Hi Guys, I'm a blow in that's been watching this discussion since it started. I have a very active interest in bike ABS and especially the discussion that rages about it the world over.
There are studies like the one the NHTSA keeps putting out claiming that 37% of lives will be saved if all bikes had ABS. This is a truly flawed study that wouldn't pass muster at a stats 101 class assignment. What they've done is the equivalent of "most people die in their sleep, therefore sleeping is dangerous". That's really disappointing because some truthful information about ABS's benefits would be refreshing.
There is A LOT of cynical information about bike ABS on both sides of the fence - and it does become almost like a religious discussion at times. What to believe?!!?!
ABS is often sold as a life saving bit of kit (especially by the BOSCH lobby group who have been masters at creating a market for their unit behind the scenes), so you'd think that you could take a second look at MAIDS or HURT studies and easily put your finger on some large proportion of lives that would have been saved if they had had ABS... but you can't.
The HURT study in particular and the MAIDS study in part, point to braking errors leading up to fatal collisions, but these aren't errors that ABS will fix. The most common error was over reliance on the rear brake - the brake with the least stopping power. This clearly points to a skills issue
. You still need to know how to brake well
to get the most out of your brakes - ABS wont do that for you. The "snap on and let the ABS deal with it" mentality is a potentially dangerous one.
If you commit the cardinal sin of a rear brake panic stomp for example, then your ABS'd braking distance is going to be MORE than if you had conducted a controlled skillful emergency brake with the rear only. Even a panic front brake grab with ABS firing will end up with a longer braking distance than a controlled emergency brake. It's not a panacea.
Many people bring their carcentric ABS understanding to bikes and off handedly state how good it will be and how much safer it will make bikes... but that is not assured at all - especially if you risk compensate and take more risks. Speaking of which, have cars stopped crashing
So should you get it or not? Well that really depends on how you ride, what kind of ABS system it is and what the triggers are.
If your braking skills are poor and the panic grab "leave it to ABS" is a step up from what you could do or be bothered doing on your own steam, then get ABS but practice often to get used to it. I'd also expect you're not a "knee down" type of rider in that case.
If you ride often in the wet but not in the dirt, then it's pretty hard to argue against it no matter how the ABS is configured.
As for systems, the new bikes are all pretty much zeroing on the bosch unit, but use different logic like wheel deceleration, linked wheel braking management, wheel speed difference trigger, zero wheel speed trigger, anti stoppie intelligent systems, some combination of these...
If you're a late hard down hill twisties kind of rider, or like some down hill dirt, you might want to avoid an anti stoppie intelligence type of ABS... otherwise you'll find your front brakes coming off when you need them the most. Not much fun!
The current crop of sports bikes are getting some stonking ABS systems, but they can be pretty complex as a result meaning that repair costs are significantly higher after a prang. In Australia, there's some anecdotal evidence that ABS'd bike are being written off simply because the complexities of ABS system repair. When everyone has ABS, what do you think that's going to do to insurance premiums?
Clear as mud?
For the record, I'm against mandated ABS. It should be an option and it should be switchable, and I'm absolutely pro rider skills, defensive roadcraft and regular braking practice. Interesting stuff hey?