Ask RideApart: ABS Or No-ABS For New Riders

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Motorcycle ABS

You ask, the community answers, it’s Ask RideApart. This week: Is ABS for new riders a good idea?

This week’s question comes from Levon, who writes: “The topic of ABS vs. non-ABS recently came up between me and an experienced rider. He said he made his girlfriend buy her first bike without ABS (Ninja 300). His reasoning is for her to really learn the feel of the bike and to understand braking dynamics. As a potentially new street rider myself it made me think. I always assumed my first bike would have ABS if the option was presented, for the sake of safety. Mainly to maintain turning control under hard braking. I come from a dirt bike racing background where I’m used to dragging the rear tire when needed and respecting the front brake to prevent an endo. I’m pretty set on buying the new Honda CB500F next year. What is your opinion on choosing ABS vs. non-ABS for a rider new to street?”

What do you guys think? Should safety be sacrificed in the pursuit of learning an important skill?

Have a question for us? Post it on our Facebook page, or on Twitter using the #AskRideApart hash tag. We will select the best topic from our submissions and post them here each week.

  • livacpa

    As an experienced rider, who lives in LA and really will never ever ride in the wet, I didn’t think ABS was necessary at all and was happy to buy my new CB500F without it. I think it could help a new rider in the event of a mishap, but I didn’t have ABS when I learned and I’m here to tell the tale :)

    • Kodiak

      Never riding in the wet is one thing, but if you’re on public roads you still have to worry about oil slicks, manhole covers, water on the road from who knows what, gravel, or any of the other stuff that ends up on the street.

      • livacpa

        Fair enough, but how did riders survive so long without it!?

        • Kodiak

          Who says they survived? There have been approximately 50,000 motorcycle fatalities in the U.S. in the last decade. I’d wager that at least a few of them could have been avoided had the victim been riding a motorcycle with ABS.

          • livacpa

            That would have saved .0004% of the lives lost according to your figures. Just being a brat. I’m really indifferent about ABS frankly. If you get ABS you should get extended warranty with the bike IMO.

            • Guy Simmonds

              If you look up ABS on motorcycles on Wikipedia – – they cite two separate studies, that a) suggest that bikes with ABS are significantly less likely to be involved in fatal crashes and b) nearly half of severe and fatal motorcycle accidents could be avoided due to ABS. That’s a lot of lives that could be saved.

            • runnermatt

              If your bike has ABS your insurance should cost less, not an extended warranty.

          • Brett Lewis

            From the data I’ve seen, (National Highway Safety) in rear end collisions involving cars and motorcycles over the past years, it’s usually the motorcycle running into the car. I bet a lot of them either locked brakes or didn’t apply the brakes hard enough for fear of locking up.

      • jonoabq

        Why would you ever, and I mean “ever” have the brakes applied while riding across a manhole cover?

        • Kodiak

          Because someone turned left in front of you and your brain is occupied with not becoming a hood ornament instead of scanning the road for things like manholes.

    • grb

      I didnt have ABS either, and yes you definitely can learn without it, but that has nothing to do with the fact that its absolutely better to have ABS on the street, specially if your learning to ride.

    • imprezive

      I live in OC and I ride in the rain at least a couple times a month. Just because we rarely get rain here doesn’t mean you’ll never get caught in it. That being said my bike doesn’t have ABS and I’ve yet to crash in the rain. Given the option I’d rather have it though.

  • David Magallon

    ABS. Always. It’s a great safety net regardless of experience. I don’t buy into this idea that it makes you a worse rider. If you’re doing it right, ABS doesn’t come on. If you feel it come on, you know you just fell through to a safety net. Try again. Why take away that net?

    • Christopher Rector

      As an MSF instructor we teach new riders to use both brakes in a smooth progressive pressure to get maximum braking force applied to stop the bike as quickly and smoothly as possible. This is probably one of the most difficult things to teach new riders, progressive pressure VS. a stab or grab of the brakes. ABS can be an expensive option to purchase on a new bike. If your braking is done correctly 100% of the time it’s an option you’ll never use. But like David stated, it’s a safety net. We’re not perfect and we make mistakes especially while under pressure, and that 1% of the time where we make the mistake while braking for the emergency, it’s there to save your hide. It may be the best $500-$1500 on something you’ll hope to have to use. I do know for one thing for sure, it’ll scare the life out of you when it kicks in the first time.

      • Stuki

        Back in the day, steady, controlled braking and recovering from incipient skids were part and parcel of car driving instruction as well. If done to perfection, it’s not that much worse than simply grabbing a handful/stompful and letting the electronics sort it out. But virtually noone ever gets that good. And even if some do, what’s the point of spending untold hours of practice, simply to at best duplicate what a (relatively) cheap piece of electronics can do for you?

        By far most riders, myself definitely included, are way too timid with the brakes as soon as the driving surface is anything less than perfect. GP racers do stoppies in the rain, but they’re aliens. With abs, a protocol that simply states: “when needing to stop fast, regardless of surface, just squeeze as hard as you can as fast as you can, and you’ll be as fine as you can given external invariants” is easy to teach people. A couple of “panic” stops over manhole covers, sand, wet etc, and most people learn to trust ABS. And can from then on brake as hard on virtually any surface as your average grandma panic stopping her ABS equipped minivan, instead of doing all manners of sverving into oncoming traffic, “laying her down” or simply barreling into the back of said minivan.

