Premium motorcycles have been equipped with technologies like ABS for quite some time now. However, the recent introduction of safety features such as SBS and ABS on mainstream two-wheelers has woven a reliable new safety net around everyday riders. To put things in perspective, even the more powerful motorcycles of yore were equipped with weak drum brakes that weren’t powerful enough, heated up quickly, and prone to fading and locked-up wheels. Grabbing a handful on these old braking systems was often a recipe for disaster.
On April 1, 2019, the Government of India passed a directive to make ABS (Anti-Lock Braking System) mandatory for all two-wheelers above 125 cc of cubic capacity to address this safety concern. For two-wheelers having a displacement under 125 cc, SBS (Synchronised Braking System) was made mandatory. This was a step to make braking safety measures more stringent for vehicle manufacturers and enhance the safety of two-wheelers on Indian roads. Ever since these safety measures were introduced, they have gone a long way in improving the stopping capabilities of the two-wheelers on Indian roads and have possibly reduced road accidents too. But what exactly are these braking safety technologies? How do they work, and how exactly do they make our roads safer? Let us find out.
Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS)
As the name suggests, ABS prevents the wheels from locking up while brakes are applied. A locked wheel on a two-wheeler makes the tyres lose traction. Resultantly, one of the wheels of the two-wheeler may wash out, potentially leading to an accident. A locked wheel also does not respond to directional inputs by the rider, and as a result, the two-wheeler doesn’t move in the intended direction. This prevents the rider from carrying out any evasive manoeuvres and reduces safety in emergency braking scenarios.
An ABS prevents the wheels of a two-wheeler from locking while still retarding the vehicle speed in a progressive, effective manner. It ensures that the wheels maintain tractive contact with the road, thus helping keep the rubber side down. The system also enables the vehicle to follow the direction intended to be traversed by the rider, offering him a better shot at carrying out an evasive manoeuvre.
Now, while one may think that allowing the wheel to rotate while braking would lead to the vehicle taking longer to stop, such isn’t the case. Modern ABS systems have proven to effectively bring two-wheelers to a halt in lesser distance and time than non-ABS systems. These new-age ABS systems are also fully automated, lightning-quick and respond instantly to rider inputs in an emergency braking situation.
How does ABS work?
ABS consists of a central ECU, a speed sensor for each wheel, valves within the brake hydraulics and a pump to restore hydraulic pressure. These work together to control the braking on the two-wheeler. The speed sensor monitors the speed of each wheel. If the sensor detects that one of the wheels is rotating slower than what is ideal for the vehicle's speed, it instantly detects a wheel lock-up. It then instructs the ECU to release hydraulic pressure from the brake on that particular wheel so that it starts turning faster, preventing it from locking.
On the other hand, if the system detects that one of the wheels is moving faster than the vehicle's speed, hydraulic pressure is increased on that wheel to slow down. This process of applying or releasing the hydraulic pressure happens fast. The driver can feel the system working on the brake lever in the form of pulsations. Simply put, ABS is a tiny computer sitting on the wheels that helps the vehicle brake safely and efficiently by preventing the wheels from locking up even in panic braking situations.
Synchronised Braking System (SBS)
Unlike cars, where all four brakes are applied with a single pedal, two-wheelers have separate braking controls for each wheel. A big problem with two-wheeler braking is that it is ineffective unless the rider relies primarily on front brakes for stopping power. Owing to the momentum shifting heavily towards the front end of a two-wheeler during heavy braking, the meat of the traction is available at the front tyre. In fact, on an everyday motorcycle, about 70 per cent of the braking is taken care of by the front brakes. Now, despite front brakes being crucial to effective stopping power, many motorcycle and scooter users don’t use the front brakes enough. A significant number of two-wheeler riders are habituated to using only the rear brakes, which can be a considerable safety hazard in case of an emergency where the stopping distance and time need to be as minimal as possible. A synchronised Braking System (SBS) steps in to address this concern.
The Synchronised Braking System distributes braking force to both wheels even when only one brake is applied. So even when only the rear brake is used, a significant amount of braking force is transferred to the front wheel to enhance the stopping power of the two-wheeler. This comes in handy in panic situations when the rider doesn’t apply both brakes together.
How does SBS work?
A synchronised Brake System (SBS) transfers substantial braking power to the front wheel, even when the rider applies only the rear brake. The technology utilises a reaction relay lever that engages front brakes, applying and releasing pressure in quick succession to the front brake even when only the rear brake lever is pressed. This ensures a smooth and secure transfer of a part of the braking force from back to front, allowing the two-wheeler to stop more efficiently, safely and over a shorter distance.
Another significant component of the Synchronised Braking System is the ‘Multiplier’. The Multiplier distributes the brake force evenly to the front and rear and provides sufficient braking force to the front. It allows for ample stopping power for the two-wheeler with minimum effort from the rider.
How are ABS and SBS enhancing safety?
Like we saw in the explanation above, both systems are effective for safer braking. The absence of either puts the vehicles at a higher risk of collision or falling in emergency braking conditions. With ABS and SBS being made mandatory on all two-wheelers produced since April 1, 2019, the braking systems on all modern two-wheelers in India have become significantly safer. This stands true for the riders and pedestrians or other road users involved in the collision, thus enhancing overall safety on the roads.
Note that riding a vehicle with ABS or SBS means no chances of mishaps. It is the responsibility of the rider to ride carefully and adhere to all safety regulations. Technologies like ABS and SBS are in place to enhance safety; however, they cannot ensure safety in negligent, dangerous riding cases. So always ride within speed limits, be cautious, and use protective riding gear at all times.