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Do MotoGP Bikes Have ABS Or Traction Control?

MotoGP bikes are considered to be among the best motorcycles in the world, so any equipment used by them will be scrutinized for use in production motorcycles. But it doesn’t always work the other way around. This can leave some fans wondering if MotoGP bikes have ABS or traction control.

MotoGP bikes don’t have ABS, but they do have traction control. According to the rules of the FIM, the use of Anti-Lock Braking Systems (ABS) is not permitted, but the bikes are equipped with traction control. This puts more focus on the driver’s skills than the abilities of the 1000cc bikes.

Does this mean that traction control is superior to ABS, or does it mean that the governing body wants the rider to do without any artificial assistance? We take a deep look at both of these systems to discover what each one offers, so join us to find out the answers in the next few paragraphs.

Do MotoGP Bikes Have ABS?

MotoGP bikes do not have ABS. The system is outlawed in many motorsports, including Formula 1, and MotoGP is no different. While it’s common on cars and motorcycles on the road, it’s deemed a driver aid in many motorsports, and so it is outlawed to put more of the onus on the driver’s skills.

Anti-Lock Braking Systems have become common on production motorcycles for the advantage they offer to the rider. They work through a number of sensors that monitor the pressure on the brake pedal, the speed of rotation of both wheels, and a few other parameters to determine if the rider needs an assist and, if so, to take over the pressure applied to the brakes.

The body that governs motorcycle racing, the FIM, does not permit the use of ABS braking systems, and clearly stipulates that the rider controls the brakes manually. The big advantage of ABS is that it can react much faster than any rider and can detect the wheel slipping before the rider can. This instantaneous reaction to any wheel slippage can help the rider to avert a mishap.

What Exactly Is ABS?

Anti-lock braking systems were first used in the 1950s to help in braking aircraft. From then on, it has evolved a lot as advances in electronic technology have enabled it to become more compact and sensitive to small changes in wheel rotation speed. This in turn allows it to make very precise adjustments to ensure that the wheel does not lock.

The heart of the anti-lock braking system is the electronic control unit (ECU) which makes all the decisions and implements them as conditions keep changing. Sensors located at the wheels and brake pedal relay information back to the controller as to wheel rotational speed and brake pedal pressure.

Apart from the sensors that send data to the ECU, there are small actuators that are triggered by the ECU as it senses that a correction needs to be made to avoid loss of traction. If the ECU detects that the wheel has locked, it uses its actuators to release and engage the brakes hundreds of times per second. This prevents the wheel from skidding so the rider can remain in control of the bike.

How Effective Is ABS?

Studies have shown that motorcycles fitted with ABS are up to 37% less likely to get into a fatal accident. In some countries, it has become mandatory for motorcycles and scooters to be fitted with ABS before using it on the road.

ABS has proven its effectiveness beyond doubt, which has resulted in most manufacturers offering it as standard with factory installation, or as optional equipment with different versions that can be fitted later according to the buyer’s choice. 

But while it improves safety on road motorcycles, ABS makes it easier to avoid locking the brakes, and this can be seen as a driver aid. MotoGP, like most motorsports, outlaws many driving aids to ensure the driver’s skills and talent are showcased more than simply the abilities of the bike. The rider is totally in control of the brakes on a MotoGP bike.

Do MotoGP Bikes Have Traction Control?

MotoGP bikes do have traction control, and teams can control it to some extent to optimize the amount of wheelspin. Teams can generally control it in 3 ways: By retarding the ignition, killing the ignition, or closing the throttle, with the best strategy usually being a mix of the first 2 methods. 

MotoGP bikes have traction control to help improve rider safety, as they help prevent highside accidents (although they don’t eliminate them). The traction control systems used in MotoGP became more standardized in 2016, in an effort to close up the racing. However, the brilliant engineers of the sport always find ways to manipulate the systems to their team’s benefit.

While the complex ECU systems designed by the teams allowed for lots of individualized control, the more standardized system decreased this complexity. But MotoGP engineers managed to get around things using torque-demand maps to control the torque sent to the rear tire, which once again helped make the bikes easier to ride. However, traction control is still there.

What Exactly Is Traction Control?

Traction control works by cutting down the momentum of the motorcycle, which can work against the rider who wants to squeeze out every bit of speed from the engine. It influences the engine by retarding or killing the ignition, or by closing the throttle, all of which are very effective at stopping the wheel from skidding, but have the drawback of temporarily reducing engine power.

For all practical purposes, traction control can be considered to be an advanced version of ABS since it sensors, the electronic control unit (ECU), and actuators, but operates differently. The latest ECUs have advanced microprocessors to calculate the amount of correction needed to restore traction and update itself thousands of times per second to ensure that the adjustments are working.

