Jan 9, 2011

25 What is Antilock Braking System (ABS) in Simple English

Simple explanation of how ABS works on motorcycles. Also India is about to get ABS equipped motorcycles soon and why one should opt for it..

A personal (scary) experience:

It was back in 1999. I was riding my CBZ and was behind a bus. Suddenly the bus took a sharp left turn which took me by surprise as I was concentrating on the bus in front of me and wasn’t really focusing on the road. I was not prepared for the sharp left turn. As a result, I suddenly found myself off the road on a gravel surface. I was sure to crash in a couple of seconds, least I was successful in steering the motorcycle slowly towards the left turn..!!

Since there are only two wheels to balance, ride and brake, a motorcycle is always vulnerable to losing control..

But that was easier said that done. As I hit my rear brakes (didn’t engage the front brake as I was in a turn) to reduce my speed, I could sense the rear wheel losing grip on the grfavel surface. Instinctively I released the pressure on the rear brakes just enough to regain some grip on the loose surface. But then I again had to reduce my speed and make the left turn, so I had to put pressure on the rear brake moments later.

This whole scary episode must have lasted for 2-3 seconds at most but let me tell you it was terrifying. I had modulated my rear brakes by applying and releasing pressure and thereby remained in control of my bike and saved my skin and my pillion friend (oh sorry, I forgot to tell about him in the beginning) as well.

The above experience demonstrates the need for an ABS system for motorcycles as the process of applying and releasing pressure on the brakes is done automatically by the ABS during times of panic braking..!!

What is ABS?

ABS stands for Antilock Braking System. It prevents the "locking up" of wheels on the motorcycle so that one remains in control of the vehicle.

ABS Symbol

What is "Locking up" of wheels?

All of us would have applied brakes on loose surface like on gravel/sandy roads or on wet roads. I am sure that most of us would have sometime experienced the scary sensation when the wheels on our bikes stop spinning on braking because of the lack of grip. This particular stopping of spinning of the wheels due to lack of road grip is called as "Locking up" of wheels.

Locking up of the rear wheel result the bike's rear end slide like a "fishtail"(as shown in the photo below). Locking up of the front wheel in majority of cases results in a crash. Regaining control of a two wheeler in case of a front wheel lock is very difficult.

How does ABS work?

I’ll leave out the detailed technical explanation of the ABS system, Instead let me try to explain the concept in very simple language.

    1. The ABS has electronic sensors attached to each wheel which monitors the rotation of the individual wheels

    2. On application of brakes, whenever the ABS detects that the wheels are about to lock up (when both wheels starts to rotate at different speeds), it automatically releases and applies pressure on the brakes

    3. This automatic modulation of brakes can happen multiple times in a single second (which gives a sensation of pulsation while braking).

What the ABS does is lets the rider remain in control on loose/slippery surface in situations of panic braking.

The video posted below quite clearly demonstrates the difference ABS can make in saving you from a crash.

India to get ABS on India made motorcycles soon..!!

The Honda CBR250R will be first made in India bike to feature this life saving ABS feature. At Rs. 30,000 extra it definitely is a costly feature, but then just ask yourself, isn’t your life worth more than just Rs. 30,000?

There is also another rumor that TVS would launch an ABS equipped Apache RTR 180 model probably in a month or two. The rumored ABS on the Apache RTR 180 has been speculated to be around Rs. 8,000 more..!!

Since there are only two wheels to balance, ride and brake, a motorcycle is always vulnerable to losing control. There is even a proposal to make ABS mandatory on all two wheelers above 125 cc in Europe.

I say make this mandatory in India too.

Note: ABS is not a motorcycle stunters favorite feature. Since ABS prevents the wheels to rotate at different speeds, doing stoppies is not possible with the ABS engaged.

But then there can always be an option to shuff off the ABS with the flick of a switch.

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This is to remind that the Views or Opinions in the blog are entirely mine unless explicitly stated. The Views and Opinions published in this blog should in no way be related to any other person or organization associated -- directly or indirectly -- with me.


Anbu said...

