Braking Performance of Experienced and Novice Motorcycle Riders - Results of a Field Study
K. Vavryn, M. Winkelbauer *
Austrian Road Safety Board (KfV), Austria
Motorcycle riding becomes more and more popular. Since beginning of the 1990s the number of registered motorcycles
rose by almost 200% in Austria. Restrictive measures for novice motorcycle drivers could prevent a significant increase
of accident numbers. But still, motorcycle riding is seven times more dangerous than car driving. While development
and introduction of new passive and active safety features makes car driving safer, powered two wheelers (PTWs) still
show increasing numbers of accidents, deaths and injuries. It is assumed that poor braking performance of motorcycle
drivers is one of the predominant reasons.
Trucks have to be fitted with ABS for many years, most passenger cars on the market have ABS as standard equipment.
But most of the mopeds and motorcycles still are delivered with the same braking technology like 100 years ago: Two
independent braking devices with two handles.
Recent studies found that braking performance of motorcycle drivers stays far behind the capabilities of their vehicles
which are better than - or at least equal to - those of passenger cars. It is supposed that ABS is the most effective
solution to encounter this fact and its underlying psychological reasons.
A field study has been carried out including almost 800 brake test rides in total. A device for measuring deceleration -
without the need for any modification on the vehicles used - was developed. The braking performance of 134
experienced motorcycle riders has been compared between test rides with their own vehicles and brake tests with an
ABS-equipped motorcycle. 47 trainees were tested with the motorcycle they used during the training and compared
with deceleration when braking with an ABS-equipped scooter. All the results were evaluated with respect to personal
data of the participants, e.g. age, driving experience and attitudes.
Finally, an epidemiological analysis of motorcycle accidents has shown that ABS would be effective in reducing PTW
The construction of powered two-wheelers (PTWs) faced enormous improvements in the recent years. Reduction of
weight at the same time as raising the engine power up to about 180 HP rapidly improved maximum speed and
acceleration of the vehicles. Wheel suspension was improved as well as the power of the brakes and their handling
properties. But mostly, PTW still have the same braking system they have since the beginning of the history of the
motorcycle: a hand brake for the front wheel and foot brake for the rear wheel.
Several studies proof that the average motorcycle driver is not capable of handling two different brakes at the same
time, particularly in emergency situations. The poor average deceleration that was detected for the average motorcycle
driver is supposed to be caused by the motorcycle driver's fear to block one of the brakes (in particular the front wheel
brake), skid and fall off.
It is evident that anti lock brakes (ABS) would solve this problem. This study aims to qualify and quantify, how ABS
improves brake handling of the average motorcycle driver in an emergency braking manoeuvre.
3 Study Design
The study should cover both novice and experienced drivers.
Holders of a driving licence category B in Austria may obtain a licence for category A1 (motorcycle with max. 125 cm³
capacity and max. 15 HP) after passing a practical instruction of 6 hours. 47 persons passing this training participated in
the deceleration test at the end of the training session.
132 participants of track-based motorcycle safety training (voluntary) passed the deceleration test during their training
session as the experienced driver group.
3.2 Measuring Device
Previous studies found an average deceleration between 6 and 6,5 m/s². But these results suffered from the fact that the
test rides were carried out using an instrumented vehicle, which is not the one, the test persons are used to. It was
necessary to develop a deceleration measuring device independent from the vehicle used.
A light beam based concept was chosen. Within a distance of about 5 meters, speed is measured twice by two pairs of
light beams (yellow bars in the figure left an right of the course contain sender and receiver). The time elapsed between
passing the four light beams was measured and deceleration was calculated from the change of velocity).
A yellow floor marking with traffic cones on each side indicated where the test persons should start braking.
The measuring method was tested on a theoretical basis and by practical tests as well and was found reliable. Under
extreme conditions the maximum mistake made by supposing constant deceleration in the algorithm and not having it
3.3 Test Procedure
At the beginning of the brake test all probationers were asked to fill a questionnaire containing some questions on their
driving experience (even the novices, they had the opportunity of gathering experience with a moped!), attitudes,
driving style and mobility habits.
