Cornering ABS, it’s the hot new thing on motorcycles rights now. So important is this braking technology, one industry CEO explained it to me in the following terms: in terms of safety, it does to the front wheel what traction control has done for the rear wheel.
I won’t make the bold statement that IMU-powered (that’s inertial measurement units for the uninitiated) braking systems make it impossible to tuck the front wheel of a motorcycle, but they do make it exceedingly difficult to do so, especially by use of the brakes.
Not surprisingly then, we see a number of motorcycle brands offering this technology now, usually on their more premium models. KTM was the first do so, getting an exclusive from Bosch, one of the leaders in this space.
Since then though, cornering ABS has come to virtually every brand (strangely, none of the American motorcycle brands offer a motorcycle with cornering ABS right now), and we see several players offering systems to these OEMs, with Bosch and Continental leading the pack.
The concept is pretty simple, though the execution is anything but. The key to the system is the IMU, which rapidly measures over-and-over-again the bike’s pitch, yaw, and roll, as well as its acceleration along all three physical axis on the x, y, and z planes.
Of note, some motorcycle brands tout their use of “six-axis” IMU, which uses all six of the above parameters, while other models instead use a five-axis IMU, which employs a complex algorithm to “guess” the action along the missing sixth telemetry point. But I digress…
Combined with wheel speed sensors, and engine parameters from the engine control unit (ECU), the cornering ABS computer can take all these data points and with a high degree of certainly know exactly what the motorcycle is doing in terms of motion, and what the rider is inputting into the controls.
From here, the nerds have built a complex program that ensures that even when the rider gives a full grip of brake lever with their right hand, the hydraulic pressure sent to the front brakes doesn’t exceed a threshold that would cause the front wheel to lose traction and tuck.
This pressure is of course modulated by a very high-performing ABS module, not too unlike what has been on the market for the past 10 years or so.
The result is an unnerving, but very effective, safety net that allows riders to grab a fist-full of brakes while leaned over, without the risk of causing a lowslide crash. In other words, this is a safety game-changer.
Safety is giving way to fun now too, as just recently these systems have evolved for the race track with “race” modes for cornering ABS coming on the scene. The Ducati Panigale V4 is one such machine equipped with this type of cornering ABS setup, which it calls Bosch Cornering ABS EVO.
Motorcycles were previously incapable of such demanding rigors, but now we see full-fledged superbikes capable of using cornering ABS for threshold and trail-braking maneuvers. The Panigale V4 adds a new element into the mix as well, with a slide control equipped for the rear-brake actuation as well.
Just as traction control allows riders to exploit the limits of throttle application coming out of turn (let’s not even get into the IMU-powered traction control systems that superbikes have now), race-ready cornering ABS programs are letting riders “cheat” on their cornering entry, allowing them to ride the brakes hard into the apex, while math takes care of the rest.
Of course, the real benefit is that for street riders, and surely the day will come where all motorcycles will have this safety net as a standard item. Cornering ABS is the future, no matter how much brake-feel you think you posses.
So with all this in mind, we thought that we would share with you, below, this intriguing video from KTM that explains this technology in pretty relatable every day terms.
Just be sure you look past the marketing that is going on here – KTM is taking quite a bit of credit for a technology that is almost entirely the work of the eggheads at Bosch. Still, it’s interesting stuff.