        For bikes solely used to go fast on track and in canyons, where 90+% of all likely crashes are due to something other than misapplication of brakes, one can make the argument that ABS is less desirable, but for day to day use, just get ABS. All cars have them, and as long as you interact with such cars, you need to be able to slow down as well as they do.

        • pdad13

          Because those relatively cheap electronics sometimes fail. There were lots of recalls this year across multiple brands because a large brake component manufacturer produced a defective ABS part. Worse, the riders wouldn’t have necessarily had a warning.

          ABS is great, don’t get me wrong. But one should learn as best they can to brake without it. And practice a lot.

          Ideally one would buy a bike with ABS that can be switched off. Then go to a relatively safe place to practice. Switch it back on when you head back to civilization. Not all bikes have this feature, of course. But that would be the ideal.

          This idea that rider/driver aids make people better or safer riders or drivers is debatable. Starting with the automatic transmission, some technology seems to have caused many people to become less involved in what they’re doing. Now we have too many people who operate cars as if they’ve just stepped into an elevator. A moving vehicle is now a mobile living room, or bathroom, or office. That’s not really a good thing.

          Technology can be a great safety net, but we can rely on it too much. It can and does fail, and when it does, you have to provide the net.

      • LJ Wilson

        The MSF course is good, but in the area of braking the curriculum needs some work. There is no one method for braking that works with all bikes (which is what the MSF course teaches). One a cruiser or touring bike, using both brakes does make a measurable amount of distance for stopping. On a sportbike, that difference is small enough that the risk of getting it wrong and stopping the back wheel isn’t worth it. I wish the MSF course builders and the instructors would stop teaching the one way of braking. It screws up the thinking of guys on sportbikes and causes problems and accidents. For fast stopping (emergency stops), the back brake is next to useless on a sportbike and can be a serious hazard when done wrong.

        • Braden

          A nice idea in theory, but allowing for variances in motorcycle type spread across the entire curriculum would make the course twice as long, twice as expensive, and far less people would take it. Remember that the people taking these courses are still trying to grasp the most basic of fundamentals over a two or three day course. Hitting them with all of these alternate techniques and theories would not just be pointless, but needlessly confusing. As mentioned above, the MSF does not teach true emergency stops, merely quick stops. Both brakes work well in that that respect regardless of bike. Disclaimer: I am an MSF Instructor.

          • LJ Wilson

            It doesn’t take but 5-10 minutes explaining that the dynamics and weight distributions on various style bikes are different and explaining that braking techniques need to be tailored to the bike and the conditions (and give the riders some external resources to check out like Lee Parks and Keith Code). I have talked to many many riders who were only told the one way to brake through the MSF course.

            • Braden

              I completely agree with that. It would only take 5-10 minutes to explain braking technique between different bike types. The problem still lies as I described in my original comment. Do we cover throttle response differences between sport bikes, cruisers, sport tourers, and dirt bikes? How about suspension differences, and all of the variations you may encounter on the track or street, and all the levels of adjustability? What about weight, and how the bike carries it, and how different bikes with vastly different weights can have a whole range of sensory inputs for the rider based on speed? Point being is all this is important, but not when a person is still trying to fully grasp the concept of a friction zone or how gears work, and certainly not when all of this new info is packed into 48 hours of memorization and massive development in muscle memory. MSF encourages BRC graduates to take some of the more advanced courses offered, which would touch on braking technique as related to bike types. It just isn’t suitable for an already packed weekend of basic learning. I would hope that you’d realize if MSF added every single little contingency to basic techniques, it would be a four day class and a new rider would in the end learn nothing. It’s far from a perfect program, but it teaches what is necessary and encourages taking advanced classes for the subtle but important differences.

    • Randy S

      I completely agree with this. The best way to gain experience is to stay healthy and give yourself the chance for a lot of reps.

      As a new rider years ago, on a non-abs bike, I almost flew face first into the bumper of a car I was following too closely in the rain. Since then I have also done some poor/stupid braking with abs bikes and received much more mild reminders to be better at braking. I want abs always.

  • tiredofdummies

    In my msf class I learned first hand how fast you can wind up on the ground after locking the front in a braking exercise. I think abs is a must have for the newbie.

    • jaczor

      Same here, I also learned the importance of a full face helmet and a proper jacket, had I not been wearing both I’d probably be sporting a couple of scars. And this was a relatively low speeds.

  • Jeremy

    As an experienced rider, it is my opinion that all riders should opt for ABS. All manufacturers should offer it, preferably with configurable set up.

    • Guillaume Béliveau

      As a motorcyclist for 7 years, I agree. I had 5 bikes with ABS, two without it. Would not buy anything without now even if it’s way cheaper. I prefer to pay the extra money and stay alive.

      • Scott Otte

        I can’t imagine buying a new bike with out ABS, I’m constantly ranting about how important it is (especially for new riders) on my Blog.

