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Getting to grips with ABS

By Mario

Already, 30% of European-made motorcycles come with ABS. By 2017 it will be compulsory on all machines sold over 125cc, and the technological leaps being made are extraordinary.

Would you like ABS on your bike? If you’re buying new, by 2017 there likely won’t be a choice, thanks to EU regulations. When such a large and important market mandates a feature, it’s not worth making bikes without it just because it’s unnecessary in some jurisdictions.

EU regulators and bureaucrats tend to rank alongside gravel rash in most rider’s popularity stakes, but this just might be the best news in decades. Why?

For two reasons. One is that it will almost certainly cut the number of deaths and serious injuries by about 20 to 25%. That’s the conclusion of a study into Germany’s accident database, with close analysis of individual accident reports.  A worthy result in itself, which may also take some of the heat off riding as the sort of ‘dangerous activity’ that attracts attention.

The second reason is that the technological progress now happening in ABS systems is astonishing. Forget any idea of a trade-off between control, safety, enjoyment and ultimate performance. You really can have it all.

Slow, slow, quick-quick, slow

Development and refinement of a technology doesn’t always happen steadily. Sometimes there are step changes, and that’s what is occurring right now with ABS.

If you look on Wikipedia it will tell you the first appearance of an anti-lock braking system on a production car was Bosch’s effort on the 1978 Mercedes S-Class. Which is entirely wrong: it was the Dunlop Maxaret system on the four-wheel-drive Jensen FF sports coupé launched in late 1965. Maxaret was adapted from aircraft application and could be described as crude but effective. Much the same might be said  of ABS for the next 20-odd years, with the first practical motorcycle application eventually introduced by BMW on the K-100 in 1988.