ABS on a KTM 950-990A?

Discussion in 'Dakar champion (950/990)' started by Tangai, May 12, 2008.

  1. Tangai

    Tangai Been here awhile

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    ABS on a KTM 950-990A?
    I recently read a statement that went like this, “Some think themselves to be such skilled riders as to not need ABS brakes.”
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    Truth is - many riders are so skilled they don’t need ABS brakes. We watch them on TV every Sunday evening. But skilled braking is not limited to professional racers – many of us can stop a motorcycle (and automobiles) faster and safer with standard (non ABS) brakes. The reason is – the basic concept of ABS brakes is flawed.
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    Back in the day – when power brakes became common in cars – people had difficulty with not locking the brakes and skidding the tires in a panic stop. Untrained and unskilled drivers would simply stomp the brake pedal (close their eyes) and hope for the best. Of course skidding tires don’t stop as quickly as tires that are almost skidding. Almost skidding is called "immanent lockup". Immanent lock up is by far the fastest way to stop.
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    However drivers were not trained or advised to use that technique. Immanent lock up takes a lot of time and practice to perfect and a safe place to practice it. It was far easier to teach the “on and off” or “pumping” approach to maintain traction in a panic braking situation. If you are as old as I am you may remember TV ads demonstrating “on-and-off” panic braking. When the tires skid, release the brake pedal, then reapply the brake, when the tires skid again release and keep repeating the process until, well, what ever happened after the driver failed to stop in time.
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    ABS brakes are based on that same flawed off-and-on concept of braking. Of course one will rightfully argue that computer controlled ABS is far far more precise and faster that an unskilled driver pumping a brake pedal. That’s true, but even today’s most advanced ABS is not fast or precise enough – at least not when on two wheels. That’s why it not worth a #### off road or on rough pavement. The computer releases the brake to the wheel (or both wheels) that stops turning (skids). Then after a set time, the computer reapplies the brake with the equal force as originally applied. Problem is – even today – ABS takes too long to reapply.
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    Many experienced riders have experienced something like the following. It’s somewhat rough pavement (that’s what the KTM 950-990 adventure bikes are for) and the rider is forced to brake hard. One or both wheels strike a hole, bump or pavement joints and the computer “thinks” the tire is locked up and releases the brakes. Suddenly the rider finds himself rushing along without brakes. After what seems like an awfully long time the computer reapplies the brakes. The wheel runs over another bump and the computer releases the brakes again. This can repeat itself until the rider is wrapped around a tree or into the back of a car. We usually learn this and slow down on rough roads or turn the ABS off if possible.
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    I was recently teaching a group of four riders some off road techniques. Three of them are C riders in hare scrambles and enduros – one is a beginner. We worked on getting over slick obstacles and up gnarly hills with muddy tree roots and rocks. Traction control (and balance) was everything. At the beginning of the day I noticed that even though the three C riders had difficulty getting up and over slick rocks and tree roots, they had long ago mastered traction control while descending the same slick hills. Their braking skills were well beyond the capabilities of ABS brakes. When dirt bike riders mature and buy a street going motorcycle – they are the ones that hate ABS brakes the most. Because they can out perform the so-called “Antiskid Braking System”. No computer controlled braking system (at least for now) can out perform a highly skill human with an alert mind and good motor control. The human mind and body is truly amazing.
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    If a rider is incapable or unwilling to grow and mature his or her braking skills – then he or she should get and use ABS. And turn it off when off road.
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    My cry is this: if motorcycle manufactures are going to sell us ABS brakes – if we want them or not – at least make it right. Make the ABS so that it brings the tire(s) to immanent lock up and no more. That will be difficult to do, but ‘til then I’d rather not have ABS on my motorcycle. As it is now “ABS” is almost a prescience acronym for Anti Braking System. Hopefully the designers will soon change that.
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    I did not spend my time writing this to be critical of anyone or to be confrontational, but only to be informative and to offer my educated and experienced opinion. Your comments and counter opinions are of course welcome. But please make them time worthy and reasonably intelligent.
    #1
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  2. Tim McKittrick

