Infuence of ABS on rear-brake pedal usage - - Excellence in Motion
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post #1 of 14 (permalink) Old Apr 14th, 2007, 5:43 pm Thread Starter
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Infuence of ABS on rear-brake pedal usage

I'm a newbie who, after passing the MSF's Basic Rider Course last June, began learning to ride on a used, 2002 Honda CB750 Nighthawk. After logging ~5000 miles on the Honda last riding season, I custom-ordered a fully loaded 2007 K12GT last fall, and it finally arrived here a few weeks ago, but so far I've ridden the GT only 300 miles due to unusually bad weather here in Ohio.

That said, I'm now very curious as to how other riders who've also advanced from a previous bike without ABS, to a new bike with ABS, such as the K12GT with ABS II. My personal approach with the K12GT has been to continue practicing the braking techniques I was first taught in the Basic Rider Course, which is to always manually and appropriately apply both the front and rear brakes in most situations.

As partial integrated ABS systems become increasingly more widely available on modern motorcycles, it seems to me that ABS may be fostering a growing temptation among some riders to become overly complacent and overly reliant on using just the front brake lever, while simultaneously beginning to de-emphasize and even forget about also manually applying the rear brake with one's right foot.

In my humble opinion, I feel that in general, it's very unwise and unsafe to discontinue the simultaneous application of both the front and rear brakes (in most situations) when riding a bike equipped with partial integral ABS. The main reasons why I feel this way include (1) These highly sophisticated microprocessor-controlled and monitored ABS systems may either fail, or become temporarily disabled by the computer, at any time! If this happens, the brakes will likely revert to something akin to a fully manual mode of braking, and one must then be able to instantly and smoothly rely on one's earlier braking skills until the bike's ABS system can be diagnosed and fixed; (2) Even when the bike's ABS (and ASC) self-diagnostic checks indicate an "A-OK" message, I will never totally trust this, nor will I totally trust that the ABS computer will always "know" just how much braking force to apply to the rear wheel in certain situations if I rely on applying only the front brake! As "smart" as these computerized systems may appear to be at first blush, I feel that they should not be viewed as a mindless substitute for the intuitive human brain. My personal approach is to always assume that the ABS could go south at any moment (often at the worst times) and thus I will always at least lightly apply my right foot to the rear brake pedal, as if the bike doesn't have ABS in the first place; (3) In my opinion, ever allowing our rear-brake/right foot skills to become rusty and non-intuitive is just plain stupid and unsafe. For example, let's suppose one has been riding a bike with partial integrated ABS bike for a long time, and we've chosen to just forget about the rear brake pedal. What then if we suddenly find a situation where we must ride an older bike without ABS? If we've allowed our right foot/rear-brake skills to become little more than a non-intuitive, largely forgotten, dim memory, this is an invitation to disaster. And again, the same hold true if our ABS-equipped bike might suddenly lose its ABS!

In summary, I believe that if we allow partial integrated ABS (and even ASC) to lull us into complacency, laziness, and the fading away of our most basic, reflexive, and intuitive basic braking skills (and what really is more important than excellent braking skills on a motorcycle?) we are quite potentially setting ourselves up for having a very bad day.

I rest my case. As always, I welcome your thoughts.
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post #2 of 14 (permalink) Old Apr 14th, 2007, 9:43 pm
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Well… I have ridden motorcycles of all kinds since I was fifteen, which is a bunch of years ago. Not that the long duration makes me an expert, but it does give me a right to my own opinion. My first Harley-Davidson didn’t have a front brake at all. Later in life, with the advent of disk brakes all around, better tires and better suspension, I learned new skills – I learned how fast a motorcycle can stop with good front brakes, and I learned how much better I could maneuver at slow speeds in a parking lot with judicious use of the rear brake.

My last three motorcycles have been recent BMW models, all with partial-link ABS. I guess I’m one of the lazy ones. I trust the ABS system to do a better job than I can do, with maybe the possible exception being braking on washboard pavement (and I’m not even sure of that). I trust the partial-link to manage the rear braking effort for me most of the time. I trust the computer system enough to believe it’s going to work unless it says it won’t. Even if the system doesn’t work while the display says things are OK, the odds are slim of that happening while at the same time I have put myself in a situation where my own hands and feet can’t get me stopped in time. If other people judge me to be “overly complacent and overly reliant” or “stupid and unsafe” as a result, so be it.

The chances of me riding someone else’s (not similarly equipped) motorcycle on the spur of the moment is probably nil, but if it happened I would certainly hope I would be mature enough to be careful when riding on an unfamiliar motorcycle.

If you choose to be distrustful of the machinery, it certainly can’t hurt you.
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post #3 of 14 (permalink) Old Apr 14th, 2007, 10:19 pm
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In the last 15 years I've ridden BMWs with 4 different ABS types, including integrated, on my current ride, 05 K12lt. I've been riding since I was 15, and learned to use the front brake after riding for about 10 years.

My braking style has not changed even a little when riding on an ABS equipped machine. Front and rear every stop, except maybe in a parking lot. I ignore the ABS and let it come into the picture when needed.

