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Bike ABS (was "BMW brakes in the news")
- Subject: Bike ABS (was "BMW brakes in the news")
- From: "Steve Makohin" <wateredg@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Wed, 6 Jul 2005 13:57:49 -0400
> I have a R1100S with ABS. After a motorcycle safety course
> I took a few weeks ago, I am even more convincened ABS is
> well worth it. We had to practice HARD stops. Yes, it
> chattered both front and rear. Most others were locking up
> the rear wheel, some the front. The ABS allowed me the fasted
> speeds thru the trap, and some very short stoping distances.
> It will also do "stoppies". I don't use the ABS every time I stop.
> It would make for some pretty brutal stops.
> After the class, the instructor came up to me and said that he
> was impresses with the ABS, and would pay the extra on his
> next bike, if available, just for the extra safety margin.
> The top 3% of riders may not need ABS. I'm not in that
> group.When I need ABS, I am happy to have it.
When I got personal tutoring from a motorcycle safety instructor, I
practiced panic stops with my ABS-equipped R1100S. The instructor was
surprized by how quickly the bike can stop. His additional instructions to
me were to pay extra attention to vehicles behind me, because in case of an
emergency stop, THEY may not be able to slow down as quickly as me.
About the "3%" ers you mention who "may not need ABS," the numbers may be
even smaller than that, and they include many riders who are well-versed in
threshold breaking. You see, humans perform differently under test
conditions than they do in a real emergency. Under test conditions where a
"braking god" can bring their bike right up to the threshold of lockup and
hold it there to realize the shortest possible stopping distances, in real
emergency situations, humans tend to not do nearly as well.
The skill of successful threshold braking requires that the rider
"multitask" -- dealing with a clutch lever, front brake lever, rear brake
pedal, and the modulation of the brakes as the load shifts forward during
hard braking. Skilled "brake gods" have developed this to a high degree of
proficiency. However, under emergency conditions, the human brain tends to
oversimplify and to focus on few things, which incidentally is the recipe
for NOT multitasking. Bike ABS is as close a system as we have that helps
the bike do the "right thing" in an emergency situation, and which also
accommodates the human nature to oversimplify and to focus on few things in
time of emergency.
In tests, riders who were very good threshold brakers did not do nearly as
well in (simulated) emergency situations where they were caught off guard.
In short, a highly skilled rider with ABS fared better than the same highly
skilled rider without ABS in an emergency situation. In a variety of
emergency scenarios, as well as in a number of "suboptimal traction" tests
(i.e., controlled test-track conditions in which the rider can prepare as
much as they want in their attempt to stop the bike in the shortest possible
distance without losing control on a surface that has suboptimal traction,
such as a rain-slicked road), highly skilled "braking gods" without ABS did
not do as well as ordinary riders with ABS on the same model bike with same
The lessons learned from these tests are:
o Motorcycle ABS is proven to be very effective in reducing the risk of
loss of vehicular control due to skids of one or both tires.
o This benefit can be redived by virtually all riders under the vast
of on-street riding scenarios.
o Having ABS on a street motorcycle presents a strong "net positive
Even so, some people just plain old "don't like" bike ABS, and they choose
to be without it. Hopefully, these people are the ones who have tried it,
lived with it for a while, know the risks of riding without ABS and the
additional measure of safety offered by ABS, and have *chosen* to accept the
additional risks (for whatever reasons they may have). And then there are
those in the "anti-bike-ABS" camp who are dead set against it, arguing that
it's bad, or dangerous, or that a rider is worse off with it than without.
Similar arguments are presented by anti-helmet folks for your entertainment.
- -Steve Makohin
Oakville, Ontario, Canada
PS: Yes, I realize that my chosing to ride a motorcycle, though equipped
with ABS, is an unacceptable risk to those who shun all motorcycles. The
question is not "do you accept risk," but rather, "where do you draw the
line of *acceptable* risk in the infinite degrees of gray that exist between
the black and white extremes?"