        • Jono

          like all things bike related, it depends on application… if you’re buying a dualsport as a weekend dirt bike and a weekly commuter, then abs will do nothing but cause dramas in the dirt.

          of course its a totally different story on a road only bike. if thats your go, ABS all the way, man

          • Scott Otte

            Any Dual sport with ABS should have the ability to turn it off. If not that’s a complete fail for the Manufacturer. So yes I agree with what you’re saying… but still I wouldn’t by a motorcycle I plan on riding on streets with out ABS. Just as I wouldn’t buy a bike I plan on riding in the dirt with ABS that I couldn’t turn off.

            • Jono

              yeh, i get where you’re coming from and in most cases I’d agree outright. but the uber light weight DS 250′s and 400/500s really dont need it as much as, say a 600 tenere…

  • El Isbani

    I drive in the rain every month or so and am a new rider. Had a couple of times when a car pulled out in front of me and one where brakes were slammed in front of me–those were the first times I tested my brakes and no problem, BUT–my bike is light and slow, I followed other safety measures (distance, using both brakes), and I wasn’t in a turning position, which is what would scare me. I want ABS on my next bike, but only if it’s an option or b/t two bikes that I really like.

  • Versys Jake

    I think it depends on your muscle memory. I grew up riding dirt bikes and have a lot of experience with slamming on the brakes.One rainy day coming home from work on my street bike I was doing 70 mph on the freeway when the car in front of me changed lanes and traffic was at a dead stop. To my surprise I locked the breaks, slid a little, and then eased up and corrected before I realized what was happening. If your an experienced off-road/MX rider it will become second nature to you and your body will expect the machine to react a certain way. In contrast if you have ABS and expect the bike to lock up, and it doesn’t. you could over-correct and be in a world of hurt. My two cents.

    • Brett Lewis

      I’m not sure how ABS can cause someone to over-correct (both my bikes have ABS). It’s more likely to be the opposite, someone locks up and totally releases the brakes… With ABS there’s no lock-up or sliding, and while the buzz in the lever is a surprise the first couple of times it’s a lot less disconcerting than the alternative.

  • Brian

    Personally for me, it isn’t an option I’d want. That having been said though, I think it is a valuable safety net for those that have yet to learn brake pressure control and other braking techniques.

  • Chris

    ABS is good for all street riders. Why are we still debating this?

    • Brian

      So what is your opinion of linked brakes then?

      • Chris

        I’ve never ridden a bike with linked brakes, so I can’t make an informed comment. That being said, a prime difference of course is that often one can disable ABS, whereas linked brakes will always be linked.

        • Brian

          You can’t disable ABS on all bikes, and yes, I KNOW that I can’t out think the algorithm that is used in ABS systems. I also don’t want the headache of of having to deal with the $$$ and issues of dealing with their components when they fail long term. Electronics will eventually succumb to some kind of failure due to them not being of a solid state nature, and for the long term or secondary market owners, it is not a pleasant thing to have to deal with. Something mechanical is at least more so approachable in comparison.

          • Chris

            Like I said above, I’m not sure why this is still being debated. Is a bike that can save your bacon in a variety of bad circumstances worth a little more initial and/or long term cost? IMHO, yes.

            • Brian

              I can take that same $$$ from the added expense of an ABS upgrade and apply it to a riding techniques improvement class and get way more bang for my buck in terms of saving my bacon. I am once again not saying I am better than ABS, but if I give myself better tools of capability for handling the machine, then my necessity for it decreases.

              • Wes Siler

                I dunno dude, I’m pretty good at this whole bike thing and I really, really, really prefer having ABS. Particularly in everyday riding conditions where I’m dealing with krazy kars, rain grooves, debris, and weather.

                • Brian

                  “Prefer” is the key word you said there Wes, and I take zero away from preference. To me, in the end it is a matter of opinion and application. For those time(s) that ABS may come in to play, I have the safety net of good insurance. As of now I don’t own a bike with ABS and don’t intend to in the near future. I can also say that there isn’t a situation I have personally been in where I suffered as a result of not having ABS. Even when I rode a Blackbird to the inaugural Indy GP event in the Hurricane, I had no need for it and that was pretty hairy at times.

                • Chris

                  Good insurance as a safety net? Interesting philosophy. Personally, I would rather just stay on the bike and upright. The whole “it’s never happened to me” argument is severely flawed. Like the investment bankers say, “past performance is not a guarantee of future results.”

                • Wes Siler

                  Ok, so how about this:

                  I am a better rider than you are and I can state categorically that ABS has saved me from crashes. Both on the track and street.

                • jonoabq

                  Do I want ABS when I’m riding at 10/10th’s? For sure, yes! Do I thinks that all new riders will benefit from it? Not so sure. The issue is that electronic rider aids, in this case ABS, may lead to a sense of false security in that a rider may develop poor habits by having the mindset that they can let the electronics sort things out should they make a set of cascading bad inputs/decisions.

                • grb

                  On the contrary, new riders might benefit more from ABS, which will let them learn and get comfortable with many aspects of their bike and their surroundings, reducing the possibility of consequences and serious injury. They can learn more, faster and safer. After this, it will be much easier for them to jump on a non-ABS bike and concentrate only on learning the proper braking techniques, without worrying about other stuff

                • Guest

                  Might be a dumb question, but does ABS on bikes work essentially the same as ABS on cars?

