The Wrong Argument for ABS: Why Proponents Are Losing the Debate

written by David Mixson

Now that we’ve established the advantages of ABS, let’s take a look at why some riders still don’t see its benefits. 

ABS proponents argue that ABS shortens their stopping distance, while anti-ABS proponents argue that top riders can stop more quickly with conventional brakes. 

In this case, neither side wins because both sides are right. 

The real reason I only ride motorcycles with ABS has little to do with stopping distances—and everything to do with keeping from crashing! In fact, I would still prefer to ride a motorcycle with ABS even if it took me a few feet LONGER to stop than it would with conventional brakes. 

The real benefit of ABS is that it ELIMINATES most lowside and highside crashes because it prevents your rear tire from locking up—which is the biggest trigger for these rider-induced crashes.

And There’s More

Another advantage I rarely hear mentioned is that riders riding bikes with ABS feel less stress in panic stops because they don’t have to worry about braking correctly. In other words, they can squeeze both brakes firmly without fear of locking up either tire. 

This allows riders to focus more on avoiding the obstacles in their path. 

According to an NHTSA study: 

“Anti-lock brake systems not only prevent the rider and motorcycle from harm and damage by increasing active safety, but also reduce significantly [the] mental strain while riding and braking. In case of a critical riding situation, this higher remaining mental reserve would help the rider to develop and wishfully realize alternative emergency strategies that additionally could help the rider to prevent a crash.”1

Shooting Straight

Honestly, riding a motorcycle without ABS seems foolish and uninformed, and I’m frustrated that Congress hasn’t mandated it on all motorcycles built for on-street use.

If someone wants to champion the effort, count me in. 

The first thing I would suggest for ABS advocates is to change the argument. Saying ABS stops riders more quickly in every situation is the wrong argument—because it’s a hard argument to prove (and win). 

The real benefit of ABS is that it prevents most rider-induced lowside and highside crashes—which account for a large percentage of fatalities.

Let me put it this way in case someone in Congress is reading.

* A portion of this article is an excerpt from my book Motorcycle Hacks.

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About the Author

David Mixson writes about the topics other motorcycle books gloss over. He worked as a NASA engineer for over thirty years and is the author of three books.

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