The American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) is lobbying to make Anti-Lock Braking Systems (ABS) mandatory on motorcycles in the future, a move which is getting mixed reviews from the motorcycle world. The pitch was one of ten recommendations made in the AMA’s Select Risk Factors Associated with Causes of Motorcycle Crashes report in September 2018. The AMA positions the recommendation as a move designed to save lives, but it’s a little like the helmet debate: at the end of the day, should we have the right to make safety decisions for ourselves?
In Europe, ABS has been mandatory on motorcycles for two years now, but in North America, that isn’t at all the case. Typically what we’re seeing on this side of the ocean is the inclusion of both ABS-optional, and base/standard models brought in by manufacturers. The ABS-equipped models typically cost at least $500 and sometimes $1,000 more. Some market segments are seeing more ABS offerings than others. Cruisers, can you hear me?
Why should ABS be mandatory on motorcycles?
The arguments for ABS make sense and are valid ones. Here’s some eye-candy for number-geeks:
For those of you who are groaning because, ugh, numbers, man… essentially what we’re seeing is that motorcycles without ABS are 2.09 times to 2.38 times more likely to crash. Which is pretty crazy.
Obviously crashing comes with risk of injury and possibly death. I won’t get into the morbid stats on the number of motorcycle rider fatalities there are annually, as we probably already all know someone who’s passed, and it sucks. If you’re fortunate enough to walk away from your crash, you’ll still likely suffer from a bruised ego and a sore wallet when it’s time to pay for the repair bill. Bummer.
And then there’s the argument against mandatory ABS
In an industry that needs to see growth in ridership to stay afloat, do we really need to forcibly make motorcycling more expensive? More initial costs. More things which could go wrong or break and need to be replaced or service. Less human input, more technology doing the riding for you.
I’ve owned dozens of motorcycles, a handful of them came with ABS, and never once have I ever had the technology engage. That’s definitely a combination of good luck and good idiot-avoidance on my part. I suppose that one day ABS could come in handy, but I also enjoy the freedom and simplicity of motorcycles. The freedom to choose how I ride and care for and fix my machine. Doesn’t having one more rule imposed on our bikes seem kind of, counter-freedom-ish? Did just become the helmet argument 2.0?