Luckily, more and more manufacturers are offering ABS as an option, even on cruisers. Harley’s entire line of touring bikes has the ABS option. Honda also offers ABS on their new Fury chopper and four of their 2010 cruiser models as well as just about all of their sport and sport touring motorcycles. BMW, the first to have ABS on a motorcycle, has the option on its entire lineup.
Why is ABS so important? That’s simple. Anti-lock braking systems keep the tires from locking up. Since you only have two small contact patches and two wheels, if you lock them, you’re going down. Since most motorcycle riders spend a lot more time driving their four-wheeled vehicles and since they’re used to slamming on that brake pedal in a panic stop in the car, they tend to do the same thing on their bikes.
On the bike, when you slam on that brake pedal, you’re braking only the rear tire—consequently, the rear tire locks and the rider slides onto the ground. Even if the rear tire doesn’t lock, the rear brake only gives you 20% of your stopping force. That’s why you should of course, use both brakes. Sounds simple, right? Unfortunately, since most riders rely on their instincts, which by the way are completely wrong when it comes to motorcycles in a panic, they lock that rear brake every single time.
By now you must be saying, “what am I supposed to do if I can’t afford to buy a new bike with ABS?” “What am I supposed to do, quit riding?” Ok, simmer down now. Here’s what you can do and it won’t cost you a cent. PRACTICE stopping and DO IT NOW! Find an empty parking lot or a deserted road and practice stopping quickly from various speeds. Start at 20 mph and work your speed up in 5 mph increments. The idea is to be able to stop quickly without locking the tires. In 15 or 20 minutes, you can improve your braking ability tremendously.
Now that you’ve got your straight line braking down pat, lets try swerving, then braking. Remember, you can’t do both at the same time. All you need to do is get up to 20 or 30 mph and start weaving back and forth. At some point, straighten up the bike and apply both brakes. You must straighten up the bike before applying the brakes and don’t forget to downshift. Last but not least, lets try braking in a curve. Again, get up to 20 mph and start turning a big circle at least 100’ in diameter—then, straighten up the bike and stop quickly. This skill will come in very handy on a winding road when you come around a turn and suddenly find an obstacle blocking your way.
If your bike does have ABS, you still need to at least practice your swerves then braking and your braking in a curve since ABS can only be activated with the bike straight up. That’s because you can’t press hard enough on the brakes to activate ABS when the bike is in a lean. Maximum braking can only be performed with the bike straight up, with or without ABS. Everything I just described can be done in 45 minutes to an hour of practice. If you practice just one hour a month, your chances of avoiding a crash will greatly improve.
Now, for those of you in the frozen part of the Country whose riding season is still a couple of months away—how about getting that bike completely detailed and looking better than new? Here’s a product I recently tried. It’s called Chrome-It Super Polish. Chrome-It is a liquid that works on chrome, aluminum, brass, stainless steel and even plastic headlight covers. It works in half the time and with half the effort of anything else I’ve ever tried. An 8oz. bottle will set you back $15.00 or $25.00 for a 16oz. bottle. To get yourself a bottle, call Wes at 352-279-9556 or www.chromeit.us Tell them Motorman sent ya.
Until next month, get out there and PRACTICE. And here’s some braking tips.
Related Video On Proper Braking Technique