                • grb

                  yes, its the same principle, same benefits

                • Brian

                  Awesome! How hard were you pushing at those times? On the track, I hope you were going as close to 10/10ths as you possibly could. On the street, if you are pushing 10/10ths and encountered that experience, well, then that is a miscalculation on your part ( IMHO ) for not leaving yourself a margin for error, unless you were doing it deliberately to test those things on purpose. I do realize that 1) you are currently living in an area with roads that almost beg you to push yourself. That paired with 2) a journalistic bravado to present the utmost of what you can and did/do experience for publication. This lends more credibility to fully explaining to a reader how and what you felt/experienced if you are doing a ride review for example. I will not debate the who is a better rider aspect of your comment/reply.

                • Send Margaritas

                  “I am a better rider than you are…”

                  lol, How do you know that you’re a better rider than Brian? There is already an article here documenting that you HAVE crashed Wes. Steve McQueen had less of an ego.

                  Wes, It is that arrogance that makes most anything you say in your articles worthless. Almost as annoying is your comments on anything related to cruiser motorcycles. If we could filter out what you write here, I’d prefer it.

                  A significant improvement to this site would be to list the authors of the articles on the home page, before we’re suckered into reading Wes’s narcissistic opinionated drivel.

                  +1 on ABS though

                • Send Margaritas

                  “Ok, so how about this:
                  I am a better rider than you are and I can state categorically…”

                  You’re way more humble, and less opinionated, than the 7 billion of us out here too Wes.

                • grb

                  Its easy to spots through your comments the lack of experience you have riding, not trying to be rude mate, but any experienced motorcyclist should know there are allot of things that come into play on the streets that you cant always have control over, this is incredibly more important if your new to riding or just haven’t encountered this situations before. I can see by the people voting your comments “up” why its not going to be left to opinion and starting 2016 ABS will be mandatory on all motorcycles over 125cc in the EU.

                  This decision was determined by the studies conducted by ” Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which concluded that motorcycles above 250cc equipped with ABS are 37% less likely to be involved in fatal crashes” And the study of the “Swedish Road Administration, which came to the conclusion that 48% of ALL severe and fatal motorcycle accidents above 125cc could be avoided with motorcycle ABS”

                  There simply is no argument about ABS

                • Brian

                  Well, I am not going to get into a pissing match on how much riding experience I have versus you, because it all differs. You can think what you want, and while I do know I don’t have experience in every riding discipline style, I have more than enough in those where I push my limitations. That being said, on the street, I am generally not pushing myself beyond 7/10ths or maybe 8/10ths if I am feeling good on a nice secluded road I know well. That is because I leave myself a margin for error on purpose. Bambi ( for example) lurks around the corner or other obstacles and potential dangers out of my control. Toss out stats all you want, as they do a lot of good when you are justifying on a keyboard, but do very little when you are behind the bars out on the road. I live on the East Coast in the Mid Atlantic region of the USA, and there is a long time between now and when ABS will be standard equipment on a motorcycle I purchase.

                • grb

                  Well thats my point. So your riding at “8/10″ on a road you know and you’re leaving a margin of error in case “bambi” appears around the corner, if you had experience you would know that as you see bambi and start braking really hard (within your anticipated margin of error) a patch of oil/sand/gravel can appear from one hour to the other, without warning, on the road you know perfectly well, in your situation and from what you are saying you didn’t anticipate this in your 2/10 “margin of error” because you only had space to brake hard on the road you knew from your past rides and not the actual road with oil on it you dont know. You obviously don’t have the experience and you would have probably crash in this situation because you are not prepared.

                  Like I said, there is no argument about ABS, only people who know and people who dont.

                  Now, you cant ride along all the time prepared for the possibility that at the same time you encounter an obstacle and the need for emergency braking, you might also find an oil patch in your way. Riding in this manner would be dull, and this is when ABS can compensate for the unexpected and give you peace of mind to enjoy your ride.

                  Unfortunately, on the East Coast in the Mid Atlantic region of the USA where people don’t understand ABS and no law will make them use it, there will be almost 50% more “severe and fatal” motorcycle accidents that could have been avoided, and all this just because of ignorance about their motorcycle equipment and lack of experience.

                  I think discussions like this started by RideApart are good and can help many motorcyclists learn and be better riders, specially if new. I just hope the guy who posted the original question can discern from founded advice (backed by many overwhelming private and official studies) and passed down misunderstood myths.

                • Brian

                  What ever you say Mate. Obviously we are going to disagree and you feel your way is right and just no matter what. That is fine, because we are entitled to our expressions of opinion. I do disagree with your assessment of my riding capabilities and experience, but it is rather pointless to even consider arguing that because we will both come off as a couple of keyboard cowboys jockeying for position with no real end result that matters to anyone else that reads this discourse. So with that said, I think it would be in the best interest of those you feel need to learn from what is posted here, to keep those kinds of opinions to yourself.

                • appliance5000

                  You’re fabulous in every way. ABS was made for everyone but you – in fact it stands for Almost as goog as Brian for Stopping. You are fab.

          • Braden

            You might want to stick with bikes made pre-1990 then, which come with their own set of safety issues. Good luck finding a bike made in the past couple decades that doesn’t have electronics of some kind that may or may not go bad at some point in the future regardless of the massive benefit they will give you.

