ABS Will Sell Well?

ktmboschsmallKTM has just announced that the production of their new 2014 models the 1190 Adventure and Adventure R will feature, “a truly revolutionary rider assistance system”, Motorcycle Stability Control (MSC).

KTM say that, “This system makes a long held dream come true – an ABS (Advanced Braking System) that even works perfectly while cornering.” The KTM Adventure is fitted with a Combined Antilock Braking System (C-ABS) which combines front and rear wheel braking together.

The MSC system was jointly developed by KTM and Bosch and although KTM say that MSC together with C-ABS will prevent or minimise:

  • MSC can prevent the wheels from slipping when braking while leaning over.
  • MSC minimises the righting moment when braking while leaning over.
  • MSC prevents rolling over in emergency stops.
  • MSC prevents rear wheel skids when accelerating while leaning over.
  • MSC prevents rising of the front wheel while accelerating.

They do throw in the caveat that, just as with any assistance system, these are within the limits of physics.

Bosch have said that, “In particular, extreme misjudgement of the riding situation and major errors on the part of the biker can still lead to an accident. Nonetheless, the system supports bikers in borderline situations, helping them get more out of their motorcycles, while keeping them much safer at the same time.”

If MSC works in real world riding conditions then motorcycling is in for a big change, within the laws of physics.

Switching Off!

KTMs present Adventure models feature C-ABS  which can be switched off and also placed in an Offroad mode.

The offroad mode, according to KTM, allows the rider to block the rear wheel as and when required – which they say is, “a prerequisite for committed offroad riding and deliberately executed slides.” with the ABS function remaining active on the front wheel, even in offroad mode

Also on the Adventure bikes is the MTC (Motorcycle Traction Control) system which, according to KTM, provides four different modes (plus OFF), again developed with BOSCH, the system reacts in a matter of milliseconds if the rear wheel begins to rotate too rapidly for the riding conditions.

The system also makes use of the ride-by-wire system (no physical throttle cable – Good Lord!) to reduce propulsion to a safe level, subject to the angle of lean.

Depending on the MTC mode, the EMS (Engine Management System) can also adjust the power from the engine – for example, “only” 100 instead of 150 hp in rain mode.

Also somewhere in all the technical functionality of the KTM is the prevention of tail wheel lift, if a riders brakes too hard on the front wheel (sometimes deliberately) this can cause the rear wheel to come up in a “stoppie” or the front wheel loses grip and down you go down the road!

As alluded to there are four different MTC modes with one of those being OFF, as KTM say about their current Adventure’s, “Those who know better than the MTC can enjoy maximum propulsion at all times, completely to their individual tastes, without electronic assistance.”

So it looks like we have systems from KTM with Bosch for riders whose abilities come below the abilities of the motorcycle and those whose abilities and experience sometimes get caught out by the laws of physics.

It can happen to the best of us and as magazine road testers start to test the new Adventure to extremes, we suspect that there will be a love or hate relationship with the systems and how they affect the performance, handling and stop-ability of the bike.

Off-Road Ability

These KTMs are designed or promoted with an off-road ability, either on non-metallic roads (roads with a “loose” surface) that still require the rider and bike to be road legal (insurance/VED etc) or fully off-road or  perhaps a mixture of the two on a round the world trip through far flung outer Mongolia.

The “off” capability of the systems is to facilitate this type of riding, so when returning to the tarmac the bike the systems can be engaged which makes the bike suitable again to that surface.

However put all these systems into a high powered sports bike and one would have to ask is there the requirement to have the ability to switch these systems off, other than the settings in the different riding modes e.g. – Sport – Street – Rain – Off Road.

For a “pure” road going bike why would manufacturers fit an off switch, when Honda says, “Electronically Controlled Combined ABS is the world’s first electronically controlled braking system for super sport bikes.

All levels of licensed riders can experience a new level of advanced braking performance on a large motorcycle simply by applying the brakes normally and firmly. The system is designed to electronically distribute front and rear braking forces to facilitate smooth braking without wheel lock.” why would they give a rider the capability to switch off their system, that is promoted as safe and beneficial?

In the recently agreed European Legislation, to be introduced by January 2016, all new type approved motorcycles of more than 125 cc are to be equipped with an enhanced ABS (Advanced Brake System – Combined Brake System (CBS) and/or Anti-lock Braking System (ABS)), whereas the incorporation of anti-lock or combined brake systems for motorcycles under 125 cc will be left to the choice of the vehicle manufacturer.

The European Commission will decide, before the end of 2019, whether to propose extending the mandatory fitting of anti-lock braking systems to categories of smaller motorcycles, after an evaluation and taking into account road accident statistics.

But in all this there is nothing in any regulation that stops manufacturers fitting an off switch!

So What Of Riders?

During the debate on the European Commission regulation proposal and ABS in 2011 we stated our opinion was that ABS is not the panacea to reduce motorcycle casualties (20% over ten years) that “Brussels” would have us believe.

