Mandatory ABS coming to Europe

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A few months ago the enthusiast press reported that the EU Commission’s proposal to mandate ABS meant “the death of the dual sport motorcycle.” Now, both manufacturers and consumers have accepted the proposal and there’s no need to worry about the dual sport motorcycle.

What’s new? The basis for the panic in the press was a press release from FEMA (The Federation of European Motorcyclists’ Associations), claiming the Commission wouldn’t allow on/off switches after ABS becomes mandatory. As HFL reported at the time, FEMA overreacted. The on/off switch will still be allowed.

With FEMA now assured of this, they won’t oppose making ABS mandatory, even if they would prefer a “voluntary approach.”

ACEM (the Motorcycle Industry in Europe) wanted CBS (Combined Braking Systems) as an alternative to ABS on medium class and smaller bikes, but in a new position paper they now accept mandatory ABS on all bikes larger than 125cc — probably in some sort of horse trading deal giving them longer lead time on implementing ABS or one of the other proposals in EU’s new framework regulation.

What does this mean? With no real opposition, the proposal will become law and every motorcycle over 125cc sold in Europe will be equipped with ABS.

Should you riot in the streets? Principles or pragmatism… The earliest date ABS becomes mandatory is January 1, 2017. An overwhelming majority of motorcyclists are already buying ABS-equipped bikes when they have the option, so it’s actually likely ABS will largely become standard years before it actually becomes mandatory.

  • Njall

    FEMA never stated that the Commission wouldn’t allow on/off switches, only that if it would become mandatory, all bikes should have the on/off switch. I should know, I asked for it, the Icelandic FEMA representitive. In Iceland we ride a lot on gravel and 60% of our road system is sand stones and pebbles.

    • Corey

      No wonder you lot are so good at Rally…

      • vic06

        That and, as far as I know, how seriously they take driver’s training and licensing.

        • Njall

          Well, it is really the Swedes and the Finns who are good at rally, and they also have a high percentage of gravel roads. Being a motorcycle trainer and a owner of a motorcycle touring company, I would not dream to offer any of my customers to ride without being able to switch off the ABS. That’s why we prefer BMW’s. Imagine a mountain road slaloming downhill, but with gravel instead of asphalt. Then you MUST switch off the ABS;-)

    • Ivar Kvadsheim

      You should know Njall, but apparantly you don’t.

      FEMA stated that the Commission wouldn’t allow the on/off switch. The press release is still on your website:,cntnt01,detail,0&cntnt01articleid=129&cntnt01returnid=59

      Here’s one of several quotes I can find for you: “Besides introducing mandatory anti-lock braking systems for motorcycles above 125cc, the Commission rejected the introduction of an off-switch for ABS.”

      I know your own position paper says something else ( but I asked FEMA about it before writing this, and the message was pretty clear:

      It should be up to the consumer to buy a bike with ABS and on/off switch (BMW GS) or a bike with ABS without on/off switch (Kawasaki Ninja 250).

  • R.Sallee

    I’m glad I won’t have to bother making my own decisions. These government nannies must find it amazing we can even get out of bed by ourselves.

    1. Europe. 2. UK. 3. USA.

    • seanslides

      Meh, in the grand scheme of nanny states, this shit is small potatoes. It’s not like brake systems are some sort of a top secret mystery. You can always take out the wrenches and tailor them to suit your preferences in an hour or two.

    • michael uhlarik

      Once upon a time, seatbelts were looked on in much the same fashion. Regulation is not control over your freedom, it is controls to mitigate what studies suggest is a demonstrable method of increasing life safety.

      • R.Sallee

        Know what would be safer? Don’t ride a motorcycle.

        I can take better care of myself than the gubment can. It’s an insult to my sovereignty to protect me from myself.

  • bluegrass

    Since this will drive up the cost of motorcycles, I would really like to see a study done to see how much ABS affects crash statistics. And I mean a study done by someone other than insurance companies or goverment agencies looking to manipulate markets to reduce health care or accident pay outs.

    • R.Sallee

      The only study I’ve seen found a relation between bikes with ABS and fewer fatal accidents, but didn’t consider 1) the types of riders that opt for ABS, 2) the sorts of bikes that come with ABS, 3) whether a lack of ABS was actually a contributing factor in any if the fatal accidents. In other words, it was junk.

      Before I started riding I would’ve for sure wanted ABS. Now, it depends on the bike–seems most bikes are mildly worse to ride with ABS, save Honda’s race reps.

  • markbvt

    Only a matter of time before similar legislation comes to the US, although I wouldn’t be surprised if they bump the displacement up to 500cc or so.

    In the meantime, once the EU mandate has taken effect it’ll be interesting to see whether the Euro manufacturers continue to offer non-ABS models in the US market, or if they just standardize and only offer ABS bikes everywhere.

    • Devin

      Depends on where the bike is made. If the EU bike is made in the EU and they have a separate plant for the Asian market NA will likely just get the product from the Asian plant.

  • Mike

    As far as driving up the price – what about economies of scale?

    Also, consider the CHP – ABS is a requirement for them to even consider a bike.

    As long as there’s a way to turn it off, I can only see this as a good thing. That’s been a requirement for any new bike I’m looking at.

    • bluegrass

      as far as economies of scale go, there is a lot more to adding an ABS system than simply slapping the parts onto an existing model. There is a lot of testing that needs to be done to get this kind of stuff on the road, those programs are pricey and that has to be factored into the cost per unit.

      It could be a long time before economies of scale pay any kind of dividend, and that could shorten the lifespan of some models, especially on the low end of the spectrum as this pushes them above the price point, and makes them slower sellers.

      My concern is with entry level bikes and manufacturers that don’t offer a full line yet, like the Cleveland Cyclewerks guys. You don’t have higher profit margin units to help absorb some cost.

      The CBR 250R only has a 500 hundred dollar difference in cost between ABS/non-ABS equipped models, considering most of the time I see ABS options for a grand, I willing the bet honda loses a little money on that to keep the it under the $4500 price point. But Honda sells plenty of high end units, and lots of scooters, to help cover that.

      I just don’t like the fact that it makes cost of entry into motorcycling that much more expensive for newer riders, and will probably make it harder for smaller, newer companies to stay in the game.

  • Trevor

    Regarding cost I suppose it depends on what the manufacturers are prepared to take a hit on their profits to sell their bikes.

    “KTM’s new SMT has bucked the trend for ever-increasing bike prices – it undercuts the outgoing model by £350. Not only that, the new bike has ABS as standard where the old bike didn’t – and the company claims the system sets a new benchmark for braking.”

    Our own take was that FEMA should not have offered any compromise, because it gave the impression that FEMA has already accepted mandatory ABS in the early stages of the proposals before the proposals go to the various committees, Council, the EU Parliament and the prospect of lobbying MEPs on the whole regulation.

    A moot point now as the horse trading appears to have happened and there is no will to “fight” on mandatory ABS, with ACEM asking to include Enduros and Trail bikes in the regulations, they have made it clear that these motorcycles must not have ABS brakes because they are mainly for off-road riding conditions, requiring the possibility to lock the wheels and to use each brake independently.