            • Brian

              Despite your suggestion of staying with archaic equipment, I am quite happy with my current stable of bikes which treat me fairly well, even if they have their own idiosyncrasies and special issues. My 98 Ducati Monster 900, my 99 Cagiva Gran Canyon, and my 2010 KTM 990 SM-T. They all serve me well and the capacities I use them within and have had to do and perform repairs that I can and have handled and I have done so without issue. Yours and everyone’s assumption that it is about the electronics is wrong, but I’ll let you keep riding that roadway. It is about the components and how expensive they are to replace when they fail when you own a machine long term. That is my issue, and why I choose to not have it.

          • Randy S

            All things fall apart (including you eventually). IMO, there’s no real reason you can’t learn to fix an electronic problem just as you’ve learned to fix mechanical ones.

            If you want something completely intuitive that requires no technological prowess or reliance on machines, I’d say a hike is a nice option.

            • Brian

              Hiking is fine, specially since I know what that takes after having just completed my 1st Marathon last weekend. Marine Corps Marathon – Semper Fi – Oo-Rah

              I know that things break over time. Having helped a buddy of mine go through the procedure to replace the ABS pump( which wasn’t a “cheap” part) on his R1100RS recently, it just isn’t something I would care to have to deal with. In comparison, having to strip and redo the charging system wiring from the rectifier to the regulator on my Cagiva Gran Canyon was a much easier proposition for example( and that wasn’t an easy job). It is more hassle sometimes to do it right, than people think something is or should be. Sometimes it is not just about the time of the repair, but the expense too. Some componentry is just plain expensive, and it is compounded when a bike gets much older and said items are then worth a major fraction of the entire machines worth.

      • Stuki

        Theoretically ideal, but the devil’s in the detail (linking strategy). Honda’s CBR verdion of linked ABS is better than 90% of non aliens

    • Kevin

      This. I’m so sick of riders pretending they can outperform a computer in an emergency braking situation. Especially in the wet.

    • jonoabq

      Because in many cases it adds ~$1,000 to the cost of a motorcycle. And like a lot of other electronic rider aids benefits riders who get in a little over their heads. Does it make you safer? Maybe. Knowing you have an electronic crutch can/may change behavior. Does if make you more skilled? No. Does it let you brake harder/shorter? Yes.

      • Braden

        Does it make you safer?

        I’d say yes without question. Do you have data suggesting otherwise?

        Knowing you have an electronic crutch can/may change behavior.

        Questionable logic. I’ve never met a reckless car driver that rationalized his behavior with “Oh, dont worry, I’ve got this. I’ve got ABS.”
        The tech may be newer on our machines but someone who is willing to take unecessary risk will do so regardless of any electronic nannies.

      • AngrySpaceRasta

        “Does it let you brake harder/shorter?”

        No. ABS allows you to brake as hard as possible while maintaining directional control, at the expense of longer stopping distances.

        Otherwise I agree wholeheartedly.

        • jonoabq

          If I lived somewhere wet, say Portland, I’d (probably, depending on availability) have ABS. I live in the desert Southwest where stopping hard/short is less of an issue. Braking, heck just turning, while leaned over in a sand strewn corner (which are everywhere) can bite you. Having years of dirt experience will serve you better than ABS, though once ABS gets smarter and becomes more useful at various lean angles may change that.

      • Randy S

        “Does it let you brake harder/shorter? Yes.”

        And that’s what will save your hide when you’re not being safe/lucky/skilled. Even experienced riders make plenty of mistakes, so skimping on ABS is almost as foolish as riding without gear because it’s too costly.

    • Scott Foran

      As long as everyone remembers that ABS will NOT stop quicker than a non-ABS bike if proper braking techniques are used. I have proven on a standard traction surface, I can stop quicker with non-ABS than if ABS is engaged. ABS should not be relied on by always grabbing as much brake as you want because the ABS wont skid. Instead, the ABS needs to be looked at as insurance for those times when over-application of the brakes happen, i.e. when you hit a slick spot while braking.

  • markbvt

    Yes on ABS. Until it kicks in, the brakes don’t operate any differently from non-ABS, so the argument about learning feel and braking dynamics is nonsense — the difference is just that when the limits are reached, a non-ABS bike will send most riders to the ground, while an ABS one will typically keep them upright. As others have pointed out, it’s a safety net, and a very useful one. I’ve gone down more than once on an older non-ABS bike because the road surface was covered with something slippery, and applying even relatively light pressure to the front brake caused a lockup. ABS would have prevented this.

  • Justin Christenson

    ABS is nice to have on cars because it gives the computer independent control over each wheel. On a motorcycle, you already have that control, so when you detect slip you can correct. Plus, the amount of grip afforded by the front tire, even in the wet (I should know…I live in Seattle) is so great that I’m not sure if it is necessary.

    If ABS starts to become a cheap option, as it most surely will, then I see no reason why not to have it. But for now it still adds significantly to the price of a new motorcycle and for a new rider starting out, that may just be the difference in affording that first ride.

    • Stuki

      As long as new riders are recommended to buy used bikes, I can agree. For new bikes, I wouldn’t under any circumstance advice new riders to forego ABS.