    Tim McKittrick Long timer

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    I have mixed feelings about anti-lock brakes both for cars and bikes. On the one hand, they do allow an operator to mash on the brakes and either modulate to a stop or steer around the obstacle- they don't work in the conditions you noted, and I can provide other automobile examples wherein they were a liability. I think that for the unenthusiastic driver or rider they are probably a good thing- as more folks out there are a lot less involved in the driving/riding process than I would like to admit. In most cases where the car or bike is on a relatively smooth surface (pavement) these systems will allow the average operator to stop in the shortest distance with the most control.

    The big downside that I have observed is the level of driving skill needed to operate a car or bike is decreasing- and while that is exactly the point of the antilock/traction/stability control systems, it means that a great number of the drivers in this world have even less of an idea of what to do with too much velocity than ever before. Slowing down is always the right thing to do when traction is reduced, but if you never slide a car or bike, how will you know how much traction you have available to you? How should you judge your speed? Will you ever learn to read the road by how it looks and how your vehicle feels on it?

    It seems clear that these systems have reduced accidents on the whole as most of the time cars and bikes are being operated on relatively consistent surfaces. In the case of the adventure bikes like the 990, being able to shut them off when conditions dictate is a necessary option. My Wife's Audi TT has a traction control system that may be partially disabled, and I've found it necessary to do so on occasion, and I had to make an override for my Dad's Subaru to defeat the anti-locks when he is using tire chains.

    The engineering challenge of making a system that can sense imminent lockup has yet to be overcome- the only way to modulate brakes (or traction control) at the moment is to go to the point of failure (tire skid) and reset and do it again. Even if there is a way to design past this, drivers will still not have to learn how to read traction in the same way they had to in the past- a slippery road will still mean less traction and longer stopping distances as it always has, but the driver feedback will continue to be muted. Is this important? Will drivers be safer? Will driving be as fun?
    #2
  3. crashmaster

    crashmaster ow, my balls!

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    On my 990, I'd love to be able to turn off the rear and keep using the front. That front ABS works really well off road IMO. But each to his own I guess. But for now, I just turn it off as that rear abs will get you into a heap of trouble offroad, or even on graded dirt roads.:deal
    #3
  4. Moraflex

    Moraflex Banned

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    The ABS is trouble on any surface thats not firm, solid and paved. I will not run offroad with ABS on. You're asking for trouble, and you will receivce it.
    #4
  5. simonpig

    simonpig droppin' jewels

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    What are some other hypothetical situations where it would cause a problem? I just started riding offroad with the 990 with no previous dirt experience. I did take a MSF dirt class but it was real basic.
    #5
  6. stickysidedown

    stickysidedown Been here awhile

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    Really?, I hopped on an 08 for a test ride the weekend before last, found some deepish gravel in the crown of a single track lane and hoofed on the anchors from 70mph, in an experimental kind of way, my conclusion was that whilst the front tried to tuck under a little it must be really hard to crash an ABS equipped bike.

    I think by and large I'd prefer not to have it almost all the time though,seemed to kick in too quickly (esp on the rear)
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  7. jamesbrown

    jamesbrown Lefty tighty.

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    Anyone who has ridden offroad with ABS would realize pretty quickly (I would have thought) that ABS is worse than useless on materials that move. Typically one would lose some traction while braking on gravel etc. and ABS cannot handle that properly.

    But, I don't think your argument applies to decent road surfaces. The fact is that most people spend most of their time on decent roads with the 950/990 (you have to get to the offroad sections, right?). It seems to me that you were specifically talking about roads with loose surface materials? If so, I agree. But if not, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that ABS will outbreak all but the most skilled riders on the highway. And in panick situations, it will outbreak all but the most cool headed and skilled riders.
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  8. Moraflex

    Moraflex Banned

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    Twice I forgot to turn the ABS off and twice I blew past the stop and off the trail. It does not work offroad. Take my word for it. If you think it does you are fooling yourself.
    #8
  9. mookymoo

    mookymoo Mookish Mook

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    Yup. And therein lies the rub. When one of those factors are out (tired, cold, wet, distracted, surprised) the performance of the human can be far worse than ABS.

