Awesome Brownie Sunday
Getting the call to ride the BMW S 1000RR, CBR1000RR and ZX-10R to most would be like a dream come true! (Well, it is…) But when the three little letters ABS come into the conversation, it becomes another story. “Hey, do you want to take our beautiful bikes and go slam the brakes on as hard as you can in some water, gravel and maybe some dirt?” I’m like, “Uh...Sure, will you still make me Chocolate Chip Cookies if something goes wrong?” First stop: A flooded road. I was surprised at just how hard you can brake in the wet, a lot harder than I would feel comfortable with a standard braking system. The BMW seemed to have the most power in the wet. Second stop: Loose gravel. While both the BMW and Kawasaki feel similar in that you can feel the system working through the levers, using the rear only makes quite a bit of ruckus in the rear ends, like your sprocket bolts just sheared off, whereas the Honda is as smooth and quiet as can be but didn’t feel as powerful as the other two. Third stop: Dry road. The BMW in Sport or Race mode was quite a handful in the dry under extreme braking, with the ZX-10 being pretty solid. The Honda, again the smoothest but not the quickest to stop. Of the three, I think the ZX-10R as the best all-around ABS system for the street. And this little piggy got all three bikes back without a scratch! Just sayin…
Almost Beyond Sobbing
If your boss asks you to jump, you say “how high?” But when Kent first asked me to ride directly towards the generously sized water puddle we found on our street ride and grab the BMW S 1000 RR’s brakes with absolute force, I’ll admit I was hesitant. Nevertheless, I crossed into the wet patch at an indicated 45 mph and grabbed the brakes as hard as I could, half expecting things to go sour. They didn’t of course, and so I mounted the Honda and Kawasaki and did as many passes as possible. I was surprised to see how different all three systems acted too. In the dry especially, the BMW’s system allowed the bike to get out of control, which required I modulate the brakes — a sign that the system was developed with racetrack use in mind. The Honda has the most opposite feel, and the bike comes to an absolutely controlled stop with ease. The numb feel at the lever is a concern for me though, and it doesn’t feel like as much braking force is applied. I feel like the Kawasaki perfectly combines the positive characteristics of each of the other systems. The ZX-10R’s ABS allows the front tire to slip just slightly before traction is regained, which gives you the feeling of still being slightly in control of the bike. Plus there is still enough power to come to a quick stop. By day’s end, I had a new respect for ABS; each of these systems is truly brilliant.
Always Blasting Somebody
Picking between these bikes is a lot different than if the Kawasaki and Honda were standard models. A lot of this depends on your intended usage. If I was going to be doing a lot of track days, I’d probably go for the BMW, simply because you can turn off the Race ABS. However, if I was riding primarily on the street with only the very occasional track day, then I’d probably opt for the Kawasaki. The KIBS really impressed me with its ability to stop extremely hard in all kinds of conditions while allowing me some feedback instead of simply taking over completely and leaving me with a mushy brake lever.
The Honda’s C-ABS is incredibly smooth but it’s a little too numb for my tastes during very aggressive braking or a panic stop. And while the S 1000 RR’s Race ABS works great on the track for the most part, I didn’t care for how the rear end would get out of shape in the higher system modes during a panic stop on the street. That added issue could be the difference between avoiding something or ending up on the ground in an emergency.
And lastly, I still see a lot of street riders poo-pooing ABS because they think they’re skilled enough not to need it. Trust me, you will not be able to panic stop as quickly as these systems on a cold rainy day with wet brake pads and cold tires — period.