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More calls for ABS on motorcycles


ABS could reduce motorcycle fatalities and severe injury crashes by more than one-third, according to a report by VicRoads and the Federal Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development.

This follows reports last week that India has moved to make anti-lock brakes (ABS) mandatory for all motorcycles with an engine bigger than 125cc from April 2017 as a portent to similar moves around the world.

The Australian research found that ABS could help in 93% of crash situations and could reduce the rate of death and serious injury from motorcycle crashes by 31%.

“ABS technology could be as significant for motorcycles as the introduction of seatbelts in cars,” says Director of Vehicle and Road Use Policy at VicRoads, Robyn Seymour.

“ABS is available now, both as standard and as an option, however, we want to encourage more riders to buy motorcycles fitted with this life-saving safety feature.”

She says the research, conducted by Monash University Accident Research Centre (MUARC), found that at the current rate of motorcycles purchased with ABS, the technology had the potential to save 22 lives in Australia between now and 2025.

According to the report, this figure could rise to 35 if ABS was made standard on all new motorcycles from 2018.ABS

Federal Minister for Territories, Local Government and Major Projects, Paul Fletcher says ABS technology is common in passenger cars sold in Australia, but in only about 20% of new motorcycles sold.

Mr Fletcher says researchers believe the current road safety benefits of ABS would be increased by up to 60 per cent if ABS became standard on all new motorcycles from 2018.

While there are no calls yet for the mandatory introduction of ABS, it could be taken out of the customer’s hands with a market as large and important as India moving to ABS as manufacturers will be unlikely to make ABS just available for the Indian market.

The mandatory introduction of ABS to motorcycle would add between a few hundred dollars up to $1000 to the cost of a motorcycle.

It would also add some weight to small-capacity bikes, although modern ABS units are much lighter and have already been included in many learner bikes such as the new Kawasaki Z300.

The Australian Federal Chamber of Automated Industries supports the “continued development, introduction, and promotion of better technology for safer motorcycles” such as ABS and traction control.

  1. The simple fact is that ABS works on cars because it allows the car to steer when normally the brakes would be locked, on a motorcycle if you lock the front brake, your off ABS won’t help this at all, also if you brake too hard with the rear brake and lock the back wheel then the ABS comes on and you loose the braking capacity from the front brake as well, this serves to make thing worse not better, ABS on a bike is less than useless, it’s dangerous. The fact is on a bike you steer by leaning, and if you need to brake at the same time your in trouble and ABS WONT HELP, IT WILL ONLY HINDER.

    1. Michael, you’re right and wrong.

      I think you miss the point of ABS. It’s got nothing to do with affecting steering. The steering works the same with or without ABS. If you try to use your brakes in the wrong way, ABS or not, you’re going to take a tumble.

      If you’re using your brakes correctly then ABS makes it easier to avoid skids – once a skid starts most riders become a passenger(yes, there are people that can deal with skids or even make use of them, they are not the audience for ABS). If you don’t skid you retain some control over your braking.

      ABS may not stop you hitting something, but it’s likely to be at a lower speed. If you panic and just grab the brakes, you have a little bit of a breathing room to maintain control. If you’re still on a collision course you may still be slow enough to attempt avoiding whatever obstacle successfully(ie let go the anchors and lean).

      ABS in cars works better as cars don’t “just fall over” as easily, but a lot of the same forces are in operation and it is quite possible to muff things in a car with ABS.

      Where ABS on bikes becomes really dangerous is when riders start to believe in magic and stop learning or practicing how to control their bike correctly.

      It’s an assist, not a replacement for good skills and judgement. If you’re going to do silly things then ABS will not help you at all.

  2. Some people say that if you lock the brakes on a motorcycle you will crash. That is not true. If you lock the brakes and keep them locked you will crash, but if you release them or ease them off so that the wheel starts turning again you can maintain control of the bike. Unfortunately many riders keep the brakes locked because their survival instinct makes them perform incorrect survival reactions. Survival reactions are actions we perform subconsciously in an attempt to avoid injury or death.