    Have you ever been in an accident? Id been driving (on and off road) since I was about 7 (ok, mostly offroad until I was 13-14 or so :evil ), in all sorts of challenging conditions, with a variety of 2WD and 4WD vehicles and would consider myself an experienced driver by the time I was 18. When I was 24, I had a guy turn directly into my path while I was doing 30mph - there was so little time to react, all actions were instinctive. Yet I did react. And all that reaction did was lock up the brakes. Stomp, screech, crunch. Its not like I didnt know how to brake - Id had the practice, but in that instance I was caught by surprise, no time to think & whack.

    When I bought my 950A, and was riding it home from the previous owners place, the bike was completely unfamiliar. Just on dark, a slight drizzling rain, and a black Angus cow in the middle of the black, wet road. It was invisible, until it turned its head. This time, I had more breathing room - despite making a meal of it & locking up the rear almost instantly (takes very little effort, as most of you know) I was able to bring it back under control before the rear of the bike overtook me. But I can tell you, in those couple of seconds, I could have made diamonds with my sphincter. :lol3

    Having test-ridden a 990 with ABS, I gave it a good testing - trying to lock it up on the road, on the gravel, on the road with some loose surface. I was pretty damn impressed. That said, the rear does stay unlocked for an awful long time, it seems.

    Ultimately, you're right - in the right conditions, a human will outperform most any control system. But its in those less-than-ideal conditions where the human performance has a very large standard deviation..
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  10. jamesbrown

    jamesbrown Lefty tighty.

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    Yes, which is why it was designed. In that sense, it is a great innovation for onroad use. Now, if my onroad/offroad was more like 10%/90% I probably wouldn't want it, because it's so easy to forget to turn it off, which can be lethal.
    #10
  11. Tangai

    Tangai Been here awhile

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    Great responses so far. Thanks!
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  12. woodside

    woodside Been here awhile

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    I agree, I think the 990 front abs is actually pretty damn good on dirt. I played with it quite a bit and it cycles really fast and I think it would help in most situations. The back abs is next to useless though, at least with the stock tire.
    #12
  13. crashmaster

    crashmaster ow, my balls!

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    The rear ABS behaves the same with a knobby. Offroad, or on dirt/gravel road, by simply locking up the rear and modulating it manually, I feel that I can come to a stop much quicker and still be in control. Exactly as you mention, it just cycles so slowly its dangerous.

    A panic grab of a handful of front brake will do me in rather quickly without ABS, not so with the rear. Maybe I'm not just not skilled enough with the front brake though, I like the front ABS in the dirt.

    So, now, anyone have a good way to disconnect the rear ABS and keep the front working?

    flame suit donned and ready.:lol3
    #13
  14. GoNOW

    GoNOW Long timer

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    ABS is not designed to reduce the stopping distance. It's designed to give you more control in a panic stop.

    Case in point.
    My older Toyota truck does not have ABS. Near me is an old housing track that they never built the houses on, but paved the entire thing. The locals have turned it into our own personal race track. With my truck I can whip around the corners at a nice clip, applying just enough brake to start locking up the inside tire, but still maintain control. If I apply too much, the front end just locks and the truck plows straight ahead. It's a careful balance act that is quite fun until it things overheat.
    On a friends newer Toyota with ABS, all you have to do is jam on the brakes as hard as you can, the ABS kicks in, and the truck will just handle the turn flawless with no skill required. Just turn the wheel.

    In short, without ABS in a panic stop, tires lock up and you skid into whatever you did not want to hit. With ABS, you have the option of maneuvering around the object of impact.

    As for dirt. it goes the other way. ABS will try and kill you.

    Not tried ABS on a motorcycle, but I can see the benefit to the HD guys or the people that never learn to properly ride or just how far they can push it.
    #14
  15. Johnny_5

    Johnny_5 Disassemble!