I actually experienced the integrated on my K12 the other day when I came in too hot at a left turn at a light and missed a gear while downshifting. Hit the brake, and my foot was on the pedal before my hand could reach the front brake. Bike braked as though my hand was also on the front brake. I was glad to have the integrated at that point.
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post #4 of 14 (permalink) Old Apr 15th, 2007, 5:46 am
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Originally Posted by howfly
]I actually experienced the integrated on my K12 the other day when I came in too hot at a left turn at a light and missed a gear while downshifting. Hit the brake, and my foot was on the pedal before my hand could reach the front brake. Bike braked as though my hand was also on the front brake. I was glad to have the integrated at that point.
I thought that the rear pedal only controlled the rear brake, and the lever had BOTH the front and rear.

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post #5 of 14 (permalink) Old Apr 15th, 2007, 6:36 am
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I also thought that the foot only controlled the rear brake.

That being said, in one of the on-road lessons I had the good fortune to have with the late Larry Grodsky, he taught me the use of what he called "trailing brake". This would be in a situation where you needed a little more control in the turn, don't want to apply the front brake as that puts pressure on both front and rear brake and tends to stand the bike more upright, you would only apply the rear brake, while simultaneously applying slighty more throttle. This is assuming that you have read the road correctly, analyzed the 'verges', and properly anticipated the upcoming turn in the road, so that it doesn't matter even if it is a decreasing radius turn. Then release the rear brake, settle the bike in its suspension and accelerate out of the turn.

Sound right to you?

Let me also say that I ALMOST (but not quite) always apply both hand and foot brake when I need to stop, even though I know the brakes are linked. Old habit I guess.

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post #6 of 14 (permalink) Old Apr 15th, 2007, 8:03 am
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Like Chuck I tend to let technology help me out. I use the front brake lever for the most part and only use the rear pedal when I'm forced to stop harder or faster than usual. The linked braking and ABS have done their job om more than one occassion for me so I have no problem with the method I use.

BTW, on models with Integral ABS the rear pedal activates only the rear brake.

'03 K1200GT

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post #7 of 14 (permalink) Old Apr 15th, 2007, 8:27 am
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I've been riding since I was 13 (now 50). I didn't start riding BMW until 2000 and my biggest problem was remembering I had ABS. I never nailed the brakes in panic situations. That is starting to change.

I'm even starting to like having the rear brake applied for me. The literature on the system says it does it correctly according to speed and weight. Why not trust the technology? It's all around you.

I do like not having the rear linked so I can use it independently.

What was that middle thang?
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post #8 of 14 (permalink) Old Apr 15th, 2007, 11:40 am
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I have been riding on and off for the past 40 years. And almost every type of machine that I have owned, I used the equipment provided. I learned how it worked and used it in conjunction with my own learned skills. As far as not trusting the equipment, I do. That is why I buy this stuff in the first place. Heck not trusting the ABS/linked brakes, o.k. but you might as well have a back up plan when the brakes just out and out fail. Not just BMW sophisticated brakes fail. Normal systems fail as well. If your master cylinder fails or any other component of the brake system fails you are going to have to react hopefully instinctively - and quickly.
I am not knocking you in any way, however I like technology and that is why I have dropped serious $$$ on these bikes.

Easthampton, MA
07 K1200S
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post #9 of 14 (permalink) Old Apr 15th, 2007, 11:58 am
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First, the brakes on the GT are the Partially Integral version. Rear brake pedal operates the rear brake only. Front handle operates both front and rear. This differs from the 1150R bikes as well as the LT (all ABS equipped models) where the pedal operates both front and rear brakes as does the handle. This was what I most disliked about the 1150RT and primarily why I didn't upgrade sooner.

ABS on these bikes just works! When I'm slowing normally, like traffic or a light, I put a finger on the front and let it stop me normally though once stopped, I change to the rear to free up my hand. I can feel the ABS modulating as this happens. It's either that or my disks are warped! In an emergency stop, my instincts take over and my foot goes to the rear while grabbing a handful of front. The nice thing about ABS is that in an emergency, you needn't do this gingerly. Squeeze and squeeze hard. You'll be fine and you will stop. No lockups to worry about unless of course, you're trying to panic stop in the middle of a sharp curve.

Something weird, to me, is that when I touch the rear while using mostly the front, I can feel the front activating the rear pedal physically, with my foot.

I love the ABS on these bikes. I actually preferred the totally unlinked version on the RT (1100s) than the partially linked setup on my GT but I'm getting used to it. I will not buy another primary transport bike without ABS. It just works and does so very well, IMHO.
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post #10 of 14 (permalink) Old Apr 15th, 2007, 1:05 pm
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Yes, you are always responsible for your own actions, including using proper braking technique regardless of the bike being ridden. Learn to use both brakes effectively, that's what they're there for.

Keep in mind that most of the advantages of Integral or Partial-Integral ABS occur during excessive or panic braking situations. When that SUV suddenly turns left, or that box falls off the truck in front of you, you can grab both brakes as hard as you can, and trust the ABS to not let the wheels skid. It also allows you some ability to maneuver around the obstacle while maintaining maximum deceleration. That alone is worth whatever cost it adds to the bike.

But if you're out riding with friends, even if you're strafing back roads at full tilt, and you feel the ABS kicking in then that just means you're riding way above what conditions allow, and you should back off a bit. Trust the ABS to add that extra measure of safety in a total panic stop situation, but trust your own skills the other 98% of the time.

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