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Bike ABS (was "BMW brakes in the news")

Hello Rene,

rene-didier@xxxxxxxxxxx wrote:

> 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
 '01 R1100S/ABS
 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?"