When I first began riding a motorcycle at the age of 17, I was told by a friend that I should work on my braking techniques if I really wanted to ride fast. It sounded strange to me, since cranking the throttle 'wide full open' had become almost a mantra to me that I secretly chanted in hopes of becoming a faster rider. However, after riding motorcycles continuously for over 30 years since then, I really have to admit the truth of that advice now.
When practicing on a closed racing circuit, if the track is a few kilometers around, I'd be around and back in the same spot in only a few short minutes. On each lap I'd say to myself, "I was braking too early that time. Must go deeper and brake later." The more I practiced, the more I got used to riding fast and going deep. And it didn't hurt that I was able to get advice from other more advanced riders there at the track.
However, regular roads have speed limits, traffic lights, pedestrians crossing, and even bicycles dodging across the road. To top it off, there are lots of unpredictable children around schools. Your visual field also changes from daytime to night, made worse if it rains. All combine to make riding more difficult.
When riding through the mountains of Japan, it's not unusual to enter a tunnel in sunshine and come out at the other end into pouring rain. Depending on the season, you can find yourself being caught in showers pretty regularly.
Therefore, whenever I'm asked, "What bike would you recommend?," I make it a point to answer, "You'd be better off choosing a model equipped with ABS." The reason is that Antilock Brakes, more commonly referred to as ABS, can provide a critical edge of dependability in sudden, unexpected riding situations.
And to people who express interest in buying a Honda, I add, "Models with ABS are easier to recommend, since they also feature the Combined Brake System. Even if the ABS should somehow fail to work, the Combined Brakes will continue to let you stop with the same level of control as a skilled expert."
To my delight, I found that there's even a model equipped with this advanced system in the 250cc class of Honda's sports bike lineup. I decided to test out its performance on the CBR250R, which I'm told is the world's first commercially available sports bike model in its class equipped with Combined-ABS.
Although the CBR250R is powered by a single-cylinder engine, it delivers an exhilarating rush of performance, and gave me no trouble at all, even traveling to distant locales. I've ridden on circuits before, and this time was really quite fun. I'm sure this model will really appeal to sports bike fans, but I want to tell you about something first: The brakes.
Yes, the brakes. While riding around town, the instant I stepped on the brake pedal with my right foot, I could feel that the rear brake worked exceedingly well. However, this should be obvious, since the front brake was also contributing a bit, and made the CBR's behavior while braking feel completely natural. This is one of the advantages of the Combined Brake System. The instant I stepped on the brake pedal, braking force was distributed to both wheels. Because of this, if both the front and rear brakes are used in a well-balanced manner, even when squeezing the front brake lever a little hard, the feeling that the rear tire is also working is now engrained in my mind.
Perhaps, the CBR250R's main target group will be young riders with aggressive riding streaks. Many among this group could be choosing this as their first bike, just as there will likely be many people interested in the CBR as fuel-efficient short-range transportation.
Experienced riders might say to such young novices, "When I was young, I refined my riding skills and responsiveness by practicing braking. You'd be better off trying to improve your own skills from the start, without relying on such add-on devices as Combined Brakes and ABS."
Over 30 years ago, I used to ride a Honda CB250RS, a 250cc single that only had a kick starter - no push-button electric start. This was when I wanted to ride as fast as I could even on a bike like that, regardless of the fact that I was inexperienced. Stepping on the rear brake a little too hard would lock-up the rear wheel, and instantly cause the engine to stop.
When I think about it now, it was perfectly logical for such a phenomenon to take place, but in those days it was difficult to be delicate with brake operation. And each time the engine stopped, I had to kick-start it again… Honestly, I soon got totally fed up with it. If only the CBR250R's Combined Brake System and ABS had been available at that time, I could have avoided being stuck so many times in such awkward situations.
I suspect that not many expert riders giving the above advice have fully experienced the power of ABS. To confirm this, try asking them, "What happens if you brake so hard that you activate both the front and rear ABS?" Most riders would likely answer that they've never attempted such dangerous maneuvers. I, too, might never have dared to attempt such a maneuver if I weren't involved in this sort of business.
Then what does happen with that sort of brake operation? When the bike is traveling in a straight line, even if you squeeze the brake lever and stomp on the rear brake pedal as hard as you can, the brake system displays its best braking performance for prevailing road conditions, and the bike stops smoothly and powerfully, as if nothing had happened. That's all.
Obviously, you should never attempt such a stunt with a brake system that's not equipped with ABS, because you'll lock-up both front and rear tires, severely affecting both balance and control. In other words, you needn't lend an ear to voices telling you that ABS and Combined brakes aren't needed on a sports bike. I'd like to emphasize that this is the strongest mechanism there is for stopping.
I can think of nothing more dependable than Combined-ABS when riding over steel manhole covers or gaps in the road while braking, or when riding on rain-soaked highways. One reason, of course, is that the Combined Brake System works effectively even before the ABS is actuated.
In regular braking operations, the Combined Brake System maintains a stable attitude with the greatest of ease, and ABS simply provides support for the Combined system's excellent balance of control whenever needed. This is surely the most important benefit to be had. In my opinion, it is bikes that aren't equipped with ABS that should bear a warning label saying, "Caution! This motorcycle not equipped with ABS," rather than affixing an 'ABS' label to those bikes that are equipped with it.
This Combined-ABS brake system is featured optionally on many of Honda's latest motorcycles, including the NC700X and NC700S, not to mention the CBR250R. And while the extra initial cost may be a bit expensive, once you're able to really experience the seamless braking performance and peace-of-mind offered by the Combined Brake System as it provides almost transparent support for your regular braking operation, and also come to fully appreciate the feeling of confidence and calm offered by ABS, you're certain to realize its true value.
Super sports models like the CBR600RR and CBR1000RR are also now optionally equipped with Honda's most advanced electronically-controlled Combined-ABS. I was astounded to discover that they allowed me to feel unbelievably relaxed, and I actually came to enjoy braking on the track on a rainy day.
This special high-performance ABS system debuted for the first time in the world on a super sports-class machine in 2008. It uses an electronically-controlled fly-by-wire system that detects rider inputs generated at the brake lever or pedal, and I found that even if I used the rear brake while cornering on the race circuit, the front and rear brakes did not work simultaneously, and never introduced any disturbing handling behavior whilesports riding.
When riding the CBR1000RR, the sensations of a totally ordinary brake system, coupled with the feature of producing no kickback when the ABS was actuated, actually lulled me into feeling that the ABS wasn't even there. However, this advanced brake system gave me a strong sense of confident calm on the circuit, even in spots where the road surface was covered with sand, as often seen on regular roads, or on wet and slippery patches. Since this super sports machine was equipped with such a strong brake system, having complete confidence and peace-of-mind any time I hit the brakes was really appreciated.