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Swedish riders: ‘ABS brakes on motorcycles are superior on gravel’

There is no better place to test the performance of motorcycles with ABS on gravel roads than Sweden. One fifth of the Swedish road network are gravel roads, that is 20,200 kilometres.

It has become popular to ride on these roads with ‘normal’ bikes, as well as riding them with motorcycles designed for these roads. Thus, it is important for SMC to test safety systems on gravel.

Jesper Christensen, SMC’s General Secretary: “Controlled braking means that the rider avoids a crash that could lead to other serious consequences”. “The test shows that it is important to train riders in braking on both gravel and asphalt. After the test, SMC has started to encourage motorcyclists to participate in courses where you can learn to handle a motorcycle on gravel roads. SMC plans to complete 50 courses throughout Sweden in 2021. The modern ABS systems are so good that the stability and braking performance work well also on a gravel road, even if the setting is for asphalt road. This makes it easier to turn and swerve during a tough deceleration” says Jesper.

Swedish Motorcyclists’ Association SMC (member of FEMA) and its member magazine MC-Folket did a brake test with adventure bikes on gravel in the autumn 2020. The test showed that ABS (anti-lock braking system) always led to more controlled braking, regardless of whether the rider had experience riding a motorcycle on gravel or was a beginner. ABS brakes also led to shorter braking distances.

ABS brakes are still superior and enable a rider to make a controlled stop, regardless of previous experience. ABS brakes also provide shorter braking distances. No-one can brake better without ABS in a panic situation, regardless of previous experience.

The tests do show large differences between the rider’s previous experience. The braking distance is almost twice as long for the beginner compared to the gravel enthusiast. The reason for this is that you don’t dare to brake due to fear of locking the wheels. This means that when the experienced rider has stopped the motorcycle from 50 km/h, the unexperienced person is still riding at 34 km/h, with the risk of colliding with the obstacle he wants to avoid.

The test showed small differences in braking distance when choosing the different modes (Street ABS or Off-road-ABS) and different types of tires. The braking distance was only a few meters longer, but the stability of the motorcycle was affected.

SMC and MC-Folket did the first brake test on gravel in 2011 when many thought that ABS brakes didn’t work on gravel. The test showed the opposite, the ABS brakes gave both shorter braking distances and more stable motorcycles. Since then, motorcycles and their safety systems have been developed at the same time as adventure bikes that are ridden on both asphalt and gravel have become very popular. In the test 2020, the performance was measured and compared based on the choice of tires, vehicle setting (gravel or asphalt), with or without ABS and based on the driver’s previous experience. Braking and evasive manoeuvres were performed at 50 km/h.

Click to read the entire test report (in English) from MC-Folket

Contact: Jesper Christensen

Photography by Joachim Sjöström

This article is subject to FEMA’s copyright