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Noob braking and ABS

Discussion in 'New Riders and Riding Tips' started by Bill M, Mar 4, 2013.

  1. Hi all,

    Still very much a total noob with all-things bikage. Taking it slowly, but pushing my skills each and every time I ride. Have had my bike for three weeks now, made it to only one Saturday Learner session, but had other commitments and had to bail - so thought I'd ask here and now :)

    I've got a 2003 BMW F650cs Scarver with ABS fitted. I feel pretty comfortable with it, and each time I take her out for a ride, I make a point of practicing braking and slow stuff. This weekend I went a little further and really grabbed the front brake - and didn't skid, drop or any other bad stuff!

    Most of my practicing is done in an empty car park near home, so there's not a lot of speed there, but I was able to pretty much go full-brake without any issues. No shuddering, no slipping, no nothing except a whole lot of stoppage! Very impressed. Took it onto a nearby industrial road and tested it with some more speed, and although I'm not purposefully trying to engage the ABS or do anything other than stop safely in the shortest possible time, I still would have thought there'd be more slip or squiggle.

    So my question is two fold;

    - Is ABS the blessing from the gods it initially appears to be? And/or are there limitations I need to be awarea of? (assuming there are some, I'm keen to know what they are)

    - How much of a disadvantage might I be at if/when I ride a bike without ABS? Is it vastly different - and to what extent?

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  2. I've had ABS on my last two bikes. Rarely had it engage, but when it has, I've been bloody glad it was there. They've usually been potential impact braking situations. The ABS has usually kicked in and stopped me before I've had the reflexes to release and reapply the brakes.

    With ABS becoming mandatory in Europe, I suspect that it will flow on to models released here on the future.

    You might notice the difference on much older bikes, but possibly not in most cases if the brakes were up to scratch and you weren't applying in an emergency situation.

    While I'm sure there are many "purists" who would tell you it takes away from the motorcyclists skills, ask if their car has ABS fitted? After two bikes in a row with ABS, It would be the first thing I'd look for in a replacement bike.
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  3. ABS can get confused with dirt and gravel braking, the wheel speed sensors can attract road debris so they should be cleaned regularly. If the sensors are clogged you will generally get a ABS alarm on your dash. In normal braking the ABS should not engage so you won't notice much difference between an ABS and non ABS bike. In emergency braking is where the ABS will engage. Without practice in emergency braking on a non ABS bike you may overbrake and lock up. Generally if the front wheel locks the bike will come down.

    There is some anti ABS views on this site but it would be more accurate to say they are pro choice views. ABS should not be legislated as it does add to the weight and cost of a bike. A legislated approach would make it harder for people to get into bikes at the entry level. There should be a choice on whether the rider wants it or nor and a choice of models to support that.
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  4. Just like in a car, ABS is a mixed blessing. It's not as good as a rider/driver with "mad skillz" but it's better than locking your wheels and dropping the bike ... usually. Try not to rely on it and instead develop your skills, particularly those regarding leaving enough room to brake normally and having enough skill in reserve to get out of most situations on your own, and leave the ABS for those things that you can't reasonably anticipate.
    edit: also pulling "stoppies" with an ABS equipped bike is really hard on front tyres and will chew them out really fast, which can get expensive. Kinda fun, but expensive.
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  5. #5 Spots, Mar 4, 2013
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2013
    The main advantage of ABS on a bike is that if the front wheel or rear wheel skids above about 10kph, it will automatically release and reapply the brakes. Just like the rider would have to in order to maintain control or prevent a low-side, except the bike does it for you. The purpose of ABS (Anti-skid Braking System) is to prevent a skid. A skid on a bike, especially a front wheel skid, can result in a lowside or highside.

