day most cars and trucks have ABS systems, but motorcycles haven’t jumped on that technology until recently. Safety features on motorcycles are extremely important, but do you need ABS on a motorcycle? Does it work correctly, will the feature prevent accidents, and should you get a motorcycle that has ABS?
Anti-lock Braking Systems are designed to prevent wheels from locking up and skidding on the road. They reduce stopping time and can prevent sliding on slick roads. For someone looking for advanced safety features and who will be driving in possible hazardous conditions, ABS is a beneficial feature to have.
There’s certainly a debate on whether a motorcycle needs ABS or not, or if it will even help to save lives. If you’re trying to decide if this feature is right for you, keep reading as we go over everything you need to know about ABS.
ABS stands for Anti-Lock Braking System and it was developed in 1971 for the Fiat company by Mario Palazzetti. Most vehicles now—especially cars and trucks—are equipped with ABS as a standard safety feature.
ABS works by utilizing electronic or hydraulic technology to rapidly compress and release the brakes when you hit the brake pedal. This rapid, pulse of compression and release helps to keep the tires from locking up and skidding.
When tires lock up, they no longer have traction and will often slide out of control. Have you ever “locked up” the brakes before? In a car or truck, when the wheels lock up, the tires tend to swerve uncontrollably. It’s just like sliding on icy roads.
Another problem with the locked up wheels is that it takes longer for the vehicle to come to a complete stop.
With an ABS system, the wheels don’t lock up. The brakes are compressed so fast that the wheels don’t have a chance to lock up. This reduces stop time and distance and helps the driver maintain control.
ABS systems can squeeze the brakes 10 times per second.
On a motorcycle, this safety feature not only helps stop faster but helps out when cornering or taking sharp turns. Tapping on the brakes in a sharp turn without ABS could have you sliding out of control, but not with ABS. You’ll maintain control because the wheels won’t slide out from under you as long as you travel at a safe speed and don’t hit any road debris.
Do ABS systems make a motorcycle safer to ride?
Is ABS on a Motorcycle Safer?
ABS brakes help to prevent wheels from locking up and help you to stop faster than a bike without it. Those facts in themselves make motorcycles safer.
Studies have shown that bikes with ABS features are 35 percent less likely—than motorcycles without anti-lock brakes—to be involved in accidents or collisions. ABS systems help to prevent fishtailing which can be extremely difficult to control and often lead to riders laying their bikes down.
The fear of skidding out often prevents many bike owners from braking hard to keep from losing control. This fear, though understandable, is often what leads to a motorcycle collision.
Bikers that have anti-lock brakes installed don’t have to worry so much about skidding out and can stop faster. ABS on bikes have led to 22 percent fewer motorcycle crash fatalities.
Although this benefit did not transfer over to owners of sport, or supersport bikes. It’s thought that riders on sport bikes tend to ride more aggressively and at higher speeds so ABS systems didn’t help to slow them down in time.
In general, ABS on motorcycles is safer when the rider exercises constraint and observes the speed limit. Anti-lock brake systems also decrease accidents on wet or inclement roads. What other advantages do anti-lock brake systems have?
Advantages of ABS
Anti-lock brakes clearly increase braking, and reduce stop distances and stop times. This safety feature also increases stability in curves and on wet roads.
When you have to stop suddenly slamming on the brakes will have you stopping faster than without an anti-locking brake system. These systems are also 10 times faster than our reflexes, so even if you know to squeeze and release the brakes to prevent fishtailing, these electronic systems work faster than we can.
In critical moments such as cornering, or going through a sharp turn, ABS helps to maintain traction on the road. It’s easy to hit the brakes a little too hard in a sharp turn. Without ABS you could end up having the back wheel slide out from underneath you.
While experienced riders know how to come out of a fishtail, it may be difficult to keep calm and collected when that adrenaline surge hits. With ABS systems, you won’t have to worry about that because they keep your wheels planted on the ground. Anti-lock brake systems give you better stability while riding.
Traction on the road is essential, especially at higher speeds. Skidding tires have lost that traction, and if you’re not able to regain it, you could be in for a bad day. ABS systems help to maintain traction on the road.
Let’s say you are cruising along on a winding country road, you take a turn around the bend and suddenly you’re confronted with a slow-moving tractor. On this two-lane road, there are not many options. You can jump in the other lane because there’s another vehicle coming, and the shoulder is nothing but a gravel-filled ditch.
Your only option is to hit the brakes hard. With an anti-lock brake system, you’ll be able to stop in time because you’ll keep traction on the road. Without ABS, your tires could lock up and slide straight into the tractor.
Increased Safety For Driver And Passenger
Adding all the benefits together makes for a safer ride for all involved. The driver is able to stay in control, even in adverse driving conditions and riders have a safer experience.
Even with these benefits, there are some who will argue against ABS on bikes.
Arguments Against ABS on Motorcycles
Though many leading motorcycle companies have started adding ABS on many of their models, there are still plenty of manufacturers and individuals who are opposed to ABS brakes on their bikes.
Some riders like the look and feel of a stripped-down, “bare-bones” motorcycle that doesn’t have all the new technology and space-age looks. These owners like the look of a “naked frame.” While the ABS system doesn’t take up much space, it can look out of place on a naked frame.
In warm, dry climates, you may not need an ABS system as much as in areas that get frequent rain and cold, snowy weather. While ABS can help you avoid an accident if you have to stop suddenly, if you’re a defensive driver that is always careful, you may not ever need the added safety of anti-lock brakes.
You may also have to consider the extra cost of ABS brakes. While they certainly won’t break the bank, anti-lock brakes aren’t free. When financing a brand new motorcycle, the cost could be negligible.
The added cost of anti-lock brakes can increase up to an extra $300 to $1,000 to the overall cost. If you’re looking for a safer ride, this cost is inconsequential. If you feel the cost is more than you want to pay, you can always look for an older, used motorcycle that doesn’t have ABS on it.
Is it Worth it to Have ABS on a Motorcycle?
ABS systems on cars and trucks have saved countless lives and have increased the safety of vehicles everywhere. Sure they cost a little more, but what’s the cost of added safety and stability on your motorcycle?
ABS systems help you stop faster without losing control, even on wet or icy roads. It helps you maintain control when cornering, and reduces reaction time. This is a no brainer to me, if it adds that much safety and stability to the motorcycle, why shouldn’t it be on the bike?
None of us go out expecting to get into an accident, and hopefully, we will never have to rely on anti-lock brakes to save our lives. In my humble opinion, I would rather have ABS on my bike.
Maybe it costs you more to add it on, but a thousand dollars is certainly worth a life, or at the very least, worth not losing control when you have to slam on the brakes.
The pros to ABS on a motorcycle include added stability, better and faster braking, increased traction when cornering or taking sharp turns while braking, and staying upright when the roads are wet.
Add to the fact that ABS has saved many bikers’ lives, and has reduced the number of accidents reported.
The cons include the look on bare frames and an increased cost.
This decision is ultimately up to you, but for me, I’ll take ABS on my bike. It’s worth it for my life and safety, especially if I have a rider with me when we’re cruising on the highway.
I’m William Guzenski, ASE certified master automobile technician & automotive expert. I love to attend race events and car shows throughout the country. I also loves to travel 40-foot motorhome, exploring abandoned mines and ghost towns. I’m currently building another car for Bonneville Salt Flats and will be campaigning a drag car at several events.