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What is ABS on a Motorcycle & Motorcycle ABS FAQs

September 06, 2023 Comments Comment

An Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) can help you maintain control of your motorcycle, equipping you with the tools you need to stop quickly, while helping to prevent uncontrolled wheel lockups caused by improper user braking. Learn more about what ABS is on a motorcycle, how ABS works on a motorcycle and more.

Motorcycle ABS FAQs


ABS is an abbreviation for Anti-Lock Braking System. ABS on a motorcycle is similar to the ABS systems used on automobiles, trucks and aircraft.

What is the purpose of ABS on a motorcycle?

On Harley-Davidson motorcycle the ABS functions on both wheels. When the rider needs to make an urgent or emergency stop on dry pavement, gravel, leaves, rain, or any slick surface, maintaining control of the bike can be a challenge. The purpose of motorcycle ABS brakes is to help you maintain control of your bike when braking in a straight-line emergency. Harley-Davidson® antilock braking systems can help you maintain control, equipping you with the tools you need to stop quickly, while helping to prevent uncontrolled wheel lockups caused by improper braking.

The Cornering Enhanced Antilock Braking System (C-ABS) is a variant of ABS that takes into consideration the lean angle of the motorcycle. While cornering, the available grip for braking is reduced and C-ABS can automatically compensate for this.

How are ABS brakes different from traditional brakes?

On motorcycles equipped with traditional non-ABS brakes, one or both wheels may lock up if too much braking pressure is applied by the rider. ABS monitors brake pressure and wheel speed and intervenes to help prevent wheels from locking up during an urgent stop.

How does ABS work on a motorcycle?

The ABS monitors sensors at the front and rear wheels to determine wheel speed. If the system detects one or more wheels are slowing down too quickly, which indicates they are close to locking, or if the deceleration rate does not match the parameters stored in memory, the ABS activates. The rider can recognize ABS activation by the slight pulsing sensation in the hand lever or the rear brake pedal. A clicking sound from the ABS module can also be heard. Both are the result of normal operation.

What do ABS brakes do?

The ABS system rapidly opens and closes valves to modulate the brake pressure. During ABS activation, the system provides the electronic equivalent of manually pumping the brakes. The system can cycle many times per second.

Do Harley-Davidson® motorcycles have ABS?

ABS is offered either as an option or as standard equipment for all new Harley-Davison motorcycle models sold in the United States. Harley-Davidson first introduced ABS for some Police motorcycle models in 2005, and first offered ABS as an option for some Touring motorcycle models in 2008.

Can I add ABS brakes to my motorcycle?

It is not possible to add ABS to a motorcycle that was not originally equipped with an ABS system. Consult your local Harley® Dealer  or Owner’s Manual to determine if your bike was equipped with an ABS system or not.

Ready to upgrade your motorcycle’s brakes and suspension?

Shop popular Harley-Davidson brake and suspension components today in our online store.

Harley-Davidson offers Original Equipment quality replacement brake pads and other brake accessories for many Harley-Davidson motorcycle models. See an authorized Harley-Davidson® dealer or go to H-D.com to shop all H-D® brakes & suspension components.

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