Looking for an adventure bike, but do I want ABS?

Discussion in 'Land of the Rising Sun: ADV Bikes from Japan' started by Erant, Aug 23, 2012.

  1. Erant

    Erant n00b

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    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!
    #1
  2. MillCreek

    MillCreek ADV Risk Manager

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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.
    #2
  3. Dagny_Taggart

    Dagny_Taggart John Galt - 2014

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    I like my ABS... It can save your bacon.
    #3
  4. tedder

    tedder irregular

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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.
    #4
  5. Erant

    Erant n00b

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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!
    #5
  6. burmbuster

    burmbuster Long timer

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    Plus it gets you a discount on your insurance.
    #6
  7. soldierguy

    soldierguy Been here awhile

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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.
    #7
  8. Indy Unlimited

    Indy Unlimited Long timer

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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!
    #8
  9. Canuman

    Canuman Crusty & Unobliging

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    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.
    #9
  10. Erant

    Erant n00b

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    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.
    #10
  11. anonny

    anonny What could go wrong?

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    Yes to ABS, saved my bacon once.
    #11
  12. tedder

    tedder irregular

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    If you "grabbed" the brake, you definitely need ABS. :D

    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.
    #12
  13. Gobius

    Gobius Been here awhile

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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.
    #13
  14. PeterW

    PeterW Long timer

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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
    #14
  15. Pecha72

    Pecha72 Long timer

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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)
    #15
  16. GrahamD

    GrahamD Long timer

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    @Pecha72

    I think that was worth at least 0.03c. Well stated. Such wide ranging insights on ADV, in an ABS thread and all :eek1

    Never liked those new fangled telescopic forks or Overhead cam engines either. I tried them 30 years ago and...:lol3

    Add to the fact that there are some smarter UBS systems as well. It's all getting better.

    I also second the fact that you should not only get to know your bike well without all the assistance but you should also get to know YOUR ABS / UBS equipped system and how it works and YOUR bikes limits with or without the ABS.

    I like ABS / UBS but it's not a replacement for skill. For best results you have to use some skill and experience with the ABS as well.

    Just as you have to get to know your tires limits etc in different situations, so goes with anything on the bike.
    #16
  17. Jonny955

    Jonny955 Been here awhile

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    My 990 Adventure is my first bike with ABS in 28 years of riding. I'd rather not have it.

    Many points already made elsewhere but I don't like anything that interferes with the control of the bike. Often deliberately, I've locked up fronts, locked up backs and never had an incident that would have had a better outcome if I had been riding an ABS bike. It's a personal thing. I just feel more in control.

    I could have gone for the 990 R model sans ABS but I preferred the finish and the height of the standard 990. The ABS unit takes up vaulable under-seat space and will be more complicated to maintain but I do recignise that the bike will have greater appeal if and when I come to sell it.

    New riders should be aware that ABS on bikes does not do the same magical job that it does on cars :deal.

    Jon
    #17
  18. Pecha72

    Pecha72 Long timer

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    Care to enlighten us, what that ´magical job´ is, that it does on cars, but does not do on bikes?

    Personally I think all ABS systems (at least on ADV bikes) should have an off-switch for the serious off-road conditions, and also for riders, who think they can do better without it.
    #18
  19. Jonny955

    Jonny955 Been here awhile

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    Just one example: Steer and brake around objects on slippery wet roads :huh.

    Bikes have bank angles to consider with extreme loading/offloading of pressure on the tyre contact patches during pitching and banking in corners. It just isn't the same and until we can rely on some super-dooper technology, the only way ABS can work to improve safety is with an upright bike in a straight-ish line.

    I didn't claim I could do better without ABS, by the way. I just prefer less interferance.

    Many ABS systems kick in too early (bikes and cars) for my liking. They have to be set to help the least skilled rider/driver. The last car I had, under heavy braking, would start to pulse the brakes way before the wheels had gained maximum braking effect (i.e just before the wheels would normally begin to lock up). Also, on roughly surfaced TARMAC roads many systems I have experienced cannot cope with the rapid unloading/loading of contact pressure, and therefore grip, as the wheels bounce over the peaks but that's only an issue if you have to use the brakes, of course!

    Luckily my KTM doesn't seem to be as intrusive as I had feared and at least I can turn ABS off for off-roading.

    Jon
    #19
  20. jaumev

    jaumev Long timer

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    I prefer them without but as most here said I think ABS will work well on you.
    Also in the future if you want to sell your bike is going to be easier.
    Better if there is a switch to turn it off but if not try it without the switch and you can decide if you want it.
    #20