and the bike starts.

Like in any other vehicles that have the system, ABS will help you brake safer and in shorter distances, as it will prevent you from locking the wheels.

Up until this point, we are all in agreement; however, I feel we need to debate this further.

 

  • To understand and respect the ABS, it is essential to learn how to brake without it

The first step into understanding ABS?

Understanding what's at play.

Sadly, I still find an alarming number of people that believe you shouldn’t use the front brake, or use it scarcely.

One would think they were taught otherwise in driving schools, but since I keep being reminded that that is not true, let me help you debunk this dangerous lie.

 

Should you blindly trust your motorcycle's ABS?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reference: Image form Braaaaaapp Nation regarding braking distances without ABS

As you can see from the image above, to maximize your braking distance, you need to use both brakes, and that should be learned without ABS.

Can you learn how to brake on bikes with ABS?

Of course, however, you will never get a feel for the brakes, and you will never fully understand how the ABS system works or what is required to take the most out of it.

ABS’s are not always on, they work when they need to, so up to a certain point all the input is yours, from that point on, the bike starts doing its thing.

This is the reason why many riders never felt their ABS kick in, and many more can’t distinguish when it is working or not, and that is for me when things get dangerous.

If you can’t understand when the bike is “driving for you,” and you don’t know until where your skill goes or what you need to pay attention to, how can we state that you are a safe driver?!

I am not stating that we should all have the skills of Marquez or Rossi to be a safe drivers, far from that, but we should all be self-aware, and that starts by knowing and respecting our driving limitations and skill level.

So, how can you know your where your actual skill level is if you learned and only operate ABS powered bikes?!

In reality, you can’t.

Plus, if you learn how to brake without ABS, you can drive any bike.

If you learn how to brake with ABS, at most, you’ll learn how to brake on your bike, as ABS’s will vary their input from bike to bike.

 

  • ABS and linked braking

Not only of ABS do bikes armed themselves to help you stop.

Should you blindly trust your motorcycle's ABS?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reference: Image from hondanews.com

Some bikes have Combined Braking System (CBS), or Linked Braking System (LBS), which means that when you press the rear brake, it automatically gives input to the front one, and vice versa.

The idea of the system is to make sure both brakes are always on, providing more stability and faster braking times, as shown in the first image.

However, if you are learning on a bike with this system, like before, you will not be developing your skills as a rider, you will be learning how to operate that specific machine, and that can be dangerous when you try any other motorcycles, or when you find yourself driving above your skill level.


I advise this interesting study: A Comparison of Stopping Distance Performance for Motorcycles Equipped with ABS, CBS and Conventional Hydraulic Brake Systems

 

  • ABS and off-road

Using ABS systems off-road is a topic that makes for hours of discussion, so instead of sharing my opinion point blank, let me point out a few recurring arguments on the side of caution:

  1. You shouldn’t use road ABS systems off-road. 

    As the rear wheel can’t lock, it can’t drag, meaning you will fell the opposite of road ABS braking.

    Instead of making your braking distance shorter, it will increase it.


  2. Don’t use any ABS systems off-road.

    Off-road you want full control, so driving with a system that you can’t know when it kicks in may get you in trouble.

    You need 100% brake control, not only a percentage of it.


  3. Off-road dedicated ABS systems, regardless of how good, can be counterproductive.

    If you don’t know how to properly brake off-road and you have to rely on your electronic systems, there is a very high chance that you will find yourself riding above your skill level, as the system does part of the work for you.

    If your electronics fail, if you find yourself on a bike without those systems, or even on a bike with a different ABS than yours, you may find yourself in a difficult and potentially dangerous situation.


ABS, as well as many other electronic aids, are incredible and will increase your safety exponentially, that is not up for debate.

Nevertheless, by using them, you need to keep in mind that you are not driving alone, as the bike has a genuine input on everything that is happening, and that that input changes from brand to brand, and from bike to bike.

My best advice?

Do courses to learn where your limits are, and fully understand how to take the most out of the skills you have, while increasing them in the process.

 

All tests and training exercises should firstly be achieved with professional help.


The way you will be able to learn your limits, and the limits of your bike will be trough exercises that can potentially be dangerous, as the wheels will lock, so do not attempt to do them without professional supervision.

Advanced training courses - that in my opinion, should be included in the basic driving courses - are an excellent place for you to learn and practice these skills.

Learning proper braking skills, as well as understanding where your input ends and where the bike’s begins, will allow you not only to give more value to aids like ABS, but it will also make you a rider that can safely drive any motorcycle.

Being self-aware is probably the safest feature you can have on a bike, and that will never be sold as an extra, so take it into your hands to arm yourself with a clear definition of what you know, and don’t know.



Should you blindly trust your motorcycle's ABS?


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