ABS was first developed in 1929 for aircraft and entered into general use on automobiles in the 70’s. In 1981 BMW introduced ABS on a motorcycle. Here in the 21st century, ABS is now becoming more routinely available on motorcycles, either as standard equipment or as an option.
But what the heck is ABS? To begin with, an Anti-Lock Braking System incorporates computerized sensors to determine when a wheel is on the verge of locking-up. It then gives instant instructions to the brakes to release and re-apply braking pressure (pumping) a whole bunch of times per second, while you are steadily engaging the brakes.
What results is slowing and/or stopping without skidding. (A skidding tire has less traction than one that is not skidding).
And they are very easy to use. In an emergency situation on an ABS bike, just apply the brakes hard! Do not manually pump your brakes. Aggressive braking will initiate the ABS system automatically and the rider can concentrate on the immediate threat — and not the brakes.
That’s the good news.
On the other hand, many experienced riders can bring their non-ABS bike to a stop faster than an ABS equipped bike, by way of well-practiced, efficient, front and rear braking — particularly on clean, dry pavement. The question is can you do that under the stress of a life-threatening, panic-braking scenario? And even more to the point, how refined are your emergency braking skills on wet or dirty roads?
If you have attended a motorcycle event in which BMW was one of the participating vendors, you may have seen their demonstration and/or video where they compare the braking performance of ABS and non-ABS equipped bikes on flooded pavement. The demo-motorcycles are equipped with outriggers, to prevent the bikes from completely going down. The bikes are each ridden into several inches of water whereby they apply emergency braking. The non-ABS motorcycle loses control, falls over onto the outriggers and spins out. However, the bike with ABS makes a controlled, straight-line stop.
Is ABS or non-ABS best for you?