Motorcycle Manufacturers Under Brake Pressure

Expect the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to require very soon antilock brakes (ABS) on all new motorcycles, all this under the pressure of insurance companies.

Because some motorcycle manufacturers were reluctant to make the systems standard, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (representing insurance companies) ordered a study whose main conclusion is that motorcycles with antilock brakes were about 38 percent less likely to be involved in fatal crashes.

I know that car and motorcycle braking can’t be compared, but it is worth mentioning that studies have not yet shown that there is a strong safety advantage for having antilock brakes in cars. Motorcycle braking is by far trickier than with cars, and without challenging the study results, the question that many are asking is if money should not be better spent in more motorcyclist education on riding and handling emergency braking, with or without ABS system in place.

ABS use a conventional slotted disc and infrared sensor combination to gauge the speed and control the hydraulic pressure on brake discs. Currently nearly 80 percentage of the cars built in the world are using ABS technology but this technology has yet to get momentum in two wheelers.

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13 Responses to “Motorcycle Manufacturers Under Brake Pressure”

  1. 1 Seven May 11th, 2010 at 11:19 am


    That difference is probably just the type of person who willingly spends 1200$ on an ABS option only available for high end bikes is likely to be the kind of rider who rides slower and is more careful anyway, not some nincompoop rice rocket racing squid who thinks he is immortal lane splitting at 100mph.

  2. 2 Shawn May 11th, 2010 at 11:42 am

    I was thinking the same thing when I first heard about this….. But after reading the IIHS report, it looks as though they compared the same models of bikes with and without ABS.

    This is a hard one for me to decide on. I hate when they regulate crap like this. But on the other hand…. maybe it’ll make the ABS brakes a bit more affordable….. since they’re going on everything. Guess we’ll have to see.

  3. 3 Black Shadow May 11th, 2010 at 11:53 am

    Most Harley Riders I know and ride with, seem oblivious to the fact that 70% or better of your braking comes from the front brake and most panick stops I have seen end up with the rear tire locked up and skidding. Maybe if more bikes get ABS the price will come down.

  4. 4 fuji May 11th, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    In an article just a few days ago Honda, plans to install an anti lock brake system (ABS) in 250 cc or larger motorcycles, except off-road models, by 2010.

    Also airbags on more of their models . which models I don’t know.

    I remember BMW bikes as an option, ABS brakes back in the early Eighty’s.

    Honda had ABS on bikes around the early Ninety’s if not earlier, Abs was a big selling point on Hondas ST 1100 series sport touring back then.

  5. 5 golfish May 11th, 2010 at 4:53 pm

    what HD riders need to do it put sproter brakes on the rear…that’ll keep em from locking up.

  6. 6 Lyle May 11th, 2010 at 5:55 pm

    Black Shadow needs to start hanging out with experienced riders. The sproter comment was sort of funny. I never did understand the logic (besides being different) of using that system.

    Be careful with anti-lock brakes. On some systems, the system can actually bleed too much fluid from the lines causing the master cylinder’s piston to bottom out in the bore and binding the return spring causing the master cylinder to become inoperable. I’ve actually had one apart where this has happened. Hopefully the problem has been corrected.

    I can see where ABS may help on big touring rigs that are run through rain, sleet, and sandy roads but it would not be my choice. I’ll trust my instincts.

  7. 7 Betty May 12th, 2010 at 10:36 am

    “Most Harley Riders I know and ride with, seem oblivious to the fact that 70% or better of your braking comes from the front brake and most panick stops I have seen end up with the rear tire locked up and skidding.”

    I work in a business that caters to these people … and boy is it scary! God forbid I ever have to ride with them … I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “well I don’t really use my front brake, so I’m only going to get one brake disc so my wheel looks cooler.” REALLY?! Yikes!!

    IMO, I’m with the camp that favors more rider education. Just this morning I saw a guy so green in rush hour traffic I had to get away because I couldn’t bear to see the inevitable.

  8. 8 Skip May 12th, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    Why use a Harley as an example? A Harley has the worst brakes of any motorcycle manufactured. A 800 or 900 lb bike with a single disk front and back and a single piston caliper. Lets use a motorcycle that was made to ride on the open road and not made to cruise around town and show off loud exhaust.

  9. 9 Slow Ride May 12th, 2010 at 6:06 pm

    As of right now, the only Harley’s with ABS are on the touring family and it is an $845 factory option. For the upcoming model year (2011), the only way you will be able to get ABS brakes on touring models is if you combine the ABS option with the factory electronic security option as a “package”. Additionally, I would not be surprised to see ABS as a 2011 option on the Softail family.

    Harley has made major improvements in braking performance over the past couple of years. Just to correct Mr. Skip….all Harleys in that 800-900lb range all have DOUBLE front discs and 4 piston calipers made and supplied by Brembo and ABS as an option. The biggest limitation on Harley braking performance is not the quality of the brakes but the ability of the tire to hold traction to the pavement. In other words, I believe the performance of the brakes are usually far superior to the ability of the tire to stop the motorcycle safely….hense the ABS option for safer, non-skidding stops.

  10. 10 Lyle May 12th, 2010 at 6:07 pm

    It’s a wonder how Harley guys, including myself, have rode from coast to coast with only drum or single disk brakes….Could HD brakes better? Of course, but they are adequate. Urals: now they have bad brakes…

  11. 11 Randy May 17th, 2010 at 10:06 am

    I will never buy a bike with linked brakes or ABS, they are both dangerous on a motorcycle. I have rode trail bikes all me life and you need to be able to skid each wheel independently or in unison under some conditions to maintain control over direction. Having used this technique on the street too narrowly avoid collisions, I need to be able to stop the wheels turning completely, skidding. Another regulation thats put on us by those that know the least about it. If in the future I have to buy my bikes like that I will remove the stuff myself to make it safe again.

  12. 12 MDK May 17th, 2010 at 12:20 pm

    Rider education? Good luck getting anyone to take it! I’m guessing a lot of the people never rode as a child let alone offroad which will teach you real quick about bike handling. This is another example of how our Gment should be making it more involved to get a licence of any type. Oh and the back brake on my bike is only used in case of emergeny.

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