    IMHO the main advantage of this is that it gives the rider some confidence they can brake as hard as they have to in an emergency situation and use all of the available grip in an emergency stop, rather than timidly only braking at 40% or 70% of the grip for fear of a scary front-end lockup threatening to lowside the bike. Similarly, ABS acts as a safety net if the rider is so surprised by the emergency that they grab a fistful of brake and skid the tyres due to excessive brake application.

    As the others say, 99.999% of the time it's exactly like riding a normal bike. ABS only intervenes if the wheels rapidly slip while braking. If you're not the sort of person to make the wheels slip when you ride, you won't really notice any difference in your normal riding. If you're a supermoto rider who frequently "backs it in" by skidding the rear tyre, you'll definitely notice it interfering.

    * Very old ABS (e.g. 1990s) on both cars and bikes tend be ineffective on deep, loose gravel. The vehicle would prioritise "not skidding" to the point of performing very little braking at all. ABS has developed a fairly impressive stigma in offroad situations, especially steep descents, because of this. Honestly, though, modern systems do much much much MUCH better on loose materials than they used to. Test it out in a controlled situation and see how you go.

    * ABS can be upset by firm braking on heavily corrugated roads, such as where fully loaded trucks brake heavily into a downhill corner and leave 'ripples' in the asphalt. Again, ABS prioritises "not skidding" over braking, and every time the tyres skip over one of those ripples, it's a 'skid'.

    * ABS does not allow the bike or car to defy the laws of physics. It won't allow the bike to brake harder or stop faster than the available grip. All ABS does is release and reapply the brakes if a skid occurs. Normal reaction-time following distance is required. Normal stopping distance is required.

    * Braking hard around corners faces similar difficulties with or without ABS. The jury is out as to whether ABS could prevent a lowside during hard braking whilst cornering. Lots of hearsay but I've never seen it demonstrated and I'm not game to try.

    The only real difference is that a bike without ABS will continue to skid its tyre(s) until the rider releases the brake. What happens next depends on which tyre was skidding.

    If the rear tyre skids in a straight line, the back of the bike will wander around from side to side but generally it's not a big deal. Anyone who did skids on their BMX bike as a kid will know the sensation. The rear brake can be released to get the rear tyre spinning again and regain control, although if the bike is significantly sideways when the brake is released, a highside may result.

    If the front tyre skids in a straight line, the front wheel will try to slide sideways and "tuck under" the bike, resulting in a lowside. The rider must immediately release the front brake to get the front tyre rotating again. Once it's rotating again and the bike is stable, they can re-apply the brake. ABS does this automagically. In the absence of ABS, the rider must do it. And probably seek a change of underpants too.
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  6. With or without ABS it's worthwhile practicing emergency stops to learn how much grip is available, how fast (or not) a bike can stop, and so on.

    With or without ABS it's worthwhile to practice 'squeeeeeeezing' the brake in a progressive fashion and not simply grabbing a fistful of brake. Both cars and bikes tend to behave far more predictably and perform better if the operator is smooth and progressive with the controls to give the vehicle time to respond and give the vehicle's weight time to transfer from one wheel to the other.
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  7. Absolutely agree. As a car learner I was taught to imagine a tennis ball under the pedal, and you "squeeze"...

    Pretty pleased with the practice regime I'm sticking to. There's a lot of testing the usefulness of various options - just rear, just front, just gear etc. I still don't yet know how much I don't yet know... but I'm getting there :p

    The ABS thing was interesting for me as I've been slowly stepping up to using it in a very controlled way, and was very surprised to see how non-invasive it was when it kicked in.

    Thanks all for the speedy and very informative feedback - very much appreciated.
  8. ABS may be a godsend in wet weather braking
    i am not sure if ABS works with the bike leaned over (in a corner)
    personally i believe the units are still too heavy to fit to performance bikes

    Try not to rely on the ABS, but rather focus on developing your skills with the front brake
    focus on 'squeezing' and being smooth but also very firm, almost just like a strong handshake

    then you will be okay riding different bikes, the ABS should not kick in if your technique is good
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