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Old 08-23-2012, 06:08 PM   #1
Erant OP
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Looking for an adventure bike, but do I want ABS?

Hi all,

I've been looking around for an adventure bike for a while, and the need has become a bit higher since my learner GS500 is probably totaled (Long story short, cabbie turned left when I went straight). I'm looking at anything from a V-Strom to a Triumph Tiger to a BMW GS, but with that recent accident under my belt I'm feeling the need for a little more security, and my security feature of choose would be ABS because I feel like I may have locked my front brake up in that accident. My question is, is this feeling justified? I know my accident wouldn't have been avoided even if I did have ABS, because there was simply not enough space to brake, but maybe it would've been less of an impact. I've seen a lot of bikes that I love, but I'm passing up because they don't have ABS. This obviously rules out a lot of bikes, like older V-Stroms and this Ulysses that I spotted and liked.

My question is thus, how useful is ABS on a motorcycle, and am I being foolish for homing in on that single feature? If I'm not, what would be a good intermediate bike equipped with ABS for an occasional dirt road? If I am, I guess the same question goes. I want to be safe on my motorcycle, but I also want to have a good time. I'm looking to spend about $5-7k on a bike, so it's going to have to be used.

Thanks!
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Old 08-23-2012, 06:28 PM   #2
MillCreek
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Given your needs and your price point, let me be the first of many here to say a Suzuki DL650, aka the Wee Strom.
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Old 08-23-2012, 06:47 PM   #3
Dagny_Taggart
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I like my ABS... It can save your bacon.
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Old 08-23-2012, 07:18 PM   #4
tedder
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Get ABS. You don't have dirt experience, once you do you can disable it for dirt (if necessary).

It's fantastic insurance for the street, both for newer riders and experienced riders.
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Old 08-23-2012, 07:42 PM   #5
Erant OP
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Looks like that's a pretty unanimous "yes", which I'd been hoping for. Guess I'm going to keep looking for an ABS model. The bike I was mainly looking at was actually the Wee, they seem to be a little bit more ubiquitous than the other bikes and at a reasonable price point. I'm in the San Francisco bay area, and right now there's two 2011 ABS models on CL, one farkled, one bare. I'll wait until the cab's insurance company comes and inspects my mangled bike to see how much extra cash I'll have for the new Wee.

Thanks!
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Old 08-23-2012, 08:36 PM   #6
burmbuster
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Plus it gets you a discount on your insurance.
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Old 08-23-2012, 08:40 PM   #7
soldierguy
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I would definitely get ABS, but I'd also do the following.

Find a deserted parking lot, switch off the ABS, and progressively find the braking limits of your bike. I'd suggest doing that because it should help you practice squeezing the brakes rather than grabbing a handful (and/or a foot-ful) of brakes, which will help you in learning the feel of a tire that's about to lock up or slide. Practice that, and the squeeze will become a habit, rather than the grab. And while you're there, might as well practice anything else you think you may need to work on...low-speed maneuvering, u-turns, turning from a stop, or whatever.

It's easy to stop a bike with ABS. Grab a handful and stomp the pedal. Those are bad habits that can lead to a tumble, even with ABS.

And please don't misinterpret what I'm saying...I'm not saying you grabbed a handful of brake. You may have perfect braking technique. I'm just saying that practicing braking techniques with the ABS shut off is a good thing to do. I've done it with other bikes before (with and without ABS), and am planning to do it this weekend since I haven't yet had the opportunity to do so with my Stelvio.
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Old 08-23-2012, 08:48 PM   #8
Indy Unlimited
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Get the ABS only if you can turn it off.
I love the ABS on dirt roads and pavement.
But on steep loose rocky downhills it is absolutely deadly to have ABS on!
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Old 08-23-2012, 08:54 PM   #9
Canuman
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Indy Unlimited View Post
Get the ABS only if you can turn it off.
I love the ABS on dirt roads and pavement.
But on steep loose rocky downhills it is absolutely deadly to have ABS on!
Ditto on that. ABS will make you piss your pants on the smallest patch of sand, also. If you have the ability to turn it off, so much the better. It is very useful on pavement.
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Old 08-23-2012, 10:02 PM   #10
Erant OP
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Quote:
Originally Posted by soldierguy View Post
Find a deserted parking lot, switch off the ABS, and progressively find the braking limits of your bike.

...

I'm not saying you grabbed a handful of brake. You may have perfect braking technique.
The accident went too fast for me to fully realize what happened, and I'm unsure whether or not I grabbed the brake. I'm also going to take another motorcycle course (probably the Basic Rider Course 2).