Nice Explanation.....Thank u.

Anonymous said...

thanks man..i was searching for this information..booked cbr with c-abs

Anonymous said...

Thank you SP bro.

I known this long ago but by this everyone will know about it and its importance.

It will be there "need" than "want" :-) :-)
I loved the ABS button switch.Its innovative.

Sajal said...

A similar type of video is available for Apache RTR 180 ABS too!! No doubt that a proper ABS system is very essential for Indian conditions where 9 out of 10 days, you would find yourself in situations that you explained.

The mandatory ABS proposal in Europe shows how proactive those countries are in terms of motorcycling and the behavior of Indian government shows how dinosaur aged thinking we have over here.

praveen said...

My SUZUKI RITZ car has equipped with ABS+EBD(electronic brake force disturbution) system, i checked how this system works in speeds of 120 kmph i applied panic braking surprising without skidding and loosing my vehicle stability i controlled my car safely. And i request to bike manufacturers this much more important safety feature to put atleast a option for todays performance biking.

Rohit said...

The explanation on ABS is great man.

Siddharth Soni said...

The next bike I am gonna buy ought to have ABS! :)


Anonymous said...

sajal it would be unfair to blame govt directly..
bike makers also owe a responsibility...plus the huge development n production costs incurred also prevent !

S.P - Biker Next Door said...


Sajal's got a point actually. If the Govt. makes it compulsory to implement ABS on all vehicles (cars and bikes included), manufacturer's will not have any option but to provide them.

For example because of the stringent pollution norms all car makers had to adopt fuel injection during the early 1990's (since carburetors weren't able to cope with the pollution norms).

Agreed cost will increase but with mass production, the cost can definitely rationalize. Moreover Human life is more precious than any amount.

Sharath Kamath said...

@Payeng - Very nice blog...did u see the new Honda CBR250R Ad...it very good...its on my fb...taken from you-tube...look out...n lastly "Happy New year" buddy...

Anonymous said...

"I saw make this mandatory in India too." - Typo

"I say" - is that what u meant?


S.P - Biker Next Door said...


thanks for correcting bro

Anonymous said...

ya rite payeng, mass production holds the key.

Sandeep Sharma said...

great explaination man, wonderful...

Anonymous said...

nice thank u

Satya Narayan said...

I have always wondered, what the hell ABS can make any difference to riding safety and also about the technology itself? Got it all. Thanks for sharing the video, it tells thousand words.

Anonymous said...

on non slippery road..ABS increases the braking distance..hence on normal grippy roads, stoping distance is always greater than without ABS... hence u might end up collision with ABS....what's ur take on it ?

S.P - Biker Next Door said...


ABS is ALWAYS a safer feature to have under all conditions

Anonymous said...

this is just an example.
on a normal tar road...
if a bike stops from 100Kmph speed in 100 feets without ABS.
with ABS it will stop at 110 feets...i am telling that extra 10 feet might cost u the collision....
i knw that on slippery road ABS will help automatically...

Anonymous said...

Great. You've explained ABS in simple language.

abhilash nair said...

at any conditions abs will reduce breaking distance.you will see the clear advantage during panic breaking.thats all.once your breaks locks up you loses the balance and you loses control.abs prevents this .have a look at the breaking distance charts of a particular model of car or bike and you can see the reduction in breaking distance of a abs model to the non abs one

vijaya kumar said...

Very nice explanation with demonistration.. It is clearly differentiating a Bike with normal Brake system and ABS. Most useful explanation.

Abhilash nair said...

UPDATE-abs system for bikes are available.saferide.com(indian brand Rs 1250),bosch & some chinese company(Rs-700).saferide abs is compatible for almost all the bikes fitted with disc brakes.installation also seems to be easy.bosch makes three models which are ECU controlled and has very advanced features.dont know the price.i am trying to get one for my avenger.will update the result.

Bhushan said...

It going to make dumb people dangerous. Dont let them switch to non-ABS after having spent time with ABS.....u know what i mean.

Sambamurthy said...

Very good Video Explanation !!

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