However other motorcycle manufactures who produce similar bikes to the KTM Adventure are equipping them with similar control systems.

The Italian Ducati’s Multistrada 1200, is equipped with its own sophisticated electronics package, Traction Control, ABS/Bosch, riding modes and the Ducati Skyhook Suspension (DSS) system, which features a semi-active suspension management that constantly re-adjusts damping to maintain optimum vehicle composure, apparently as if the motorcycle was suspended from the sky.

So did riders ask for all these new technological systems? Like the latest tablet or phone technology when it is announced to the buying public and clambered over, as a must have, to a degree as riders hold some decorum, there is a want for new technology!

Riders cannot cry out that there was no consultation as the issue of ABS was discussed, debated politically, published from as far back as 2008 and well lobbied by Bosch to certain MEPs, in a public hearing, in publically accessed committees and working groups with politicians, technical experts, government representatives and riders groups.

There is of course the rhetoric that these systems and legislation to introduce them as compulsory, removes the freedom of choice – for riders to choose to have or not have the system on a bike – we have to be careful here in case of a back lash on the freedom of choice issue.

However with over 27 million PTWs (motorcycles –scooters – mopeds) in use in Europe and their riders –  the average rider – the majority of riders, want the freedom of choice to have these systems on their bikes  and do not care that there is no alternative.

For these riders there appears to be no concern of these systems being fitted or the inconvenience or cost if there are electronic failures, these riders do not care, it is a part of modern acceptability and they want their bikes to have the latest technology fitted.

What Will The Future Hold?

There is the issue of rider training and what kind of rider will the future hold. There seems to be concerns that there will be a reliance on this on-board technology, instead of seat of the pants reactions and the capability to read and feel what the bike is doing.

This is coupled with riders being trained “properly” regarding rider anticipation, hazard awareness training – scanning ahead, which enables a rider to take evasive action, including braking, when a potential collision is still several seconds from happening or simply evading any potential situation in the first place.

This technology will not anticipate or take the place of hazard awareness but it could help when evasive action is needed, in that moment of panic where the time frame from the perceived hazard to the conclusion of the impact, either with another vehicle or with road infrastructure is, “typically between 2 and 3 seconds.” (Northern Ireland Motorcycle Fatality Report 2012 – pdf 1.1mb)

Perhaps instead of some sort of panacea being offered to reduce collisions, fatalities and injuries what we are being offered is an actual cure or at least a partial remedy?

However we would say that all this technology is going to sell well!

Links Information

New KTM 1190 Adventure My14 – Safest Motorcycle Due To World’s First MSC! – Click Here

Bosch Automotive Technology for two-wheelers – Click Here

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  1. Maybe what will be created is a new riders or old dogs taught new tricks, that will “manage” these systems with a new style or riding.

    For as sure as night turns to day, along will come a rider showing how to get the best of these systems to their greatest ability, taking them and rider skills to another level – on the edge with technology.

    Maybe not a higher level but a level that is parallel with those “we” already have.

    But then again do riders ever takes their skills to the maximum on their daily ride whether commuting or out for a weekend ride.

    By skills in this context I mean the ability to control the bike as opposed to our skills for reading the road – forward observation – anticipation – hazard awareness should always be up and running at maximum.

    Therefore an other question springs to mind. Do we sometimes just let the bike do its own thing, with not much input or thinking on our part on machine control because we can reach a stage, when we just naturally ride the bike?

    Trevor Baird – Right To Ride EU

  2. Bob Craven says:

    Looks and sounds to be the best thing since sliced bread. At least to some motorcyclists.

    For many years now, ever since the 1970’s motorcycle manufacturing of bikes has been led by a great degree by sports or sporting events. Many new initiatives have been brought forward as a result of their pioneering work and have been to some degree successful in the production of new mechanisms and interventions on such bikes and the idea that they would in general improve safety. This is the latest development and by all sounds like a brilliant idea.

    There are those sceptics who still believe in the head and hand rule. That the brain takes in the information and by processing it develops a plan for the road ahead re speed, position, gear, braking and acceleration etc so they won’t like this modern attachment.

    There are those, on the other hand, who would welcome this intervention but the more purist, above, would argue that those individuals, who couldn’t organise a bike ride [ or a piss up in a brewery] let alone ride a bike properly without such modifications, are allowing for their stupid mistakes to be corrected rather than riding within reasonable limits.

    They would argue also that by taking out of the equation the danger of overdoing it and riding outside their comfort zone they are doing a disservice to those who know and understand the dangers that they face every day on the roads and ride accordingly.

    Not being reliant on other systems that would or could mitigate the seriousness of an incident. ie it would cause those riders to ride disproportionately less safe due to the knowledge that this intervention will kick in and recover a dangerous situation.

    Not a good scenario. idiots being idiots.

  3. Is this the law of physics catching up with the rider?

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