      A lot of it has to do with cars now having ABS. Pre ABS, bikes could still generally outbrake cars. NOw, a bike without ABS will, under anything other than ideal surface traction and a better than decent rider, be outbraked by grandma in a minivan. And grandma simply won’t check her rear view before stomping on it every time some handsome grandpa stands by the side of the road. It’s an ABS workd on the streets these days, and riding without equipping oneself similarly, is not far from taking a knife to a gunfight.

  • HoldenL

    I’ve never had ABS and I plan to always have ABS with subsequent bikes. Absolutely, a new rider is better off with ABS.

  • Ayabe

    While I’m happy that no one seems to be flat out against it, I’m a little disturbed by the few who seem to want to invent other nonsense in order to justify their opposition.

    Yes electronics are involved, yes something could require replacement down the road, just like…an ECU or any number of other electronic doodads on the bike, fancy that. I doubt you same folks are clamoring for an end to fuel injected bikes. Carbs for life!

    Whether it’s $500 or $2000, it’s worth it, more worth it than 10 rider improvement courses will be, because you WILL make mistakes or react improperly due to an absence of information(you didn’t see the gravel) everyone does.

    There also isn’t any reason why having ABS would prevent a new rider from developing proper techniques, while I think it might be fun to tell someone to seriously just grab the front as hard and fast as you can, I don’t think many people ride or are trained to ride that way. If anything I think it would encourage/give confidence to a new rider to find the real limits of their brakes – knowing they have a safety net.

  • Max Chen

    This may sound really stupid but I didn’t get ABS on my new bike (CBR500R) because Honda didn’t make it available in North America with the tricolor/white HRC color scheme that I wanted. I didn’t want the all red bike. This was a case of me being perfectly willing to give Honda an extra $500 but them not letting me. I know ABS comes with the tricolor/white in Canada too.. so stupid.

    • Guy Simmonds

      In the UK, all 500Rs have ABS as standard, no choice about it. I heartily approve.

      … we also don’t have the red bike over here, and only have the Himalaya White (gorgeous), all black (not my cup of tea, but some people like it)… and a dreadfully boring grey bike. I hope they swap out the grey colour for the red bike next year…

    • imprezive

      That’s funny because I’ve held off buying a CBR500R because I want ABS but really don’t want an all red bike. I don’t know why manufacturers insist on having ABS be their brand color. At least Hondas are red, Kawasaki ABS entry level bikes being green is just ridiculous. I’m hoping for a black or white ABS CBR500R for 2014.

    • SteveNextDoor

      I’m a newer rider (~6-months experience) that is looking to upgrade from my used CRF250L in 6-months or so, and this has been something that has discouraged me (read: saved me a lot of money or I’d have bought a another bike months ago; maybe two of them… okay, there’s at least three I really want and Christmas is around the corner, people).

      I’d like ABS on my next bike; however, here in the US, ABS is not always an option (on the bikes I want for my birthday; you remembered, right?), yet when ABS is available, it is typically tied to a “Which intern was allowed to pick this?” color scheme.

      On a similar note, what is Honda North America’s problem with color? US CB500X is like the Ford Model T: “You can have it in any color you like… as long as it is black.” Europe gets the awesome-looking white version (Valentines? no? yeah, I see your point), but not the US. I think Canada gets red. 500F: white… or black. Oh, how will I ever decide? I know: only one of them comes with ABS, and it isn’t the one I want. Son-of-a….

      • NOCHnoch

        Do a vinyl wrap. It’ll save the original paint and you’ll thank yourself when you need the ABS. I’ve never bought a new bike (my most modern bike is from 98) but if I were to, I’d get ABS no matter the cost. Think of it as buying safety gear, like a helmet or leathers or boots.

    • appliance5000

      Yes it sounds really stupid, Espescially since you’re talking about a fuel tank and 3 pieces of plastic. Pull em off and paint them.

  • Adam

    I don’t belive that ABS actually cut down on auto accidents, people simply drove faster. Its like me riding faster with a helmet and full gear, I simply “use up” the extra safety. It’s human nature. Also, ABS will not manufacture traction. If there is no available traction, there’s simply no traction. Lastly, ABS looses effectiveness rapidly as the bike is banked over. It does nothing about forces that are not torsion at the hub, so if you’re using a lot of breaking forces to slow and the bike is banked over you still slide sideways and go down.

  • Lee Scuppers

    I’ve never been on a bike with ABS and I doubt I ever will — too poor, too into old bikes.

    But I’m kind of wondering — and this is a QUESTION, before everybody jumps down my throat — what are is the likelihood that a new rider with ABS will develop habits that make him unsafe if he ever gets on a bike without it?

    Obviously motorcycling is a matter of practicality above all. The objective, pragmatic merits of a given technology far outweigh any mere metaphysical considerations. We wouldn’t be here if we were influenced by intangibles.

    • Guy Simmonds

      Seems to me like they might get used to throwing on the brakes hard enough to lock them up… without ABS there, they might have little idea about how much brake is “too much”, and no idea for how to compensate for it when the wheels do lock up? Just a thought.

    • NOCHnoch

      Close to nil, if you’re talking about street riding. If ABS comes on, you’ve already fucked up, but instead of crashing, you get a reminder by feeling the ABS activate.

