Thursday, October 23, 2008

Another argument for ABS.

As you know, the reason I bought a new bike was to upgrade to ABS. I believe in it so firmly that I put my money where my mouth was. As one who practically lives on a bike, ABS is a welcome backup to my own skills. Yes, I think I have really highly developed riding skills. No, I don't think I'm infallible. As good as I am, ABS never has an off day, never gets distracted, and always has up-to-the microsecond data on what's happening with the tires. I'm not saying I would never again ride a bike without ABS. However, the bike I use for business will always have it. Think about how much multi-tasking is required during our work day. It's great to have ABS in the background. It wil always totally be there even when my mind may not be.

In an interesting coincidence, right after my last post which was on braking, I received some information on how ABS has contributed to reducing rider fatalities. In a release from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety ( IIHS ), it was stated that bikes with ABS had a 38% lower representation in fatal crashes than similar motorcycles without them.

The news release was provided by MSNBC. You can read the article here.

What was interesting was that similar bikes were compared. In other words, a sport tourer model for example, was picked. Researchers looked at the fatal crashes involving that particular model. The model without ABS was represented more frequently than the same model with ABS. You can see for yourself by clicking here for the October 22 IIHS status report.

Since this kind of research is used to determine insurance rates, I'm going to ask my agent if my rate can be lower due to having ABS!

An vital reminder is that there are no magic bullets. ABS is certainly a wonderful tool. It is not a force field that will deflect all troubles. We still need good braking skills. Not every stop will require ABS. When we need to stop the bike "right now!" use the ABS. That's why we paid extra for it, after all. It's still critical to use the brakes smoothly even when getting into the ABS. Believe it or not, with really abrupt braking inputs, it's possible to still skid a tire. We've seen what we call a dashed skid mark. The rider controls weight transfer while the ABS controls wheel rotation. Here comes that "practice" word again!

By the way, I've been doing my own practice with the ABS on Elvira. She will stop so quickly from highway speeds that I literally get motion sickness from the sudden decelaration. Now that's the way a bike is supposed to stop!

Miles and smiles,


Coming up next, my brush with Smugness!


Charlie6 said...


I love the ABS on my 1150RT, found out though that one has to also apply the rear brake pedal when slowing to a stop on a bumpy surface...otherwise the ABS gets confused and you get skipping motions as the abs cuts in and out....not good.

Good practice anyways right to use both front and rear brake pedals to ease to a stop....

Had become complacent with ABS, had to quickly relearn using both front and rear brake on my R80 for hard stops! No abs on the R80.

Are your front/rear brakes linked?


Balisada said...

There was a buzz a short while back on a Honda Rebel forum that Honda had announced that it was adding ABS (among other things, something about fuel injection and variable cylinders?) to a lot of it's bikes starting in 2010.

If it's true, I am kind of jealous.

I think it would be a hoot if I could have ABS on my Rebel.


Bryce said...

Was thinking about where ABS wouldn't be practical. Example is this area of Ontario. We get temperature extremes in our climate, from a high
of somewhere around 35C in the summer to a low around minus 20C or colder in the winter. Or roads are therefore of the make and break variety. That is the cold freezes, the moisture inside and break the surface. Summer arrives and the asphalt turns to near liquid with the heat.

Have more than once applied both front and rear brakes on the Old Goldwing coming to a stop and slid right through the intersection.
The tires are were fine, the speed was cut by reduced acceleration by dint of downshifting and I slide right on by.

Why you ask? The road surface was not wet in the normal sense of the word. Rather the road surface was liquid, asphalt. This happens as much in urban settings as much as rural areas where the road surface is tar and chippings. And too in this area we get gravel trucks, big double tandem trucks and they pound the road surface into grooves. At intersections the road surface on the verge is often higher than the traveled portion, due to the weight and frequency of such vehicles. You probably have logging trucks, same problems different cargo.

So how would ABS deal with that particular problem? Oh and the snow is gone, however the roads are still white with salt residue. Supposed to either rain or snow all weekend,and into next week. Followed by freezing temperatures.

Stacy said...

And now I'm really wishing I bought an SV with the ABS option.

fasthair said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
fasthair said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
fasthair said...

Mr. Irondad

ABS is the single biggest safety invention to come to the automotive world. Unfortunately it gives people over confidence that they can stop shorter. What ABS does is allow for the shortest stopping distance for the given amount of traction available. Being in the automotive trade I have seen what ABS can and can not do. Most people do not know that you are to keep applying the brakes once ABS has activated. The way ABS works is to RELEASE brake pressure to the locking wheel. That is why you MUST keep braking when ABS has taken over control. The way we were taught to pump the brakes in a skid no longer applies to ABS equipped vehicles.

Now here is a bit of information that most people do not know except maybe you Dan because of your teaching and taking about braking. Mercedes Benz has found that in a panic braking situation most everyone never hits the brakes hard enough fast enough to bring the ABS in to action. This led them to invent Brake Assist. What this does is senses the drivers intent with how fast and far the brake pedal was stepped on. The system will apply more brakes to get the ABS system to work and stop the car in a shorter distance. It’s a fairly complex system but works very well. Traction control systems on the modern automobiles do amazing things for car control now. ABS is all part of these systems.

ABS will be standard equipment on more and more bikes in years to come. Because of the design of the system and as it gets smaller, will make it more widely available for motorcycles.

And for the one comment about how it will work on poor road conditions. That is the beauty of the ABS system. It doesn’t know what type of road you are on. It only knows that a wheel is attempting to lock and takes action to prevent that.


R.G. said...

I now officially have ABS envy.

irondad said...

Good point about always using both brakes. Front and rear on the FJR are linked but the ABS works independently on both wheels. More or less.

There are two sets of pads on each side of the front wheel. When I apply the front brake lever, both sets on the left side and one set on the right side activate.

When I apply the rear brake, one set of pads on the right side of the front wheel is applied. How much pressure goes there is determined by how much pressure there is on the rear brake pedal.

So for slow speed moves, there is very little pressure in the front wheel when using the rear brake. The more brake pedal pressure, the more front brake gets used.

Complicated, isn't it?

I think all bikes should at least have an option for ABS. The reason Honda might not offer it on the Rebel is cost. Adding eight hundred to a thousand dollars on a bike would make the Rebel quite a bit more expensive proportionately. It would be worth every penny, though!

Older ABS systems cycled pretty slowly. They would actually let the wheels lock up for a little bit. That would be enough to make a bike fall down in the situations you described. Some of the new ABS systems cycle so fast that the wheels never lock up.

As talented as you seem to be with the stuff you're doing to the bike, you could probably build your own ABS!

You're totally correct in pointing out the proper brake application for ABS. One must apply the brakes and keep pressure. It feels strange because the lever and pedal pulse.

I'd heard of the Benz thing. I always wondered if it was a stop gap measure to make up for lack of braking skills.

Our official goal is to have ABS come standard on all bikes.

Well, you know how to fix that, don't you? :)

Stacy said...

I've got some duct tape and chicken wire -- I'll let you know how it goes! :)