The large scooter segment of the world motorcycle market, in which Honda's Forza commands a prominent position, has, over the years, taken root as a major genre of lifestyle vehicles that offers a great sense of value and convenience. Contributing to its easy riding disposition, the Forza comes standard-equipped with a Combined Brake System, and is also produced in a more fully featured Combined-ABS version. As with most large scooters, the Forza has a long wheelbase and smaller diameter wheels than those found on motorcycles and sports bikes, with the added benefit of having more room under the seat for a large storage compartment. Its wide, deeply stepped seat provides a relaxed riding position, much like that of a custom cruiser, and its big, stylish front console offers lots of extra storage space for smaller items.
Start the engine and roll on the throttle, and the Forza takes off smoothly. Brake control is as easy as grabbing the two levers mounted on the handlebars; right for the front, like a standard motorcycle, and left for the rear - though its Combined configuration also provides input to the front disk brake caliper, as well.
For several years now, nearly all of Honda's big scooters have come standard-equipped with the Combined Brake System. Parallel to this, many models have also been offered in Combined-ABS versions that provide the added braking security of highly responsive Antilock Brakes to furtheraugment their Combined Brake operation. For this ride, I tested the Combined-ABS version of the Forza.
Cars generally distribute their braking force to all four wheels when the brake pedal is pressed. In the case of motorcycles, however, front and rear brake operation has traditionally required that riders operate both brakes independently in a well-balanced manner corresponding to road conditions, and further requiring extensive experience to fully master. In other words, how much braking force can efficiently be exerted can vary dramatically depending on the capabilities of the rider. The Combined Brake System can compensate for any lack of experience by applying a highly effective balance of braking force to both wheels, making it a sort of "experience support" device.
Riding around town, the Forza maintains a remarkably stable demeanor when slowing and stopping. Like most big scooters with long wheelbases, with a rider aboard it carries most of its load on the rear wheel. When the left brake lever is squeezed, braking force is applied to not only the rear brake caliper, but also one of the three pistons built into its front brake caliper, delivering a superb balance of braking control. Once I got used to it, I found that I could focus on using my right hand for throttle control and acceleration, while leaving my left hand to take care of all the braking chores. I soon found this style of operation to be much simpler and easy to manage, and was also delighted to discover that some impressively powerful braking performance was available using only the left-hand lever.
Some riders may sneer that the Combined Brake System and ABS are 'coddling' devices that break heretically with the core fundamentals of motorcycle riding. One might think that these critics had first-hand experience with these systems, but in fact that's rarely the case. Many of these opinions were arrived at through gossip and hearsay, or by reading somebody's blog or tweet deriding these brake systems as being totally unnecessary.
For this reason, I really must insist that you somehow find a way to experience this braking performance for yourself. With the simple grip of one lever, I found this scooter's brakes able to smoothly and automatically duplicate braking techniques that took me years to develop on my own. If anything, it felt like it was providing sympathetic support for my years of experience, not taking control out of my hands.
So, judging from the perspective of my decades of motorcycle riding experience, did I find anything to complain about? The answer is an unequivocal 'No.' In fact, I found myself completely satisfied, astounded even, by its seamless operation.
Each time I squeezed the left-side brake lever, the Forza's Combined Brake System let me consistently enjoy its full benefits. And this ABS-equipped version greatly reduced any worries about skidding caused by sudden stops or braking over sandy or slippery road surfaces, even when road conditions deteriorate because of rain.
And the advantages of ABS can be felt everywhere, not just in emergency situations. For example, when grabbing the brake with my left hand, I found that if I increased pressure enough for the ABS to kick in, the result was a quick pulsing response felt through the brake lever. In other words, the mechanism instantly let me know when I'd exceeded the limits of rear tire grip. Since ABS operation on slippery or rainy road surfaces can also be similarly felt, I found I was able to stay more relaxed in such conditions than I ever imagined.
From the image I've always had of big scooters, with their easy rideability, ample carrying capacity and simple operation, I certainly never expected to be able to experience a feeling of 'rider-machine integration' on par with many sports bikes. However, the Forza's superlative Combined-ABS system really made that fusion possible.
While Honda's Combined Brake System is well-suited to the Forza's riding characteristics, if you clear your thoughts and simply use your right hand to accelerate and your left hand to brake, and occasionally the fingers on your right hand to add in a bit more braking control when needed, you'll soon find yourself feeling more relaxed and composed, and suddenly you'll awake to the sensation that riding has become much more enjoyable.
After all, if you focus too much on a machine's operation, you'll soon notice that you can't fully enjoy the pleasures of the ride. So I have to wonder if a secondary target in the development of the Combined Brake System + ABS wasn't to simply subtract the difficulty and distraction of braking from the joy of riding. I suggest you to try it out as soon as you can and find your own answer.