Anti-lock braking system (ABS), has been around in bikes since 1988. It has improved significantly from the first electronic-hydraulic ABS introduced by BMW.
Now, as most of the indian motorcyclist are keeping their safety ahead of cheaper price options, Indian motorcycle manufacturers are also dishing out ABS equipped bikes as standard or they are rolling out both ABS and non-ABS versions. Is buying an ABS equipped motorcycle the smarter choice? Probably not.
ABS is a very important safety feature. And you must have it in your bike. If you don’t, then get it installed. Imagine, you are on a wet skiddy road and the car in front of you suddenly jumps red light, you are bound to press that lever hard. ABS will still bring you to a fluttering but safe stop, provided you don’t swerve sideways.
But ABS has one little downside to it. For countering that your ABS equipped bike should have an additional small feature.
How does it work?
In laymen’s term, there are sensors on wheel. These sensors check the rotational speed of the wheel. When the wheel stops abruptly, that means wheel is locked, so they send signals to the braking system to release the brake for a fraction of a second then apply it again.
Brakes are applied and released momentarily. That causes the fluttering sound. This technique is also manually used by riders in non-ABS bikes, but it is a very difficult technique to perfect.
What advantage does it have over humans?
A skilled rider takes about 0.17 seconds to realise brake lock, another 0.11 seconds to release brake lever. The braking mechanism takes 0.02 second to disengage. So, it takes about half a second to unlock a brake, which is adequate for a crash.
Whereas an ABS can sense a wheel lock, up to a hundred times in a second. It can engage and disengage the brakes ten times in a second. That, even pro riders can’t do.
ABS And How It Effects Riding Skill
Some people advise learners to ride without an ABS. But, if someone has the option of choosing a safer alternative, what is the point of learning how to ride without an ABS. But there are some surfaces where riding without an ABS will give you better control. So if you aren’t very serious about riding and just want to buy a motorcycle for commuting to and fro from office, you can buy an ABS bike and you won’t have to learn how to brake without an ABS ever.
This is how you should brake in a non-ABS bike:
First apply the rear brake. Don’t pull it hard, pull it gently and slowly increase pressure. When you feel the rear tyre responding, start applying front brake as hard and as much as necessary. Pay attention to the rear tyre, if you fell it skidding or lifting, immediately loosen the front lever.
Ideally the front brake should do 70 percent of the stopping. Rear brake is applied, just to prevent the rear tyre from skidding if the front tyre comes to a sudden stop.
When not to use ABS?
Imagine a situation where you are riding downhill on a slippery, muddy road. At the end of the road there is a river.
You ride down the path, and start braking as you approach the river. As there is little grip, the wheels start to lock immediately, and the ABS releases the brakes. You continue on towards the river, gripping the brakes, which are permanently disengaged, as there is so little grip. You do not slow down, and fall into the river.
Now if you have ABS turned off, you apply brakes and the wheel locks immediately. And, the wheel slides to a stop. Sliding motion has lesser friction, so the wheel will take a longer time to stop. So you might stop just at the edge of the river.
Basically the point I am making here is, you can’t use ABS when off-roading.
Which one to buy?
ABS is very useful for your safety. In a panic situation it might save your life. But then again, it isn’t useful in some situations. Now ABS technology has a feature in them, that allows it to disengage at speeds below 5 mph.
Ideal choice is to buy a bike with ABS, which can be switched off according to conditions and riders convenience.
Read the last line again!