I’ve been riding for 25 years and I’ve never needed ABS on a bike before and I don’t need it now.
Humans are funny creatures. Not only do we often overestimate our own abilities, we also seem to base future decisions and actions on past results. It’s a very base instinct, like how a dog learns that obeying the command sit means a treat might be provided, even if their owner isn’t holding any food in front of them. Past performance does not guarantee future performance.
You may have been fortunate or skillful enough never to lock your wheels on your bike. But maybe that one time in the rain, just as you’re distracted by something in your rear view mirrors, a car runs a red light in front of you – will you remain in complete control enough to miss the car, or will this one slight moment of inattention cause you to lock your front wheel because you squeezed the brakes just a fraction too quickly and slide the bike and yourself in front the car’s rear wheel? Are you honestly that perfect?
Let’s now take a look at scientific studies comparing the braking ability of ABS motorcycles to non-ABS motorcycles.
A Comparison of Stopping Distance Performance for Motorcycles Equipped with ABS, CBS and Conventional Hydraulic Brake Systems. Donovan Green. United States Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. March 28 – March 30, 2006
- The objective of this testing program was to assess the effectiveness of anti-lock braking systems (ABS) and combined brake systems (CBS) on motorcycles using various braking maneuvers and loading conditions. The results indicate that ABS generally improved stopping distance performance under most test conditions,
- Motorcycle brake performance tests were conducted on an asphalt road surface having a uniform skid number. The skid number was measured with ASTM procedure ASTM E274 at regular intervals to assure consistency in the results (see Table 1.). For wet surface testing, the test track was wetted with a water truck, and the wetting procedure was repeated every three stops.
- As with the dry surface tests, practically no learning process was required for the operator to achieve the best performance with the operation of ABS. In the ABS-disabled mode, the stopping distances improved as the rider became more familiar and comfortable with the braking system.
In general, the test results demonstrated an improvement in braking performance with the use of ABS, whether braking on a dry or wet surface even compared with the best stops obtained without ABS. Without ABS, the rider required numerous attempts to approach the maximum deceleration performance of the motorcycle. With the use of ABS, however, the rider was able to quickly obtain consistent maximum deceleration results, whether the vehicle was loaded or lightly loaded.
Effectiveness of Antilock Braking Systems in Reducing Fatal Motorcycle Crashes. Eric R. Teoh. October 2008. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
- The effect of antilock braking systems (ABS) on motorcyclist fatal crash risk in 2005-06 was studied by comparing fatal crash rates per registrations of motorcycles with and without ABS. Study motorcycles included those for which ABS was optional equipment and could be identified as present by the model name. Fatal motorcycle crashes per 10,000 registered vehicle years were 38 percent lower for ABS models than for their non-ABS versions.
- A study by the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI), conducted in conjunction with the present study, found that motorcycles equipped with optional ABS had 19 percent fewer insurance claims for collision damage per insured vehicle year than the same motorcycle models without ABS (Moore and Yan, in process).
- Motorcycles manufactured by Honda, particularly the Gold Wing model, dominated the sample, but the pattern for all but two of the motorcycles was a lower fatal crash rate for ABS-equipped motorcycles. Across all ABS-equipped motorcycles, the rate of fatal crash involvements per 10,000 registered vehicle years was 4.1, compared with 6.7 for the same motorcycles not equipped with ABS.
- The effect of ABS on fatal crash involvement is given by the rate ratio estimate for ABS-equipped motorcycles against non-ABS motorcycles. This estimate and associated 90 and 95 percent confidence intervals are provided in Table 3. The rate ratio estimate corresponds to an approximate 38 percent reduction (computed as (RR-1)×100%) in the rate of fatal crash involvements per 10,000 registered vehicle years for the ABS models over the (weighted) non-ABS models.
Although the estimated effect of 38 percent is large, it is not statistically significant at the customary 0.05 level. If there were no effect of ABS on fatal crash involvement, an estimate as large as the 38 percent reduction in this study would be expected to occur by chance less than 10 percent of the time. Thus, there is considerable confidence that ABS is preventing fatal crashes among motorcyclists. This confidence is bolstered by the fact that a separate analysis of insurance collision coverage losses among crashes of all severities also shows a reduction in crashes of about 19 percent for motorcycles equipped with ABS.
Perspectives For Motorcycle Stability Control Systems. Patrick Seiniger, Kai Schröter, Jost Gail. Accident Analysis & Prevention, Volume 44, Issue 1, 2012.
- Motorcycles are statically unstable. During riding, they are stabilized mainly by two mechanisms. Both stabilizing effects require a possible increase in side force (on the front wheel). They do not work with sliding wheels, which happens on slippery surface. In the event of a locking front wheel, the motorcycle becomes kinematically unstable. A coupled yawing and rolling motion is induced that lets the motorcycle tumble in fractions of seconds.
- This instability can be treated by ABS. Recent studies on the impact of ABS on motorcycle accident numbers in Germany show a possible reduction of motorcycle fatalities by at least 10 %. A benefit-cost-analysis reveals a cost-benefit ratio of about 4 for the case of mandatory ABS.
- Braking poses stress on motorcyclists and leads to mental strain. In a research project carried out on behalf of BASt, the mental strain was investigated on a closed test track . Test riders had to brake with different brake systems on the same motorcycle (Standard brake system = independently operated front and rear wheel brakes, Standard brake system with ABS functionality, combined brake system, combined brake system with ABS functionality, combined brake system with only the hand lever) in three different situations (going straight ahead, braking from 90 and 60 km/h and cornering, braking from 50 km/h). The strain was measured indirectly using mainly the heart rate of the test persons.
- Results show that braking distances are shorter with ABS, mostly because the brake force is built up faster (straight ahead) or because the brake deceleration is higher (cornering). The rider’s strain is higher without ABS. These results clearly show the positive effect of ABS, even on a closed test track.
A giant leap towards safer motorcycles is the application of ABS. Even today’s systems that are still improvable would be socio-economically sensible with a benefit-cost-ratio of more than four. The impact on accident figures is estimated to be at least a 10% reduction. Concluding from these results, all motorcycles should be equipped with ABS.
There are a number of additional studies on the benefits of motorcycle ABS and they all come to the same conclusion. That motorcycle ABS not only reduces stopping distances for the majority of riders, it also reduces accident rates and fatalities. Again, keep in mind also that with all the above studies, ABS was intentionally induced for the ABS equipped bikes, hence why in some situations the ABS bike stopped further than the non-ABS equipped bike. That however never occurred in any of the wet testing.
ABS will become mandatory on all new motorcycles in the European Union by 2016, and there is continuing discussion about the same happening in the United States. Just like helmets for riders and seat belts in cars, it’s a technology that saves lives. If you still don’t want ABS on a motorcycle than more power to you. Just don’t go around saying that ABS is unnecessary or you’re better than it. It’s not and you aren’t.