Mandatory ABS for Motorcycles?

Motorcycles are the last vehicles still largely free from Uncle’s asphyxiating grasp. That is about to change.

The unelected regulatory apparat known as the National Highway Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which is a gaggle of federal bureaucrats who — somehow — became Car Czars, empowering themselves to dictate safety standards which all cars must comply with — is turning its unwanted attention to bikes.

It is “calling for” (government-speak for demanding that) a federal requirement be imposed mandating that all new motorcycles be built with anti-lock brakes (ABS) and stability control.

Because — as with cars — it’s not enough that the technology is available and that motorcycle buyers who wish to buy either or both are free to do so.

Everyone must be forced to buy them.

One wonders where these federal busybodies, whom no one elected, imagine they got the moral right (as distinct from the bully power) to dictate such things to people who — in the main — clearly do not want such things. The evidence for this being that when people are not forced to buy such things, many do not buy them.

This was the case with cars before ABS (and all the rest) was mandated and it is the case — for the moment — with motorcycles.

It is called the free market. People freely choosing, the market responding — or not.

Federal busybodies and control freaks despise this. And so they countermand the market’s verdicts, imposing their own. Safety is not the issue. It is control. And bikes are still largely under the rider’s control. They lack almost all the control-freak systems and technology foisted by fatwa onto the car buying public.

Which is among the reasons why people ride.

A big part of the appeal of bikes is precisely the freedom to not have to buy things like ABS and stability control. It keeps bikes simple, which keeps them affordable — unlike cars, which no longer are. Hence the endless financing of them; you pay for so many years — six now being the average — such that by the time you finally pay the car off it’s almost time to sign up for a new loan because the car you just paid off is getting on in years and miles and beginning to cost money to maintain.

Most new bikes cost less than $15,000 and many less than $10,000. It does not take a six year loan to finance them. As was once the case with cars, the typical finance deal on a new bike is 2-3 years, about half the duration of the typical current new car loan.

Someone pays for the things “called for” by the federal busybodies and control freaks. Just not them.

Motorcycle riders are also not like car drivers.

Riding isn’t primarily about transportation — about getting from A to B. It is about the ride — the getting there being everything, the destination almost incidental.

And riding is about skill.

Which is developed and then expressed.

Bikers take pride in the art of modulating the front and rear brakes separately, to use them as (to borrow a term from aviation) control surfaces, which they are. Motorcycle brakes — for the most part — are not linked, as they are in cars. The front and rear brakes are distinct systems, controlled separately — the front brake via the lever on the right hand grip and the rear via a foot-operated pedal.

Unlike in a car — especially a car with ABS — you do not just push down on a pedal (or a lever) like a dumb animal who has learned a simple trick.

A skilled rider can selectively modulate braking pressure at each wheel individually, to increase the control he’s got over his machine. He can use the brakes to shift the bike’s center of mass during cornering and in an emergency, he can lock up just the rear brake to lay the bike down safely, in a controlled manner — in order to avoid catastrophic damage to himself in favor of sacrificing the machine.

This cannot be done with linked brakes and ABS.

It is doubtful the arrogant busybodies at NTSB have ever heard the expression — lay the bike down — let alone what it means. And they manifestly do not care that their “calls” for mandatory ABS would take away that necessary option from the rider.

Yes, yes. ABS can decrease stopping distances and improve control of the machine… assuming an inexperienced rider.

ABS is at bottom a form of idiot-proofing, as it is in cars — where it has encouraged idiot drivers to not maintain a safe following distance because they know the car won’t skid — even though that fact won’t prevent the car from driving right up the car ahead’s tailpipe, if it slows down suddenly.

Physics is physics. ABS just means no tire skid marks before the impact.

Stability control is also more idiot proofing that takes control away from the rider.

It encourages envelope-pushing and lack of respect for physics and the consequences thereof — because “technology” will save the idiot.

Not that the pros and cons of ABS and stability control are not the point — assuming you don’t consider yourself the parent or master of other adults. Because it is the principle which matters. The principle that free adults ought to be free to decide for themselves whether they “need” such things as ABS and stability control.

Which is a principle the NTSB rejects.

So, we’re about to be told what kind of bike we’ll be allowed to buy — just as we’re already told what kinds of cars we’ll be allowed to buy. By strangers we’ve never met and certainly never authorized to dictate such things to us, possessed of an almost indescribable effrontery, backed up with guns.

Safety isn’t the point.

It has never been the point. Understand this.

Until enough of us re-assert our right to not be parented and controlled by these insufferable busybodies, the controlling and busybody-ing is certain to become even more insufferable.

At some point, these bastards — and pardon my language, it is not my habit to swear, but there are times when no other word will do — are going to simply outlaw bikes altogether. A bike can never be as safe as a car — and they will therefore have to be banned.

The logic — from the standpoint of the busybodies — is inescapable.

It is only a matter of time.


Not an NMA Member yet?

Join today and get these great benefits!

Leave a Comment