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    My personal view about ABS in the dirt is it's bad for the rear tire and will seldom be a problem for me on the front.

    I will never engage the front brake to locking while the bike is in a turn. It just won't happen, because that will result in me being on my ass before the ABS can engage anyway. (There are situations that a more skilled rider might find that they need to lock the front brake in the turn, but I'm not one of them) Even downhill I won't (at least on purpose :D ) lock the front tire, because that results in the bike going faster than if I applied the brakes lighter. I might brake in a straight line using the front brake to the point of locking the front tire. In either of those situations the front ABS doesn't have a significant negative effect on my handling of the bike. I won't brake as quickly, but I won't necessarily end up crashing.

    The rear is a whole different story. I will lock the rear brake up in turns (on purpose and not). I would much rather that the rear wheel stay locked then for the ABS modulate the braking in the middle of a turn. That situation will end up with me being out of control of the bike in a way that I'm not comfortable (AKA I'll probably crash :cry ). Others, I'm sure have different feelings, but that's my experience :freaky
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  16. Tangai

    Tangai Been here awhile

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    Well, it's been a while since I wrote the original artical, and a lot has changed. Today, 2019, many ABS brakes have caught up with most riders. And they can be adjusted or turned off. There's hope after all.
    #16
  17. DirtyADV

    DirtyADV Long timer

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    Plug line on abs pump and run a direct hose for the rear brake.

    Friend did that and been working great according to him.

    He went cheapo and just looped the too long hose a couple of times... Was hard to bleed cause of that.

    Piece of pipe in a lathe and just used banjo bolt at abs pump with piece of pipe to plug.

    /Johan
    #17
  18. Pedec

    Pedec Been here awhile

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    I was very surprised to find out my 2013 990 baja edition has no ABS. Being last of the breed I thought it would. Does not bother me since I come from a mx/ off road back ground with some street riding and always test my bike and tire to there limits to find out there limits. But ABS can help in panic situation.
    #18
  19. Papersatnav

    Papersatnav n00b Supporter

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    I was just looking for confirmation of what DirtyADV was saying about blanking the rear discharge from the abs pump and going direct to the calliper from the foot pedal/pump/res assembly.
    Wow!!!! It is a polarised world RE ABS.
    FWIIW
    Off road Front cool. Back not cool
    On road (In that "f?@& me where did that come from" situation....) extremely cool.
    #19
  20. FakeName

    FakeName Wile E Coyote SuperGenius

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    I understand and appreciate the opinions here- and thrilled they've thus far been civil.

    I have a switch with which I disable my ABS off-road and quite often on-road when I'm feeling alert ; )

    I don't know if ABS off-road would stop me faster than my own braking ability- I'm reasonably experienced practiced and trained. I just HATE the FEELING of losing my tail-dragging control methods- it's the way I steer. And I'd prefer to have a braking environment with which I'm familiar when there's urgency. Sure, I COULD practice using ABS I suppose...

    I took our son to BMW car-driving track school a few years ago, and one of the exercises they were required to perform was a 50 mph emergency stop using ABS. Get to 50, mash and hold the brake, and turn/steer the car between cones to a pre-determined spot. Kids these days are all being trained on ABS cars and I was happy to see them doing this. And- the instructors pointed out that not all ABS is equal- they teach in various brands of cars and were not as pleased with other systems.

    But here's what occurred to me while observing: As good as I might be in braking, it's very difficult to modulate dynamic traction environments- in a car, if you have one wheel in sand, another in ice and two more on pavement, ABS will individually modulate each wheel to it's theoretically optimum stopping power. That's not going to be possible by a human. Bikes are, of course, different because we theoretically control front and rear independently. But as much as a god of motorcycling I might be, if traction environments change during my urgent stop- say going from pavement to dirt, or hitting ice one tire at a time- I won't be able to react as fast as the ABS system. I'm just not that good.

    For now, I'll keep my conventional braking. But I can forsee a time where ABS might be good enough for me to switch.
    #20