What is ABS on a Motorcycle? And How Does it Work

person riding motorcycle

If as a rider you’ve ever taken a motorcycle safety course or additional training in your initial days, you will know that swerving and stopping is a big topic that is discussed in length in these courses.

Swerving and stopping is what calls for the need to install ABS unit or Anti-Lock Braking System in motorcycles and believe it or not, even today this subject gets a lot of question and attention from the bikers’ community.

In this comprehensive guide, we will discuss in detail what is ABS on a motorcycle, how ABS systems work, what are the advantages of having anti lock braking systems, and why exactly you need them on the front and rear wheels of your beloved bike.

What is ABS on a Motorcycle?

ABS stands for Anti-Lock Braking System.

It is a technology that uses hydraulics or electronics to prevent the wheels from locking up when you apply the brakes in an emergency situation. The ABS hydraulic unit helps to control wheel speed. It acts as a tone wheel and improves the braking system pressure and wheel locking safety features of the motorcycle.

This helps riders in faster braking and achieving better stability while cornering, thus improving motorcycle safety and personal safety standards to a great extent.

How Does ABS Work?

Before we get into how anti lock braking systems work, it’s important to understand what would happen if your braking pressure is high on a road without ABS.

When you apply the brakes hard, there is a possibility of your bike skidding or sliding and wheel locking due to its high speed, heavyweight and full brake force. This will make it difficult for riders to stay in control during such situations. 

Also, when your wheels are locked up, there is no grip between the tires and the road which means that even a slight turn can be fatal while going at high speeds.

Now that we know why ABS is required on motorcycles, let us take a look at how it works –

ABS uses a pressure magnetic sensor, attached to each brake line so as to any loss of pressure during braking. These small metallic ring gear can decrease your stopping distance and reduce braking distance significantly.

Once you apply the brakes, these sensors send out signals to the ABS controller about how much pressure is being applied. If there has been a loss of pressure due to the locking up of wheels, then the ABS controller will trigger valves that activate the hydraulic control unit which triggers fluid flow in different directions.

This makes it possible for your wheels to continue rotating without any lock-ups. This way, riders are able to brake faster even in emergency situations with ease and comfort, allowing them to stay in control during adverse conditions. 

Advantages of Having ABS on Your Bike

All new bikes come fitted with this feature but if you still haven’t invested in ABS yet or looking for some convincing reasons why you should go ahead with ABS, here are a few advantages that might help you make up your mind –

1. Improved Braking:

ABS can help riders brake quickly and easily even in inclement weather conditions such as rains, thus saving a lot of time and effort during an emergency situation.

2. Increased Stability:

It also helps to increase the stability while cornering giving way for better control over the bike during critical moments where the slightest mistake could cost lives.

3. Increased Traction Control

ABS also helps you to maintain the optimum traction between the road and your tires during high-speed braking, thus giving way to better stability.

4. Better Stability During Jump Starts:

When you are at a standstill, just give the throttle a little push while trying to start the engine. If ABS is turned off or malfunctioning, then there is always a chance that it can cause your rear wheel to lock up making it difficult to move out of the starting point.

But with a working ABS system in place, there are fewer chances of this happening as the brakes will kick in automatically when needed.  

5 . Ensures Safety For The Rider And Passenger:

It puts riders under complete control in inclement weather conditions thus ensuring safety for all those who are riding with you on the bike.

The bottom line:

ABS is a good investment on new bikes as it provides riders with better stability, traction control, and increased braking.

It also works to ensure rider’s safety which makes ABS worth every penny on new bikes. However, there are few bikes that will not support this feature on older models but one can always rely on the aftermarket fitment of ABS kits for their motorcycle if needed.  

Why ABS is Necessary For You?

Without any doubt, ABS or Anti-Lock Braking System has made life easier for riders worldwide by making their braking far more efficient than ever before.

It’s pretty clear how it works and all but what it actually does is to prevent your wheels from locking up when you press the brakes. This system works by sending out electronic signals to your braking unit which then starts releasing fluid that paralyzes the pressure sensors present inside the brake pads thus preventing them from working.

This way, there is no reduction in speed and it becomes easier for riders to adjust their speed according to the road conditions reducing the chances of fatal accidents.

Nobody likes locking up their rear wheel especially on two-wheelers as it can be quite scary given how much force is needed at times but ABS makes sure that you will not lose control over your motorcycle under any condition – be it on a slippery icy road or rough terrains.

However, if you are still wondering why ABS makes riding safer for riders; here are four more facts about anti-lock brakes that will help you understand why ABS is necessary for you.   

1. Reduces Your Reaction Time

If we base our calculations on simple physics, we will come to know about the concept of ‘time’. It’s a universal truth – the larger your vehicle and its mass, the more time it takes to change its speed or direction.  Hence, braking safely becomes easier once you have increased brake proportionately with the increase in your bike’s weight.   

2 . Prevents Loss Of Control

This is as much as important as having working brakes on your two-wheeler especially if you are riding through difficult terrain or unpredictable road conditions where taking sudden turns can be dangerous. ABS prevents loss of control over your bike not only because of functional brakes but also due to increased traction.

3 . Reduces Fading Effect During Heavy Braking:

If you are riding at high speeds then the chances that the front or rear tire might lock up are pretty high. This can be pretty dangerous as you might lose control over your two-wheeler and if the road is slippery then this will prove fatal.  ABS helps you reduce this problem without reducing braking force thus making it easier to break even at higher speeds.

4 . Lessens Brake Fade:

If you are riding in a very hot weather condition where the temperature of brakes keeps on increasing with every stop, ABS comes in handy by transferring heat away from rotors that help them stay cooler which makes stopping shorter in distance hence improving your safety margin.  


ABS or Anti-lock Braking System is a very useful addition to motorcycle technology that has been used on bikes manufactured since the late ’90s.

It’s not as complicated as it may seem and all you need to do is keep checking your brake fluid levels to ensure that ABS works properly at all times. If your bike doesn’t come with this feature then there are aftermarket kits available for installation which might cost more than a few bucks but they will help you gain complete control over your two-wheeler making riding safer.  

All said and done, ABS might not be perfect in eliminating front-wheel lockups completely but it does reduce the chances of accidents by making braking faster, smoother, and enabling riders to take corrective actions before locking up wheels at high speeds.  

So, invest in ABS to invest in safer rides!

About The Author

daniel and sarah on motorcycle

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