On January 1st, 2016, it became mandatory for all motorcycles that have an engine displacement greater than 125cc to have an ABS system fitted. In addition, smaller motorised two-wheelers with a displacement of 50cc or more are now required to have either ABS or a combined brake system fitted.
From 2017, it became a legal requirement for all new motorbikes produced from January onwards. If you have recently purchased a new motorbike that fits the criteria, it will be fitted with an ABS system designed to protect you and other road users from injury or accidents.
ABS, or an anti-lock braking system, prevents the wheels of a bike from locking up when braking. Based on information from wheel speed sensors, the ABS unit is able to adjust the pressure of the brake fluid in order to keep the bike upright. This, in turn, helps the rider to remain stable and will decrease the stopping distance required in a hard braking situation.
ABS is particularly useful on wet or slippery road conditions. The ABS systems found on motorbikes has actually been adapted from the traditional ABS systems offered in cars. This makes it incredibly advanced and offers important additional safety features for riders.
Two wheels are generally less stable than four wheels, no matter how expert a rider you are. Braking hard can destabilise your bike, which can lead to your front or rear wheel locking up, possibly resulting in the bike sliding or overturning.
Obviously, these situations are incredibly dangerous for both the riders and other road users. Anti-lock braking (ABS) systems on motorcycles have a number of benefits, not least of all to help reduce the rate of death and severe injury from motorcycle crashes in the UK.
As of January this year, all new bikes will be fitted with an ABS system. But, with this in mind, where does it leave riders of bikes that are not so new?
If your bike was manufactured prior to January 2016 and does not have an ABS system, there is no legal requirement that you should have one fitted. There is, however, the unquestionable reality that bikes with an ABS system fitted are considered to be a lot safer than those without.
ABS systems are expensive – there are no two ways about it. We’re in a technology window where some people might consider it for their bike that came without ABS. A bit like when Fuel Injection first came out, some people did away with it and chose to retro-fit carbs instead.
In most cases, it will be easier and far cheaper to buy a new bike instead of fit your own ABS system. A manufacturer-produced system will be cheaper and more capable.
MOT’s are currently not effected by the absence of an ABS system on pre-2016 models, but they will make a note of it on the advisory. Whether this will change in years to come to a potential MOT fail, only time will tell.
Owners of older bikes can also be a little snobby about the requirement to fit ABS systems on existing bikes. If you generally believe that good riders don’t need ABS then you could be an accident waiting to happen. ABS systems save lives. Nobody plans to have an accident on the road, even those that ride like idiots don’t expect that they will actually crash or cause damage or injury to themselves or others.
ABS systems are a potentially life saving addition to your motorbike. If you buy new, it will come as standard. If you are considering upgrading your pre-2016 motorbike, seriously, have a look at some of the videos available on youtube, or research this years accident statistics to see how controlled braking can help save lives.