  • Patiperro

    On my first street bike, I high-sided when I hit an oil patch while braking hard to make an upcoming (and unexpected) turn. I was out of commission for a while with a broken clavicle and ankle (with surgerymetal plate for my ankle). Had I been more experienced, I wouldn’t have been distracted and I wouldn’t have crashed. But I also wouldn’t have crashed had I had ABS. My next bike will def have ABS. It’s one less thing to worry about while I build up my general skills.

  • Barnaby H

    I’ve never ridden with a bike with ABS, and am unlikely to get a new one any time soon. And most of the bikes that look interesting to me do not have ABS options (wish it was an add-on for almost all bikes).

    However, reading the descriptions of what is like to use, it seems like ABS would allow one to practice good braking techniques rather than discourage them. I know I don’t practice emergency stops the way I should. The thing is, the moment one locks the front wheel, one goes down–not something I want to do as “practice”. With an ABS bike, one can learn where that lock-up point *would* be (ABS kicks in) without going down. Right? The optimal braking amount is just before the wheel locks up, learning where that is on a non-ABS bike without lots of crashing seems difficult.

    An aside, was talking with some bicycling friends a lot time ago, and they pointed-out that during theoretical “perfect” maximum braking, the rear wheel would have no weight on it.


    • runnermatt

      I like your idea of an add on option for ABS. I would think it wouldn’t be too difficult on bikes. Aftermarket caliper and rotor/rotor carrier with sensors built in and a little ECU to mount somewhere on the bike.

    • Piglet2010

      I would like to upgrade my Honda Deauville with ABS if it could be done for $1K or less (by the time I bought mine it was 2 years old but new).

      On clean, dry pavement I can lock up the front wheel on the Deauville and come to a controlled stop. Oil covered pavement is a different story, and ABS might have prevented a minor low-side I had during gentle braking.

  • runnermatt

    ABS on new bikes is already determined, but how much does ABS affect the price of used bikes?

    • ThinkingInImages

      That’s a good question and one I thought of when I purchased my all black 2013 CBR250R with ABS and linked brakes. It was a 500.00 option. My thinking was this is a well made motorcycle with a bit of a sporting edge to it, a new high tech engine, and positive reviews. It didn’t make much sense to have a braking system that was pretty much the same as what I had thirty plus years ago.

      I think it added a lot of value as a new motorcycle, and I suspect in two or three years, if/when I trade it in, it will be worth more than a model that doesn’t have this option. By then a motorcycle without ABS might seem odd.

  • runnermatt

    It takes a lot of “muscle memory” to be able to effectively panic stop without ABS. Generally they say you have do something 10,000 times to master it. So yeah if a person were to go out and practice threshold panic braking 10,000 they wouldn’t need ABS ever.

  • APG7

    So this is making me re-think my potential FZ-09 purchase. I’ve had a steady progression of bikes from 250 to 500 to a 600 (F4i at the moment), but none with ABS. Seems like I’d have to go with the CBR500s or the Ninja 650 to get ABS in that <9k price range?

  • ThinkingInImages

    ABS, always. I think your question is loaded, though, Wes. Even with ABS you’re learning an important skill. ABS only kicks in at the threshold where the tires lose traction. You’re still learning the complexities of braking all along the way. You are learning a different skill: threshold braking with ABS.

    Considering how “eh”stock tires can be on a motorcycle in terms of traction, it can be valuable. With better tires ABS will probably kick in even less since the threshold is higher.

    ABS is not always an expensive option if you think of it as a performance add-on. Braking is part of the performance equation, not just acceleration and handling. That’s how I saw it when I bought my recent motorcycle.

    My motorcycle also has linked brakes. Yes, it feels a little “different”. It’s subtle but it does change how you use the rear brake with the front brake. Once you settle in with it, you realize it’s a great thing in low speed maneuvers and trail braking. It settles the motorcycle down with a sweet balance between the front and rear.

    I’ve been riding for decades so I have the braking skills without ABS and linked brakes. I had the option to go without ABS and linked brakes – but I was curious to learn something new. I thought of it this way: motorcycles have evolved. Why go with all new tech – except the brakes?

    Anything that’s going to keep my investment in two wheeled rolling technology shiny side up is a good thing. I’ll take that option over “bold new graphics and color”

    Thinking new riders should learn to ride without the latest tech, is like saying they should learn how to kickstart, work a petcock and choke, and set points.

  • Scott Otte

    I think that there is no doubt a new rider or anyone really should have ABS on their bike. Why not?

  • Eduardo

    One must learn to break WITHOUT ABS, but when it comes to buy a motorcycle, it’s a no-brainer to get the ABS, especially when it has an off-switch and you get the best of both worlds.

    Anyone saying ABS is useless is either a professional GP racer or a moron with ego issues. Even the professional GP racer would use the ABS for commuting.

  • Tyler McAvoy

    People and vehicles are a perfect mesh of technology and soul. If improving the technology makes you a little safer and conserves the longevity of your soul in your body then I’m not really sure what the argument against ANY safety (or go-fast) tech is. People against ABS in bikes come from a similar school of thought of those against GTR-like driver aids which I never really understand. Extrapolate the same argument to the Model-T days and I think you’d have those some people picketing Henry Ford’s plant with signs saying “HORSE AND BUGGIES ARE A MORE PURE EXPERIENCE”. Besides, if an extra $500-$1000 bucks is breaking your budget on a motorcycle, you should probably not be shopping for a new motorcycle.

