What Is Abs On A Motorcycle

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Everything You Need To Know About Anti-Lock Braking Systems In Motorcycles

The failure of the braking circuits is the root cause of several motorcycle accidents. Manufacturers are keen on developing protective breaking mechanisms. However, over the years, very few of these systems have been successful. One breakthrough in this domain was the invention of the anti-lock braking system. The anti-lock braking system or ABS is a topic of discussion in almost every motorcycle safety course. Some people doubt whether it is worth the money, while others feel that it is a necessity for bike owners. Therefore, we shall explain what is ABS on a motorcycle in detail, so that you know why it is so essential. 

History Of ABS

The anti-lock braking system was introduced several years after commercial motorcycle manufacturing started flourishing. In 1988, BMW was the first motorcycle manufacturer to include the anti-lock braking system in its K100 model. Following BMW’s footsteps, Honda came out with the ST1100 Pan European series with the ABS installed in 1992. Harley-Davidson also started making bikes with the anti-lock braking system, but it was initially limited to only police motorcycles. From 2008 onwards, all companies provided a choice for the anti-lock braking system as a factory-installed option with motorcycle batteries for all standard touring bikes. 

Components Of The ABS

1. Electronic Speed Sensor: The electronic speed sensor is present on the wheel hub. It measures the acceleration and velocity of the wheels. 

2. Tooth Disc: The tooth disc is present with the main brake disc. It helps the electronic speed sensor to read the wheel velocity. 

3. Electronic Control Unit: The Electronic Control Unit is present below the rider’s seat. It works on a microprocessor system and indirectly regulates the amount of force exerted on the brake lever. 

4. Electrical Controller Valve: It is a hydraulic valve that works with the electronic control unit.

How Does ABS Work? 

Several motorcycle accidents take place every year due to skidding. While skidding occurs unknowingly in most cases, some riders do it purposefully for stunts. When the rider exerts excessive force on the brake lever, the tires tend to skid. When they do so, the friction force between the brakes exceeds the friction existing between the tires and the road surface. Therefore, the motorcycle tires get locked, and the bike skids forward.

However, exerting less force on the brake lever will not let the braking mechanism work properly. Therefore, there needs to be a feature that helps in applying the ideal amount of force needed to stop the bike while also preventing skidding. In standard braking systems, the brake lever applies direct force on the disc and calipers. However, when the motorcycle has an anti-lock braking system, the force exerted by the rider reaches the disc through a hydraulic valve and an ECU. 

With the anti-lock braking systems, speed sensors are installed on every tire of the motorcycle. Therefore, when you apply the brakes, the sensors compare the tire speed with the average predicted speed fed into the system. When the sensors detect that the tire speed is lower than the predicted value, they activate the ABS controller automatically. The controller regulates the brake force so that the bike decelerates at an optimal rate. 

The controller is nothing but an electronic control unit. It responds to the speed changes in every tire, as it receives information from all the speed sensors. Moreover, the controller avoids skidding by preventing the rotational speed of the tires from becoming zero at any point. 

The electronic control unit of the ABS works in tandem with the hydraulic valves. When it detects that the rotational speed of a tire is decreasing, it activates the hydraulic valve. The hydraulic valve prevents locking by releasing pressure from the braking circuit. 

However, this can gradually increase the tire speed to dangerous levels. Therefore, when the tires start moving too fast, the pressure on the braking circuit is reapplied by disabling the hydraulic valve. The bike begins decelerating again. 

Misconceptions About ABS

1. Not All Bikes Can Have ABS

Some people believe that not all motorcycle models can have an anti-lock brake system. However, ABS is not a major braking system, but an optional one. Bikes can only have two major types of brake systems. The first is the conventional brake system, where the rear and back brakes work independently of each other. The second is the combined brake system, which connects both these brakes such that brakes applied to the front tire also stop the rotations of the back tire. In both of these types of braking systems, an anti-lock braking system can additionally be installed without any problems. 

2. ABS Makes The Bike Heavy

Many people think that ABS makes the bike bulkier and difficult to ride. The initial models with the anti-lock braking system contained 15 pounds of additional components to run the ABS. However, as per the new designs, the anti-lock braking system’s components weigh as low as 1.5 pounds. Therefore, ABS does not add a significant amount of weight to the motorcycle. 

3. ABS Weakens The Powertrain

When the tires of the motorcycle skid less often, the powertrain will remain healthy. Therefore, the belief that ABS increases the clutter that damages the powertrain is baseless. 

4. Bikes With ABS Are Very Expensive

Motorcycles with an anti-lock braking system tend to be more expensive than regular motorcycles. In the past, the price gap was huge. However, Federal departments of many countries are making it mandatory for manufacturers to install protective breaking mechanisms in their vehicles. So, companies are lowering the prices of bikes with anti-lock braking systems. However, even with the concessions, the costs will still be higher than that of conventional motorcycles. We can only say that safety should be your priority in this case. A one-time investment in these motorcycles is worth it. 


So, we hope that you now understand what is ABS on a motorcycle. With the increase in the number of vehicles on the road, your motorcycle must have the right safety system. The anti-lock braking system has passed several protection checks done by the Road Safety Departments of different countries. Therefore, if you are planning to buy a motorcycle, you should ensure that it comes with an anti-lock braking system. 

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Connie Williams

Connie Williams

Williams is an experienced motorist having participated in several biking races and such other events. Her passion for motorcycles as well as for writing drove her to set aside a professional career in engineering to write about bikes.
Connie Williams

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