Anti-lock brakes: Do they make motorcycles safer?

Anti-lock brakes remain one of the most controversial features for motorcycles. The motorcycle safety experts at MotorEagles want you to know why some believe they should be standard on motorcycles.

While anti-lock brakes are a common feature on automobiles, they remain available only on certain motorcycles. Citing research showing that fatal motorcycle accidents could be reduced by more than one-third, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety strongly advocates more motorcycle manufacturers making ABS standard.

Braking isn’t as simple on a motorcycle as it is on a car. Most bikes have independent brake controls for the front and rear wheels, and either wheel can lock up when a rider brakes hard. Behind the wheel of a car, a lockup might lead to a skid. But on a motorcycle, a lockup can cause a loss of balance and a potentially fatal fall.

On a motorcycle with ABS, a rider is able to brake fully without fear of locking up. ABS is designed to constantly measure wheel speed, intervening to adjust brake pressure if it detects that a wheel is about to stop rotating. This automatically reduces brake pressure when a lockup is about to occur and increases it again once traction is restored.

Motorcycles equipped with anti-lock brakes are 37 percent less likely to be involved in a fatal crash than models without ABS according to a study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The institute’s affiliate organization, The Highway Loss Data Institute, reports that collision insurance claims are frilled 22 percent less frequently for motorcycles with ABS than for those without it.

ABS remains available primarily on larger, more expensive bikes and can add $1,000 or more to the purchase price. But it is becoming more widely available. In 2012, BMW announced it would be the first motorcycle manufacturer to make ABS standard across its line, beginning with the 2012 models. “Plain and simple, being able to stop a motorcycle faster and more predictably helps prevent a rider from becoming a statistic,” said Pieter de Waal, Vice President, BMW Motorrad USA.

While ABS sounds like a great thing for motorcycle riders, many riders are concerned about the loss of control over how to brake in certain situations. The American Motorcyclist Association endorsed making the brakes an option on more models but said, “There are situations when (anti-lock brakes) can increase the risk of a crash, such as when an off-highway motorcycle on a trail, or when riding an on-highway or dual-sport motorcycle on a dirt or gravel road.”

Last month, we asked you what you thought about ABS for motorcycles. An overwhelming two-thirds of poll respondents said that ABS on motorcycles is a good thing, as long as there is an on-off switch, too. Eleven percent said it was a good thing and 22 percent said, “no thanks.” So it seems most of you agree with the AMA, that there are times when you would like to be able to turn off the ABS if the situation calls for it.

More than 4,000 people die in motorcycle crashes each year. We are in favor of anything that can help reduce that number. But we also are in favor of giving the individual motorcycle rider the freedom to make the decision that makes them feel most comfortable on their bike.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: