99 months ago

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Bringing Motorcycles To A Safe Stop; Why Don’t Manufacturers Tell Us This?

Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

When I started riding motorcycles in the 1980s, there were good motorcycles and bad motorcycles. Bad motorcycles were ones that didn’t handle, weren’t reliable and didn’t stop. Bad motorcycles are now history.

Kawasaki H2 vs. Suzuki Hayabusa vs. Yamaha YZF-R1

Kawasaki H2 vs. Suzuki Hayabusa vs. Yamaha YZF-R1

Photo via MCN. Fastest Test Ever: Kawasaki H2 v Suzuki Hayabusa v Yamaha YZF-R1

No manufacturer can survive “lemon” laws and consumer class action lawsuits. The manufacturers are now far more careful in design and testing. While some current model bikes may not be great for you or not great for everyone, most are still functional and reliable.

Many bikes are so focused that they only do one thing really well. I am not likely to want a highly focused race replica sport bike or a wild custom that is more for looks than go. Or a three wheeler that is more car than motorcycle. However, some riders do want them and buy them. But the point here is that even those bikes are still functional.

Stopping power means riding safer

I will admit to spending a lot of time reading motorcycle road tests (what else is there to do while in the can?). Among the things that I have noticed in the magazine tests is that some bikes come equipped with really great brakes. The manufacturer has added the best braking components to what is already a pretty good or even great machine. The stopping power of the newest motorcycles is enhanced with sophisticated multi-level ABS, four piston brake calipers, performance brake pads, radial mounting for brake calipers, radial brake master cylinders and tires that are designed to enhance braking as well as handling. In addition to the ‘coolness’ factor, these are improvements that really make riding safer.

So let’s compare motorcycle braking systems and stopping

Stopping distance is the best measure of how effective the ‘braking system’ is bringing a motorcycle to a safe stop. Unfortunately, brakes and how effectively they stop the motorcycle seem to be one part of a bike that is rarely tested in the motorcycle press. We get to read about engine design specifications, length of wheelbase and choice of colour. A few magazines actually test 30 mph to 0 and 60 mph to 0 stopping distances and report them. Sadly, most do not. Even when stopping distances are tested and reported, the information rarely seems to be prominent in the road tests or bike comparison.

I checked back through a year or so of motorcycle magazines to get published stopping distances. A summary of these:

Motorcycle 30 to 0 and 60 to 0

2015 Kawasaki H2 - 32 ft 124 ft

2015 Aprilia Tuono - 29 ft 115 ft

2016 Victory Gunner - 37 ft 146 ft

2016 Harley Sportster - 32 ft 139 ft

2016 Yamaha Bolt - 38 ft 152 ft

2015 Honda CBR300 ABS - 34 ft 134 ft

2016 BMR R1200R - 30 ft 119 ft

2016 Yamaha FJ09 - 33 ft 133 ft

2016 Kawasaki 1000 Versys - 33 ft 129 ft

In my quick check, the biggest difference between these bikes in the '30 mph to 0’ is nine feet or about the length of a Smart Car. However, the biggest differences are in the ‘60 mph to a stop’ measurement.

The list above shows the difference between the shortest and longest stopping distances from 60 mph 37 feet (11.2776 meters)! So let’s look at what that means on the road.

The average lane is between twelve and fifteen feet wide. A two lane cross street would be 24 to 30 feet wide. If two bikes are riding side by side (please don’t!!) at 60 mph and a car runs a stop sign at the cross street in front of you, the Aprilia Tuono will stop 31 ft before the rider on the Victory Gunner.

If the Aprilia Tuono stops two feet before the car in the intersection, the rider has saved himself. The Victory rider however brings his bike to a stop 31 ft later. This would be at least one foot beyond the two lane cross street. If there was a car in either lane of the cross street, the Victory would have hit it. This of course assumes equal rider skills and that is rarely the case.

If the rider can’t stop in time, it really means he/she cannot stop in the amount of ‘safe’ space in front of the bike’s front wheel. Stopping too late means you have hit the object in the cross street or are now stopped in the middle of that cross flowing traffic. Stopping time (this is taught in Rider Training courses) and stopping distance is virtually the same thing. You either stopped in time or you didn’t. You figure the consequences!

We need tested stopping distance

In conclusion, one of the things you should be seriously looking at when you consider buying a bike is the tested stopping distance. We should all be insisting that our favourite motorcycle magazines include this critical test as part of their new motorcycle testing. We should also be telling the motorcycle manufacturers that stopping distance must be listed in the specifications in all of their brochures and listed in their ‘on line’ specifications.

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98 months ago

Very interesting read and well researched in an area where manufacturers should have a significant level of interest given the safety issues involved. However I have a view that the only responsibility worthwhile for my life rests with me and me alone. I should know the road conditions, the probable risks and severity of those risks, the performance capabilities of my vehicle including braking, and my own performance capabilities including reaction times, machine control, and stopping distances. I am totally responsible for NEVER EVER outriding the capabilities of myself and/or my machine - EVER! No-one else just me. Whilst manufactures can and should make improvements where possible and practical (including cost considerations) they are not solely responsible for my safety - as above - that falls to my management.


98 months ago

Great post. I think however you hit the nail on the head. Those braking distances are based on rider skill. And braking isn't something a lot of riders practice often. Especially at 60mph. And to a dead stop. So those numbers don't necessarily mean a lot, simply of how skilled or unskilled a rider may be. However, that said the information it contains can give you a reasonable braking distance. This should encourage manufacturers to improve their products. For example in the test above the Harley Sportster come with optional ABS - something a lot of manufacturers in the US forgo with cruisers. And if I were to drive a heavy truck vs a small vehicle the braking distance changes simply due to the weight. But the more those numbers are public the more likely manufacturers are to respond.


99 months ago

And SLOW down! There are plenty of empty roads out there to enjoy without the worry of traffic.


99 months ago

Great information and very worth noting as a rider. We rarely think about the brakes when making the purchase, sort of taken for granted that it's a bike and stops way better than a car. What's also interesting is that all the bikes take roughly four times the distance to stop when doubling the speed from 30 to 60 mph. Leave yourself that extra space when out on the road!