What is ABS and why is it important?



With the onslaught of new and technologically superior bikes in India, there are a few terminologies doing the rounds that not everyone fully understands. Ever asked yourself this question: What is ABS? Well, if you did, read on to find out what it is and why it is so important. If you didn’t, read on anyway.

What is ABS?

ABS stands for Anti-lock Braking System. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about it:

Anti-lock braking system (ABS) is an automobile safety system that allows the wheels on a motor vehicle to maintain tractive contact with the road surface according to driver inputs while braking, preventing the wheels from locking up (ceasing rotation) and avoiding uncontrolled skidding. It is an automated system that uses the principles of threshold braking and cadence braking which were practiced by skillful drivers with previous generation braking systems. It does this at a much faster rate and with better control than a driver could manage. 

This is so not helpful! Let me rephrase. As the name suggests, Anti-lock Braking System prevents the wheels from locking up and skidding when too much brake pressure is applied. All of you must have been in the situation, where the tires stops rotating but the car/bike doesn’t stop moving, leaving some unsightly black marks on the road. ABS removes that, completely.

what is ABS?Why is ABS important?

For some people, skidding and sliding on the road is supposed to be fun. This is especially true for racers, and more so for drifters. But for all other “normal” people, wheels locking up on the road is a very bad thing. Because:

  1. You are not using the full braking potential of the tires, so braking distance will increase substantially.
  2. You will most likely lose some, if not all control of your vehicle when the wheels lock up.
  3. Your tires will wear out much more quickly.

Let me share with you a practical example of how useful ABS can be in real life.

During my recent 4000 km trip around India on my Duke 390, there were quite a number of occasions where I had to panic brake from 120-140 kmph down to a dead stop, and quite quickly. Like when I was going from Kota to Indore, a stray dog suddenly came in front of my bike and I could do nothing but push both the front and rear brake with everything I had.

Because my Duke 390 comes equipped with ABS, even braking so hard at such high-speed didn’t cause me to skid and kiss the tarmac. This is extremely important, especially for the crazy road conditions in India. The best part about ABS is that it is sensitive to where you are riding. Like if you are on a stretch with sand and small pebbles, it is much more likely that you will skid easily, so the ABS will start intervening quite heavily. On a good piece of asphalt, you may never even feel it is there.

skid marks ABSWhat does ABS feels like?

I have been asked this question quite a few times, what does it feel like when ABS comes into the picture? It’s hard to explain! What you feel is a pulsation on the brake lever, like someone is pulling it away and then pushing it back in very very rapidly. This is in concurrence with what is really going on – the ABS is removing the brake pressure and putting it back about 20 times per second to make sure the tire speed is reducing as effectively as possible, without locking up.

Should you buy an ABS vehicle?

Absolutely! I can’t even imagine riding a bike now that doesn’t come with ABS, it would be such high stress on my tiny brain. Unfortunately, ABS doesn’t come as standard on almost all vehicles in India. In bikes it is available only on very high-end machines, in cars only on the top variants. I don’t think I would every buy any vehicle again without this sweet piece of tech.

ABS is a true hero in my book, from the outside you can’t even tell it is there, but on the inside it is like your savior angel. Working in the shadows, saving your life and others as well!

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  1. WriterlySam

    Haha! I like this phrase, “For some people, skidding and sliding on the road is supposed to be fun.” Yep, not for me, unless I’m filming an action movie in a VERY controlled environment:) You did a great job explaining the importance of this, “savior angel”!

    A to Z #TeamDamyanti

    1. AK

      Thanks a lot Sam!

  2. KS

    Hi Akhil, is it possible to install ABS after purchase??

    1. AK

      Not right now KS, as far as I know. Soon Bosch ABS systems should be available to fit in after market.

  3. amit jadhav

    akhil what do you think about the ABS which is there in TVS Apache

    1. AK

      ABS is always awesome Amit, no matter what bike 🙂

  4. Vishnu Kumar

    Brilliant article. Riding from the past 6 years in Bangalore traffic, I understand the need for ABS. I look out for these now-
    1. Stray dog/cat- suddenly think their Usain Bolt and running across the road.
    2. Scared female drivers who stay on the left most part of the road and expect to take a sudden right!
    3. Cows having a jolly good time walking at their own pace on the roads.
    4. The potholes. Nowadays you see most automobile companies, even Audi and Jeep etc testing their vehicles on Bangalore roads, coz of the varied nature of potholes and uneven surfaces and mud roads and some times no roads at all!
    5. Wrong side riders/drivers. Such idiots. No words to describe them.
    6. Low flying crows! Yeah they have become a menace now, as if their havig their own version of the Yelahanka AirShow on public roads!

    I have been waiting from almost 8 months now for TVS to launch the RTR200 with ABS, Lord only knows what their doing to delay it so much. Anyways I will still wait for it, even after the constant remarks from colleagues and relatives- ABS isn’t required, how many bikes have you seen on the road with ABS?, Aren’t all surviving? Why are you taking TVS again, go buy some other bike, this that etc. Such naive ppl. I have grown tired of explaining to them the importance of Anti lock Brakes, have shown them the videos online. I guess how much ever you pour water into a stone, it won’t go in. So have stopped.
    Nowadays I just say- ya bro your right. And get on with the waiting.

    1. AK

      Haha, I know the feeling. Let them die mate, ain’t nothing you can do.