Concerns on the sustainability of advanced braking systems on older motorcycles
Former FIM CAP Director
Until a few years ago I played an active role in the field of motorcycle safety and public policy. I am still an active rider and want to share a personal concern with you on the issue of motorcycle safety.
One of the issues we have been promoting as rider organizations is the development and use of advanced braking systems. In the present market there is a good availability of motorcycles with these braking systems, riders do want to buy and ride those machines and the motorcycle press helps to promote this use. Recent legislation now requires ABS on all new machines from 1-1-2016 (EU 168/2013).
From my safety background I am an early adapter and I have been riding ABS-motorcycles since they are on the market. At the moment I use a BMW R1150RT that I bought new in 2003. The braking system recently broke down for the 2nd time in 15 years which requires an expensive repair. The electrical pump needs to be replaced; the repair will cost over 2000 euro. The mileage of the machine is 150.000 km and now needs its 3rd pump; the first one was replaced after 10 years and approximately 110.000 km.
Since the braking system is such an essential part of the motorcycle the reasonable expectation of a vehicle user is that the braking system should have a longer lifetime than in my example (10 and 5 years) and certainly more than the 2 years of warranty on the repair. For a comparison: I just sold my 17 year old Volvo V70 (500.000 km) which still had the original ABS system and that was working OK.
I did some internet research and I noticed that advanced braking systems on motorcycles of several brands do break down and often require expensive repairs.
The concern I want to share is this. It is not uncommon for riders to own and use older motorcycles. When using an older machine that has an advanced braking system that has a reasonable chance to break down, the safety of the rider is at risk.
When the braking pump doesn’t work, there is no ABS available and operating the brakes requires far more force from the hand and foot. This is the direct safety effect when a failure occurs. The rider can stop the machine and can have the machine transported to a repair company.
The more long term effects are the following.
These machines that were in the past sold on the high end of the market are becoming unreliable which gives them on one hand a very low market value and on the other hand makes them not suitable for long distance traveling anymore.
On my Internet research I noticed that there are owners that take the the decision to continue using the machine without having it repaired. I even saw repair companies that offer a (cheap) technical solution where the ABS and powered braking system is being replaced by a conventional hydraulics-only-non-ABS-system.
Conclusion: all the effort we have put as motorcycle consumers in promoting safety brake systems leads in some cases after several years of use to at least devaluation of the vehicle and in the worst case to motorcycles in traffic that do not have any longer a safety braking system.
I hope my personal example and observations can contribute to a development where the safety devices in motorcycle will be sustainable during the whole lifecycle of the machine.