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Will ABS regulations reduce motorcycle toll?

abs mandatory combined braking assist regulations

Regulations requiring anti-lock braking systems (ABS) on new motorcycle models this year may not have much of an initial impact on the road toll, experts say.

From November 2019, all new motorcycle models sold in Australia over 125cc must have ABS, while bikes with lower engine capacities must have either combined brakes systems (CBS) or ABS.

But don’t expect a sudden drop in crash deaths, despite the Federal Government declaring it can reduce motorcycle-related road trauma by more than 30%.

That’s mainly due to the fact that most new motorcycles sold in Australia are already fitted with ABS because Europe has had ABS laws since 2016 and Japan introduced them in October this year.

There has been no subsequent decrease in the motorcycle road toll in Europe in the past two years, so we are not sure why our government would assume a magic drop by almost a third in Australia.

Motorcycle Council of NSW chairman Steve Pearce disputes the affect of ABS on the road toll.

Steve Pearce siege highway combined braking ombudsman scrooge poor road repair reduce killer holiday regulations
Steve Pearce

“The statistic of 30% is a vehicle-based figure. How many motorcycle crashes involve front-end loss of braking?” he asks.

Critics of ABS say it gives riders a false sense of security that the technology will save them.

In 2016, university safety researcher Ross Blackman criticised a VicRoads brochure that stated: “A motorcycle with ABS enhances your riding skills and techniques by preventing the wheels from locking, skidding and sliding under.” 

Quite simply, no technology makes you a better rider. It only helps compensate for poor skills or emergencies, he said.

The VicRoads brochure also suggested riders retro-fit ABS, but there is no known aftermarket product.

VicRoads apologised for the misleading information and error when we pointed them out.

ABS is simply no substitute for good rider skills and the only way to get them is through training and practice.

ABS regulations

abs mandatory regulations
ABS being demonstrated

The new Australian ABS regulations only affect new models made from November 2019. 

All other existing models won’t need to be upgraded to ABS until November 2021.

(The laws only affect new motorcycles made after these dates. It is not retrospective.)

There are exemptions for enduro, trials bikes and trail bikes under 250cc.

If the bike has switchable ABS, the default setting when the bike is turned off and turned back on again will be for ABS to be active. We do not know of a motorcycle that allows ABS to switched off on the fly.

Click here for the full regulations. 

CBS is described as any braking system where one control pedal or lever activates some portion of the brakes on front and back wheels.

ABS regs worldwide

ABS brakes regulations
India makes ABS mandatory

While ABS is becoming mandatory around the world, the USA has no such requirement.

Europe: Mandatory ABS for all new models above 125cc from January 2016 and for all existing models above 125cc from January 2017. 50cc can have ABS or CBS.

Japan: ABS on new models above 125cc from October 2018 and all existing models above 125cc from October 2021. 50cc must have ABS or CBS.

India: ABS >125cc on new models from April 2018 and all models >125cc from April 2019. Under 125cc ABS or CBS.

China: New models >250cc from July 2019 and existing from July 2020 must have ABS on front and rear wheels. Under 250 ABS or CBS.

Brazil: ABS for 300cc and above ramping up from 2016-19. Below 300cc ABS or CBS, off-road excluded.

  1. Out of all the infrequent drops I’ve had, I can’t recall loss of traction under braking being a cause. Maybe I don’t get out enough. Maybe I don’t brake hard enough, even in corners.

    Retrofitting ABS is a cute idea but generally laughable. I assume the idea came from someone with no technical knowledge. Just buying OEM parts would probably cost more than an entire bike.

    No doubt the Government wants to be seen to be doing something to protect motorcyclists from themselves. Shifting the cost of that “something” to the end user is a natural consequence.
    If/when ABS does not have any significant effect of the motorcyclist road toll, the Government will only blame the riders.
    ABS should only be a last resort. Developing positioning and awareness skills should reduce reliance on technical solutions.

  2. ABS is certainly no compensation for poor riding skills. I can see some measure of risk reduction when everything turns to crap though. People make mistakes when in a state of panic and if ABS can provide a safety net then it’s a great idea. I ride to work every day regardless of weather, I feel much more comfortable knowing my bike has ABS. As for my track bike, then it doesn’t have ABS, and I couldn’t see a great advantage in it; but then when out on the track, the riding environment is very predictable.

  3. Of the spills I have had only one might have been prevented by abs but I doubt it.
    Hard braking while in a lean into my driveway I encountered a slippery spot the size of a flattened soda can and down I went. Would abs have prevented that? I don’t think so!
    I learnt to ride on bikes that while light years ahead of many of the bikes out of the 1950s and even most contemporary model HD’s and Triumphs they were by today’s standards primitive, weighed a ton for the power output had a kick starter and no electronics whatsoever. Riding these farm implements taught me how to ride and not crash just going in a straight line and how to stop without locking up even when leaning over. ABS can give a very false sense of ability and can encourage inexperienced riders to do things that they would never get away with on a bike without ABS . Having ABS can cause a rider to learn improper braking techniques and to go a lot faster than they should.
    I suspect that the statistics won’t change much or they will get worse thanks to mandatory ABS , like linked braking it’s trying to solve a problem with technology that should be solved by training.

  4. ABS will likely have a small positive on road incidents, I don’t expect the statistics to show much at all. That being said I would rather have ABS than not.

  5. ABS is a brilliant safety tool, add this to your acquired motorcycling skills & quite simply you might end up with messy pants but you’ll be alive to notice!

  6. Bugger the ABS….make self cancelling indicators compulsory…I’m sure flashing blinkers left on by mistake cause more city / suburban prangs than no ABS, with cars thinking you’re turning and pulling out in front of you.

  7. I am not a fan of ABS on bikes as found it unnerving when braking on a bumpy surface and the ABS cutting in and out.

    Had a VFR 800 Honda which had Honda’s linked brake system and found this far superior to ABS for general feel of braking

  8. ABS = good.
    CBS = bad.
    Had CBS (as well as ABS) on my K1200 LT. Hated it, especially trying to do feet-up U-turns. Using the rear brake to load up the engine so as to be able to rev it a bit in order to not stall the engine meant the bloody front brake came on as well and made tight turns impossible.

  9. like many of the negative commentors i am an experienced motorbike rider and can safely break very hard without lockup in good conditions ..but.. if you dont have abs you are by definition either not braking hard enough in an emergency or you are risking lockup.

    Experienced rider or not – abs will only ever kick in when wheels start to lock, so you can brake hard and not worry about locking a wheel.

    A friend broke his arm and brusied his brain after locking up the front wheel after a car pulled out of a side street, he didnt hit the car he hit the traffic island.

    Myself and my gf have decided we will never ever own a bike without abs again (good quality tyres combined with abs will give you a crazy short stopping distance in all conditions)

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