The case for ABS in bikes

Visvaksen P | Updated on January 24, 2018 Published on July 23, 2015


The maturing Indian motorcycle market needs ABS to ensure the safety of its new speed demons

Motorcycle safety has been the subject of heated debate over the past few years as courts up and down the country have attempted to enforce and uphold regulations that make the wearing of helmets mandatory. While helmets do sometimes save lives in the event of a crash, common sense dictates that it is infinitely better to focus efforts on preventing accidents in the first place.

This can be achieved by educating riders of the importance of defensive driving and through the introduction of rider aids that enhance safety such as airbags and Anti-Lock Braking Systems. While motorcycle airbags remain the stuff of pilot programs, ABS, after extensive deployment on 4-wheeled vehicles, has finally begun to trickle down to the motorcycle world. And there is perhaps no other market in the world that needs ABS on motorcycles as bad as India, where average engine capacities are expanding almost as fast as motorcycle fatalities.

Implementation of ABS varies depending upon the manufacturer, but the basic principle remains the same. The system has sensors on the wheel which track the number of rotations per second and when this number drops drastically, the control unit reduces braking pressure. This ensures that the wheel does not lock up, thereby preventing a potential spill. While this part of the system is identical to ABS in cars, the fact that motorcycle wheels have independent brakes adds an additional layer of complexity that gives rise to the Combined-ABS (C-ABS). This system links the front and back sensors and allows the control unit to balance braking pressure between the two wheels, dramatically reducing the complexity of braking for the rider.

And the evidence of its efficacy is piling up. Research conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in the US reported a 31 per cent decrease in fatal crashes in motorcycles fitted with ABS. A trans-national European study found that ABS was associated with a 30 to 40 per cent decrease in fatalities. The European Union has found enough merit in the existing body of research to make ABS mandatory on all motorcycles above 125cc from 2016.

Grim outlook

Motorcycles fitted with ABS are quite hard to find in the Indian market. The TVS Apache 180 and the Bajaj Pulsar RS 200 are currently the only mass market bikes which come with stock anti-lock systems. The prohibitive cost of the feature, exacerbated by the fact that ABS devices are almost exclusively imported has kept adoption down. While the government has made noises about creating legislation along the lines of the EU and making ABS a standard feature on motorcycles, the backlash from manufacturers worried about their bottom lines will, at the very least, significantly delay any such plans. Meanwhile, the average Indian motorcyclist’s only resort is to cover him or herself in protective gear from head to toe and ride defensively.

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Published on July 23, 2015
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