UNDER CONTROL. More motorcycles than ever before include ABS as standard equipment or as an option. All manufacturers have ABS available on some models, and it’s available in all motorcycle styles. You can purchase entry-level motorcycles that have ABS in every category. You can spend as little as $4,700 for a sport motorcycle that has ABS and about $8,000 for a model in the cruiser, dual-sport/adventure, standard and touring categories for that feature. Two manufacturers, Harley-Davidson and Honda, make this technology available for their entire lineup, either as a standard feature or an option. At Harley-Davidson, which began to provide ABS as an option on its touring models in 2009, the system is part of a $1,195 security package; you can’t buy it separately. Honda, which introduced models that have ABS in 2009 on two of its sport motorcycles, now makes it available for as low as $500 on every motorcycle, except for one model that has an engine that’s smaller than 250 cc.
The newest advancement in ABS—cornering anti-lock brakes, or cornering ABS, which also are called lean-sensitive anti-lock brakes—is now available on three models from three manufacturers: the Ducati Multistrada S ($19,695), the KTM Super Adventure ($20,499) and the Yamaha YZF-R1 ($16,490). The manufacturers tell us that this technology gives you the ability to slow a motorcycle effectively even when it leans into a turn. Normal anti-lock brakes are effective only when a motorcycle heads straight.
These models debuted overseas and were due to go on sale in the United States in March or April 2015. We hadn’t ridden one at press time, but the innovation has drawn praise. The technology “knows how far you’re leaning and how rapidly, so you can stand on the rear brake and squeeze the front brake for all you’re worth, and it will not activate the brakes more than it can handle,” says Ty van Hooydonk of Motorcycles.org, who rode the KTM model that has this feature. In other words, the brakes won’t activate to the point that they lock up and cause the motorcycle to skid. (Motorcycles.org stresses safe, smart motorcycle riding.)
The old rule in motorcycling, he says, is that when you were leaned over, you didn’t want to apply a lot of brake, if any, for risk of losing control of the motorcycle. Even models that have conventional ABS can cause a rider to lose control of the motorcycle when they lean.