As to the ABS switch, I'll make sure to install one if I do end up getting a Wee.
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Old 08-23-2012, 10:09 PM   #11
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Yes to ABS, saved my bacon once.
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Old 08-23-2012, 10:13 PM   #12
tedder
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Erant View Post
The accident went too fast for me to fully realize what happened, and I'm unsure whether or not I grabbed the brake. I'm also going to take another motorcycle course (probably the Basic Rider Course 2).

As to the ABS switch, I'll make sure to install one if I do end up getting a Wee.
If you "grabbed" the brake, you definitely need ABS.

The ABS switch on the DL650 is nice (I helped Eastern Beaver develop it), but it's unnecessary until you venture offroad much. At that point you may find yourself lusting for a real dirtbike anyhow. In any case, you just have to pull a fuse to turn it off in a pinch.

I don't know what MSF calls it now, but the ERC/ERT/Ewhatever is a good one-day refresher class. The basic/intermediate is the same class.

DL650s are cheap these days, and you should be able to find one with ABS if you are patient. I saw a well-farkled one down here for $6800- it's a oneday fly-and-ride from you.
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Old 08-23-2012, 11:37 PM   #13
Gobius
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Don't forget the F650GS (single), either. They can be had for <$6k all day long, with ABS and heated grips. At least as good as the Wee on dirt, too. The tradeoff is that you get less power and slightly more vibes.

Also, +1 on the parking lot braking practice.
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Old 08-23-2012, 11:46 PM   #14
PeterW
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Yes.

The newer ABS systems (2012+ DL 650, Super Tenere, possibly others) may not even need an off switch.

Your riding style has to change a little - but for me the new DL ABS works fine even on surfaces where there's damn all traction anyway. (Steep loose gravel, wet clay etc). You can't necessarily stop in a hurry with or without ABS on those surfaces, but I'm better at slowing down without falling off with ABS than without ;).

On road, no contest. Yes a really good PREPARED rider on a flat straight road may be able to outbrake the ABS - but ya know, emergency stops never seem to happen when I'm prepared and riding on a flat straight road with good visibility - funny that.

Pete
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Old 08-24-2012, 12:27 AM   #15
Pecha72
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For road-riding (and even gravel roads for 99% of riders) ABS is very simply a big plus. For serious off-road it should be turned off.

But that last bit is so badly misunderstood by many. The DL650 is really not a bike to even take to such environment, you want something a lot lighter. And if your riding skill is high enough to take such a heavy bike there, then you should also understand the differences between brake systems.

Another very badly misunderstood thing seems to be the very definition of “ABS”. It refers to anti-lockable brake system, but there have been many, many generations of ABS, and different technical solutions to it during the past 30 years, when it was first introduced on cars.

So do they all work the same way? No. Newest ones will be totally different in function and useability compared to the oldest, or even those from a decade ago. Even if you compare the newest versions of ABS systems on bikes to one another, there will be big differences.

This was clearly proven by Motorrad, a big bike magazine in Europe, who did a braking test with 7-8 modern ABS bikes. There were interesting details in this article, because they did not just test braking on dry asphalt, but also wet, or when there are a few patches of sand on the road, or when your braking area happens to be very bumpy, etc. It was also described, why each ABS did what it did on particular conditions.

And they also noted, how the bike´s steering geometry, weight distribution, tyres, etc. can have a huge effect on braking, and in fact the ABS needs to be built to suit the particular bike model. For example a sportsbike with sticky tyres could easily lift its back wheel up to the point where it will somersault, but a long and low custom simply does not do that. So very different technical requirements for the system to achieve efficient braking in all situations for both types of bikes.

And yet here we are talking about “ABS”, and whether it is good or not. Just like it was one and the same system installed on all bikes, that all behave the same. That is cutting corners very badly.

Then there´s the people, who once tried, for example, a Beemer K100 ABS in 1986, and thought it was terrible (I did, and yeah, it was in fact terrible!!)... so now they don´t even bother to try any ABS bike, because they already discovered 26 years ago, that it didn´t work well. And if anybody asks them is ABS any good on a bike, they´ll tell no. (Oh yeah, naturally there´s also those, who never tried it, but still know it doesn´t work on a bike, but let´s not get into that at all...)

Does ABS save your health, or your life? No, on its own, I´d say it won´t – and if you start to think that way, you might be in more danger than on a bike without ABS. You´ll still need good judgment, good braking ability, and often the ability to swerve. ABS is just a tiny little extra on top of those, for the situations where you will need it most.

(just my 0.02 of course)
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