Understanding Motorcycle Antilock Brakes

If you ride a motorcycle, you know you have to stay alert and be prepared to brake suddenly. Because you’re nearly invisible to other motorists, you’re often cut off by cars with distracted drivers. You’re also much more vulnerable to potholes and other obstacles in the road, so when they appear suddenly in front of you, you may have no choice but to brake.

On older-model bikes, this kind of braking can cause the wheel to lock up, forcing you into a skid or throwing you from the bike resulting in a terrible motorcycle accident. But anti-lock braking systems (ABS) on newer motorcycles prevent this hazard and protect a biker from crashing. However, the rider has to understand how to use them correctly.

Studies Show That ABS Can Effectively Prevent Crashes

According to statistics cited by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, anti-lock brakes do prevent crashes and save lives. Studies of fatal crashes, insurance claims, and test track performance have shown the following:

  • The rate of fatal crashes is 31 percent lower for motorcycles equipped with optional ABS than for those same models without them.
  • There are 20 percent fewer collision insurance claims for motorcycles with ABS than for motorcycles without them.
  • On the test track, both new and experienced riders stop more quickly with anti-lock brakes on both wet and dry surfaces.

More than 5,000 motorcyclists were killed on U.S. roads in 2015. Having an ABS is one way to lower those numbers.

How Do Anti-lock Brakes Work?

ABSMost motorcycles have separate brakes for the front and rear wheel. When applying full pressure on either brake in an emergency, the wheel locks, causing the bike to skid or the rider to be thrown off. An ABS stops the wheel from locking up, preventing a skid while still allowing the bike to stop quickly.

Here’s how an anti-lock braking system works:

  • Each wheel has a speed sensor that sends signals to an electronic control unit (ECU).
  • If the brake is applied and a wheel is in danger of coming to a sudden stop, the ECU will let up slightly on the brake to prevent the skid.
  • When tire traction is regained, the ECU restores full pressure to the brake.
  • The process occurs rapidly and repeatedly, causing a pulsing motion in the brakes.

While an ABS works even when the rider isn’t aware it is working, if the rider doesn’t know how the system functions, he or she can undermine its effectiveness.

What To Know About ABS On Your Motorcycle

As with all parts of your motorcycle, you should understand what to do and not do when you have anti-lock brakes on your bike. The following are a few important tips:

  • ABS only work when the front brake lever and rear brake pedal are continuously applied during stopping and not “pumped.”
  • An ABS is most effective when the bike is completely upright and going in a straight line.
  • Because motorcycle riders must lean the bike in order to corner, the ABS won’t help riders in every situation.
  • Aggressive cornering requires precise and smooth braking, and the pulsing caused by anti-lock brakes can throw the bike out from under the rider.
  • An ABS isn’t a substitute for proper braking techniques and common sense. Anti-lock brakes aren’t intended to shorten stopping distances on dry roads, so riders shouldn’t ride carelessly or aggressively because they have an ABS.

Bikers who are new to ABS should practice on a closed course before hitting the road. Understanding when the brakes will engage and what happens next helps prepare you for an emergency. If you’re a high-performance rider, you should also be familiar with how ABS may compromise your riding.

Have You Been Injured In A Motorcycle Accident?

If you’ve been injured in a motorcycle accident you need to speak with an experienced motorcycle accident attorney as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Kansas City office directly at 816-471-5111 to schedule your free consultation. You can also order your FREE copy of our book, “KC Biker Bible.”

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