Super-Fast Decision Making

Microprocessor-controlled ECUs have a number of benefits in that they can make fast decisions based on the current data from the wheel sensors and compare it with data from the past to find the best possible settings to apply to the engine to stop the tire from slipping. 

The objective of traction control is to detect when the tire loses grip under acceleration. It then cuts down the power supplied by the engine by slowing down or cutting the ignition, or by altering the ratio of the air to fuel mixture supplied to the cylinders. The result of this is to allow the wheel to slow down and give the tire a chance to regain its grip.

Improving Safety

Traction control is not a cure-all, but it can be very useful in situations where the chances of the tire slipping are high, such as on inclines or on wet roads. Traction control is also used in cars and is compulsory for all cars made from 2011 onwards in the UK, and 2012 in the US.

Despite massive advances in technology that have made these devices possible that assist the rider in keeping control of the bike, there are still many crashes. This is due to the fact that no amount of electronics can compensate for a human error or misjudgment that results in loss of control of the bike wheels. On street bikes, they may give the rider a false sense of confidence.

Having these systems installed on a bike does not automatically prevent the chances of a crash, but it does reduce them substantially.

KEY POINTS

• Both traction control and ABS help riders maintain control of their bike

• While ABS provides assistance under braking, traction control assists under acceleration

• ABS is banned in MotoGP, but the bikes do use traction control

How Do MotoGP Brakes Work?

MotoGP brakes are essentially the same disc brakes that are fitted on a street bike, but with a few differences that allow for better performance. MotoGP brakes are carbon disc brakes, allowing them to provide more stopping power than steel and operate at higher temperatures of up to 800°C (1472°F).

During a MotoGP race, riders operate the brakes and throttle in a specific sequence with close attention to their speed, especially while cornering because it is the most critical part of the track that calls for all the rider’s skill.

When approaching a corner, the rider has to ease off the throttle, then apply the rear brake first to lower the bike speed to a level that is low enough to negotiate the turn. Excessive speed at this point can be reduced by applying the front brake and downshifting so that the engine is working against the wheel momentum as well (known as engine braking).

MotoGP bikes have both foot and thumb brakes, allowing the rider more control over when and how they use the brake. This flexibility allows them to use their body to manipulate the movement of the bike with ease, while still having easy access to the brakes.

What Brakes Do MotoGP Bikes Use?

MotoGP bikes use disc brakes supplied by Brembo. These are much like street bike brakes except that the discs are made from carbon, not steel. Carbon can withstand extremely high temperatures, making it ideal for motorcycle racing. Carbon MotoGP brakes work best between 200-800°C, or 392-1472°F.

Before the race, a warm-up lap is required to bring the temperature above 200°C so that the brakes are working at their optimal temperature. MotoGP disc brakes have a diameter of 340 mm (13.38 inches) which allows them to run a lot cooler because of their extra size – and therefore more surface area for cooling – when compared to standard 320 mm (12.59 inches) disc brakes.

All MotoGP riders are mandated to use disc brakes from the official braking supplier but have some leeway to choose from a variety of carbon discs with different diameters. The older 320 mm discs are still available, but there is a new addition of a 355 mm (13.97 inches) ventilated disc that is claimed to run cooler, which can help with performance to avoid overheating the brakes.

Carbon Ventilated Discs

The ventilation consists of a number of small holes evenly spaced across the carbon portion of the disc through which air can flow in to carry away the heat generated from braking. The same discs can be fitted on some street bikes and are known as vented discs. The discs are quite costly and not necessary for the weekend rider.

Even though carbon is lightweight and can withstand the high temperatures generated on MotoGP bikes, they do not last as long and need to be changed every 1000 km (621 miles). Carbon discs bestow intense braking power to the rider, allowing them to go from 220 mph (355 kph) to 56 mph (90 kph) in just 5.2 seconds.

The Thumb Brake

The thumb brake is a small lever mounted on the left side of the handlebar popularized by Mick Doohan in the 1990s when he had an injured leg. It was later used by Valentino Rossi who is one of the smoothest riders on corners, which has contributed to its popularity to the extent that most MotoGP riders have installed it on their bikes.

The thumb brake is used to apply the brakes to the rear wheel and can be used instead of the foot pedal. The reason for using it is that it gives the rider the advantage of not needing to apply the brake with their foot, thereby freeing it to balance their body on tight corners. The thumb brake can also be operated by the forefinger after a small change in mounting.

FUN FACT: Thumb brakes can even be used by the weekend rider, with thumb brake kits being sold that can be fitted on many street motorcycles

Final Thoughts

MotoGP bikes do not use ABS, but they do use traction control. This allows the bikes to be made safer, while still putting the focus on the driver’s skill rather than on the abilities of the bike. The traction control systems used on MotoGP bikes are fairly standardized across the teams.