    Human brain functioning has two parts. The conscious brain controls all of the things we are aware of. The subconscious brain controls all of the things we do without thinking about them. Walking is a good example. We don’t think about moving our feet when we walk. The conscious brain decides that we want to go somewhere and the subconscious brain controls all of the muscle movements required to make it happen.

    The survival instinct is a part of the subconscious brain. This means that it is the subconscious brain that controls our survival reactions. Whether you like it or not, your subconscious brain takes control of your body when it perceives that you are in danger. The subconscious brain is highly skilled at what it does, and the conscious brain is quite clumsy in comparison. However, if the subconscious brain has not learnt the correct things to do it could make you do something entirely wrong. It learns through repetition. That is, you do something repeatedly using your conscious brain until eventually the subconscious brain takes over that task.

    Riding a motorcycle is not a natural thing to do so your subconscious brain does not naturally know how to do it. One of the first things we learnt when we learnt to ride a bike (for most of us that was a bicycle) is that if something goes wrong we want to stop, and to do that we apply the brakes. For many riders that is as far as it gets. They don’t experience enough genuine emergency braking situations to teach their subconscious brain how to correctly control the brakes. They only know that they want to stop as quickly as possible so they slam the brakes on hard and subconsciously keep them on hard. Despite any conscious effort to release the brakes they stay locked and the bike crashes. This is why many riders believe that wheel lock-ups are impossible to control, and they can’t understand how it is possible that some riders are safer without ABS. They don’t realise that they actively (subconsciously) made themselves crash. Controlling wheel lock-ups is done easily and naturally if your subconscious brain has learnt how to do it correctly. Even racing doesn’t teach you correct emergency braking. Racers may brake on the limit for every corner of every lap but is all very predictable which means that their survival instinct is not activated.

  3. On any surface, in any conditions a motorcycle without ABS can stop in a shorter distance than one that has it. Whether it does or not depends on the skill of the rider. Does ABS actually save lives when the only thing it does is stop you from falling over but makes stopping distances longer? The figures quoted in this article for reductions in injuries and fatalities are ridiculously high. Did they get these figures from a company that makes a lot of money from selling ABS? Some people die because of the shortcomings and system failures of ABS.

    On some bikes braking really hard will make the rear wheel light or even lift it off the road leaving the front tyre to do all of the work. Without ABS you can lock the rear wheel and drag it sideways making the rear tyre help with braking. This allows you to brake harder without flipping over forwards. I do it and I can assure you that it works. ABS also stops you from locking the rear wheel to lay the bike down, which is a very important safety technique. In some situations it is safer to do this and slide along the road instead of slamming into something while sitting on the bike. Falling over and sliding along the road causes minor injuries. Slamming into something front-on while sitting on the bike causes very bad injuries. MotoGP riders often lay the bikes down to avoid hitting the fence. A couple of years ago Nicky Hayden didn’t do it, and although he was travelling at low speed by the time he hit the fence he was flung over it violently and missed the next race because of injury. If he had laid the bike down he would have walked away without injury.

    Maximum braking is achieved when the tyres are skidding a little. Having a device that eliminates all skidding means that you can never achieve maximum braking. ABS performs poorly on badly corrugated roads and on loose surfaces (such as gravel). In these situations it can greatly increase the stopping distance and is very dangerous.

    In a recent test of the Kawasaki ZX-10R Cam Donald said, “One issue was the front ABS intervening in hard braking, causing me to run on.” On a racetrack there is plenty of room to run on and nothing to hit, but in real-world road riding you generally only brake hard enough to activate the ABS in an emergency situation and the ‘run on’ effect could have dire consequences.

    If every bike had a top-of-the-range fully adjustable and switchable system ABS wouldn’t cause any safety problems, but would add extra cost and weight. But if they mandate it a lot of cheaper bikes will be fitted with cheap and nasty systems.

    If they mandate ABS the systems must be switchable (able to be turned off). It must be legal to ride with it turned off. And they must be made so that they stay off instead of having to be turned off every time you start the bike. How can they justify making me ride with a device fitted to my bike which for me makes riding more dangerous? Unfortunately those who make the rules know very little about motorcycling. Every time they hear the term ‘safety device’ they think that we all should be forced to use it, but they don’t understand the consequences.

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