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A Short History of Motorcycle Antilock Brakes

A Short History of Motorcycle Antilock Brakes
Photo: Raniel Diaz CC

Motorcycling purists rolled their eyes. Racers thought wasting almost 25 pounds on it was silly. The year was 1988. It was the end of an era in motocross and Eddie Lawson stole the Grand Prix Championship title from Wayne Gardner. The Cold War was about to end and BMW released the very first motorcycle equipped with antilock brakes.

Not on MY bike

Back then, the idea of strapping 25 pounds of dead weight to a bike in the name of “safety” was anathema to motorcycling enthusiasts. The popular perception was that antilock brakes were for people who couldn’t be trusted to learn how to operate a car unassisted, let alone a motorcycle.

There wasn’t a motorcyclist alive in 1988 who was rooting for an antilock brake control system. In fact, everyone pretty much hated the idea.

Times have changed

The 26-year history of antilock brakes for motorcycles may have had a rough start, but there are now over 180 motorcycles that come stock with ABS.

These are just a few of the high performance bikes you can buy with antilock brakes in 2014:

  • Aprilia RSV4
  • Ducati 1199 Panigale
  • KTM 990 SuperMoto R
  • Triumph Speed Triple R

In other words, ABS isn’t just for your grandpa’s BMW anymore. Some of the fastest, “most dangerous” bikes in the world come with antilock brakes from the factory in 2014. The safety Nazis may have won, but they actually made motorcycling better.

Modern ABS isn’t nanny technology. According to the American Motorcycling Association, ABS does not make up for a lack of rider skill. It’s just as easy to crash an ABS-equipped motorcycle as it is to crash one without. Keep that in mind before you choose a 200 horsepower, ABS-equipped superbike for your very first motorcycle.

Faster, safer motorcycles

Crash studies, insurance claim data, and test track performance confirm the safety advantages of ABS-equipped motorcycles. According to the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, there are 31% fewer fatal crashes among riders who choose bikes with antilock brakes. Riders who ride with ABS crash 20% less often, too.

Bikes with ABS stop faster in the wet and dry, making them faster around the racetrack. Lightweight, high performance motorcycle antilock brakes systems are a win for everyone, including riders who enjoy pushing the limits on their machines.

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About the Author

Michael Padway is a motorcycle accident attorney with over 40 years of experience in motorcycle cases. He’s been a lifelong motorcycle rider, and fanatic for its culture, advocacy, and safety. If you need assistance with a motorcycle accident, contact him at (800) 928-1511 or visit michaelpadway.com for a free consultation.