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Give us a Brake!!

December 15, 2010


Canvey Island, England – The issue of the European Commission mandating anti lock braking systems on motorcycles rumbles on.

The usual suspects are breaking cover and joining the conspiracy of self-interest that surrounds this issue. Everyone from the UK Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) to Bosch, who actually make motorcycle and scooter anti skid braking systems (ABS), are issuing press releases like there’s no tomorrow telling how wonderful it’s going to be when we get mandatory ABS.

We are awash with statistics. Like only 16 percent of all new motorcycles sold in the EU in 2010 were equipped with an ABS. Like a Swedish study which showed that 48 percent of all serious and fatal accidents, could have been prevented with ABS. Like bizarre comparisons of crash involvement relating to cars fitted with ABS and motorcycles which were not.

Then of course there is the weird case of the Federation of European Motorcycle Associations (FEMA). Who misguidedly jumped to the conclusion that mandatory ABS meant just that i.e. it could not be switched off. Cue the EU Commission/Association des Constructeurs Européens de Motocycles (ACEM) grinning like Cheshire cats and laughing like Hyenas who delightedly stuck the boot into FEMA. Pointing out that mandatory ABS simple meant that the switchable systems, we use now, will be applied to all motorcycles and scooters over 125cc. Still no worries FEMA are currently in a purdah period on that one and will re-emerge once we have all forgotten it.

My particular favourite is the comparison with cars. Car manufacturers made a self commitment in 2004 to fit ABS as standard equipment on all new models. Why? Fact: along with daytime running lights this was part of a deal that car manufactures did with the EU Commission to delay the introduction of pedestrian friendly car front ends. It was nothing to do with safety but all about saving the manufactures money.

So what do European riders want? Well I do not know. I’ll leave the walk to the pulpit and the preaching to FEMA and in the UK the BMF and MAG. After all they seem to have a crystal ball or access to the fountain of knowledge so know what we all want.

I can tell you what I would like and that’s choice. Choice to buy a motorcycle or scooter fitted with switchable ABS or no ABS. After all a bike fitted with ABS will cost more so why should I be forced to buy something I can’t really afford or don’t want.

Why switchable ABS. Well ABS like a lot of safety devices has been over sold. So if I’m riding on snow, ice, mud, gravel in fact any loose or slippery surface I know ABS will not function properly and need to disconnect it.

I’m an advocate of ABS it is a life saving device. It’s clever but not infallible. In some circumstances it will not shorten braking distances in others it will. It does provide a level of consistence in braking performance that inexperienced or sunny day riders need. It allows a degree of control under heavy braking that may otherwise be unobtainable. It turns a ‘close call’ into a’ pub tale’. It could save your like.

That’s my opinion it may not be yours, hence we need a choice.

Ride safe.

© Back Roads Rider 2010


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