  • Joshua Winn

    Late to the party, but…
    Accidents are called accidents because you don’t expect it to happen. ABS has overwhelming been shown with statistics that it prevents accidents, and there is as of yet no statistical evidence that ABS increases motorcycle accidents.

    The numbers don’t lie, but if it does and you know it, please contact the entire motorcycle industry, because they must be told.

    If you can claim that perfect motorcycling skills are attainable, then by all means, share it with MotoGP, WSBK, or me for that matter.

    If you can accept that you aren’t the best all the time, but still insist ABS is a hoax or not worth the cost, then you should probably take a course in logic. ABS is Insurance against very bad things.

    Getting hurt is expensive, and not just monetarily.

    Trust the scientific approach to ABS, not Johnny Biker at Newcomb’s Ranch.

  • Chris Cope

    Get with the ABS, yo. I am religiously in favor of it. Not a month after I first got my bike I found myself in a bad situation I wasn’t expecting and my inexperience caused me to full-on panic. I am 90-percent certain I would now be dead –– or at least, paralyzed –– were it not for the ABS. My bike is Honda, as well, so I can vouch that it is totally unobtrusive. You will never notice it until you absolutely desperately need it. Then you’ll be glad it’s there.

  • Von

    Thanks for posting Wes and for everyone’s input. It seems like ABS is a safety net that shouldn’t affect normal riding until something’s gone wrong. By then we WANT it to kick in to keep us upright instead of on the ground. For $500 on the Honda CB500F it’s not a pricey option that’s a deal breaker. I’ll definitely opt for the ABS when I get my bike. I guess my buddy has it wrong, oh well. He did say that he rode a buddy’s BMW (1200GS maybe?) and couldn’t get it to stop around corners because of the ABS kicking in. My buddy rides a Bonneville so maybe he was just expecting it to stop the same or pushing the GS too hard and making the ABS kick in. Who knows. At least for me I know how to ride a motorcycle and the physics and dynamics since I raced motocross, so that learning curve is passed. I’m sure the MSF course will help as well using non-ABS bikes to learn proper braking techniques for street. Every safety feature is helpful when our ‘cage’ is our gear and body. A good topic to discuss.

    • NOCHnoch

      I don’t have ABS because I have an older bike, but I’d get it if I could. It’s safety gear, just like a helmet or armor.

  • 962c

    On one of my bikes (BMW K1200S) the routing of the lines creates some problems with brake feel and possibly bubbles in the lines. It’s hard to bleed and because they are so long and near engine heat the brakes can go soft during spirited riding. My GSA has no such problems. But the modules do go out and since they can fail unexpectedly you can be left without ABS exactly when you really need it. I do not consider myself an exceptional rider but a few years ago I got caught in a high elevation hail/snow storm. It was nearly whiteout conditions and dumped 6-8″ in a half hour, so I just took my time and not once did I engage TC or ABS. So, I think you should learn to ride without them and learn discretion first. If you’re following Granny close enough that you have to outbrake her then you’re probably too close. If you’re not going to take the time to learn then make sure you only ride when it’s sunny and dry.

  • John

    It’s probably a good idea. I grew up on dirt bikes, so I’ve always had a good instinct for high speed braking and have never broken loose the front wheel, nor even in the worst, near death experience, put the bike down because of braking (and believe me, I should have). I don’t really feel I need it at this point, but then again, given how much better brakes have gotten, my next bike might flip me by accident too. But many if not most of the accidents I know were from people who locked the front wheel.

  • KeithB

    “to really learn the feel of the bike and to understand braking dynamics”
    Hmmm…I don’t see people doing that with cars. Oh, right , you can’t because all cars have ABS.
    Now I wonder why that might be……..?
    I have had many bikes without ABS but when making my most recent purchase, I decided ABS would be a must have.
    Never been in a street situation that required ABS intervention but still nice to know I have some help if things get pear shaped.
    To recommend someone buy a bike without ABS is bullshit!
    When you are in a situation that the ABS has been set off and is making THAT sound, you are on the “threshold” anyway and will experience some behaviour modification pucker factor.

  • VagrantCoyote

    I’ve never experienced riding a bike with ABS, but regardless of a lot of riding experience and time in the saddle, I’d buy ABS without question. A computer is faster and smarter than me, particularly in split second decision making when a lot is on the line.

  • ben

    This study:

    The gist?: you’re 37% less likely to die in a motorcycle accident if you have abs than if you don’t… THIRTY SEVEN F*%$)$G PERCENT!!!

    I had no idea the difference was so significant… my next bike will most definitely have ABS…this should be a non-question.

  • Bruce Steever

    Living in sunny SoCal, i wasn’t initially smitten with ABS when i first started riding professionally (2002-ish). Now that i performance test machines full time, i am totally sold. Yes, I can outbreak many of the systems on the market under ideal conditions, but it usually takes a few warm up runs first.

    Ask yourself this: during an emergency, do you:
    A.) get a few practice runs?
    B.) get to choose the road and weather conditions?

  • Luís Bompastor

    Want to learn something? Buy a fixed gear bike! When you’re going 50 or 100 mph, all kinds of safeties come in handy!