ABS And Motorcycle Stopping Power

Even if you’ve been riding a long time, the odds are that you’ve never ridden a motorcycle with an ABS braking system.

Antilock braking systems (ABS) have been pretty much standard equipment on cars for a very long time. Because of those systems, you mo longer have to pump the brakes on slick, wet or icy roads to achieve safe stopping. ABS systems take over that business using electronics to pump the brakes much faster than any human driver can.

And the systems work, and they work very well.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) says from the outset, cars equipped with ABS systems led to significantly fewer multi-vehicle crashes on wet roads, and fatal crashes involving cars with those systems were reduced by 24 percent. Nonfatal crashes were reduced by some 14 percent.

While ABS braking may reduce the likelihood of a driver colliding with another vehicle in the rear by some 40 percent, the NHTSA study pointed out that the benefit was somewhat tempered by the fact that cars with ABS systems might themselves be struck from behind in a crash as “the better your own braking capabilities, the more likely that a following vehicle with average braking capabilities will hit you.”

So there’s that…

But overall, ABS is a safety system which not only reduces crashes, but also helps to lower insurance premiums and make driving safer.

But wait, there’s more.

Research conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has demonstrated that ABS systems installed on motorcycles provide the same benefits to riders that they have to drivers.

The Riders Who Need ABS Are Neophytes

Other than whatever riding gear a rider chooses, motorcyclists are exposed to many more road hazards than drivers.

As far back as 1958, engineers at the Road Research Laboratory in England were tinkering with a Royal Enfield Super Meteor in tests of the Maxaret anti-lock brake system. Those results of those experiments clearly demonstrated the value to motorcyclists, and stopping distances were reduced in most of the tests compared with currently available wheel braking systems. In some cases, that improvement was as much as 30 percent. Royal Enfield’s technical director at that time, Tony Wilson-Jones, determined that the system was too expensive and complex given the current state of technology at the time, and the Maxaret system was never put into production.

Though ABS systems are only now becoming more common equipment options for motorcyclists, such systems were first installed on a production bike in 1988. Back then, BMW offered the first motorcycle with ABS.

Now, the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) says an analysis of motorcycle insurance crash data shows what an ABS-equipped motorcycle can do for riders. The HDLI looked at data gathered from collision claims filed which involved motorcycles with and without ABS systems. The findings were that ABS-equipped motorcycles were 30 percent less likely to be involved in a crash during the first 90 days of a motorcycle policy. In addition, bikes with ABS were 19 percent less likely to be involved in a crash following that 90-days period.

So why are these systems so effective?

ABS systems allow riders to apply the brakes as hard as they can without the danger of locking up either of the wheels, and that ability covers up rider braking errors.

“We already knew that motorcycle ABS cuts crashes. What this study shows is that ABS may help compensate for beginners’ mistakes,” said HLDI Vice President Matt Moore. “Riders with more experience also reap large benefits from the technology.”

The HLDI study compared ABS and non-ABS equipped versions of 22 different motorcycles from the 2003 to 2012 model years, and their analysis found that 24 percent fewer claims were filed for motorcycles equipped with ABS. The costs of rider injuries dropped as well as medical claims were filed 34 percent less frequently for riders on bikes equipped with ABS. A previous IIHS study found that there was a 37-percent reduction in fatal motorcycle crashes when bikes were equipped with ABS systems.

ABS Works For Experienced Riders

“While not all motorcyclists with new insurance policies are novices, those in the later period invariably have at least three months of riding under their belt, so the 19 percent reduction is a key finding,” Moore said. “Experienced riders should think twice before they dismiss ABS as something for beginners.”


Graphic courtesy of Ultimatemotorcycling.com

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