Afterwards, all test persons received an introduction on dangers of motorcycle braking and how to handle these if they
should occur during the test. This explanation was necessary to avoid accidents during the test, but was kept short for
not influencing the test results.
Then the probationers were asked to exercise two brake attempts, starting at a speed between 50 and 60 km/h and start
braking when the front wheel crosses the yellow line. They were asked to come to a complete stop as soon as possible
without falling off the vehicle. For these first two runs, the experienced drivers used their own motorcycle. The novices
used the motorcycle they had used for training during the recent 6 hours.
Later, the probationers received instructions on correct braking technique, both with and without ABS, the test
motorcycle fitted with ABS was explained and each probationer got some minutes to make himself familiar with this
vehicle. Then they exercised two more brake manoeuvres with the ABS-motorcycle.
Finally the results of the test were discussed, mostly within a group of probationers.
3.4 Test Vehicles
For the ABS test runs adequate vehicles were made available for the probationers (further on called "test motorcycle").
Adequate in this case means that the vehicle fits the class of vehicles they are licensed for or - in case of the novices -
the class of license they are applying for.
3.4.1 Sample Experienced drivers:
BMW 650 CS "Scarver"
This is a motorcycle frequently classified as "funbike". It is easily
handable, the seating position is upright and low enough for most of
the probationers. It is fitted with ABS for both wheels but no
integrated braking system. The net weight is about 170 kg, the
single cylinder 4 stroke engine has a capacity of 652 cm³ and 50
3.4.2 Sample Novice Drivers: Peugeot Elystar 125
This vehicle represents the typical set-up of vehicles used by
persons choosing this license class. It has a net weight of 149 kg.
The power transmission is automatic. The brakes are handled by 2
hand levers. The right lever serves the front brake only (with ABS
control). The left brake lever serves the front brake with ABS-control and the rear brake as well. The user manual says
that for emergency braking only the left brake lever shall be used.
4 Description of the Samples
4.1 Sample Experienced Drivers
The sample of the experience motorcycle drivers contained a
majority of male drivers. The average duration of holding a licence
class A was 10,71 years with a minimum of 1 year and a maximum
of 45. Their average annual mileage was 5633 km, which is higher
than the average annual mileage of motorcycle drivers in Austria
(4.500 km). There was a majority of drivers actively driving
motorcycles for up to 5 years. The difference between the duration
of holding a license and the duration of actively driving a
motorcycle is significant. It is due to the fact that many of the
license holders apply for the category A license im common with
the category B license, mostly at the age of 18 to 19. But they start
their motorcycle driving career much later.
Further, the drivers were asked for a self estimation of their driving
experience. There were only a few "experienced" and some "not
experienced" drivers. A high majority of the probationer indicated
mean values for their experience.
The same picture appears in the answers about self estimation of
driving style. Predominantly mean values, a hand full of sporty
drivers a few driving "not sporty".
About 60% of the probationers indicated that the motorcycle mostly
is a leisure time means of transport for them, only five use the bike
as a sports kit and rest uses it for everyday transport. Somehow
contradicting these values, two thirds of the probationers indicated
figure 1: Peugeot Elystar
figure 2: BMW Scarver
20 - 25 24 3 27
26 - 30 21 6 27
31 - 40 38 6 44
41 - 50 23 1 23
> 50 12 12
total 118 16 134
table 1: number of probationers by age and sex
actively driving a
up to 5 years 73 14
5 - 10 17 1
10 - 15 10 1
15 - 20 6
20 - 25 5
> 25 4
table 2: duration of active driving career
to be everyday drivers, one third were weekend drivers.
As an important factor for brake performance the probationers were asked which of the brakes they prefer in everyday
driving. 58% used both brakes, 40% preferred the front wheel brake and only 2% mainly used the rear wheel brake.
Two thirds of the probationers were driving a street motorcycle, 25% drive Enduros and the rest drove a Chopper.
8 out of 134 probationers' motorcycles were fitted with ABS. These persons passed the first two brake tests with their
own motorcycle, then received instructions on how to correctly handle ABS and afterwards passed another two brake
tests with the test motorcycle.
4.2 Sample Novice Drivers
On an average, the sample of novice drivers was older than the
experienced drivers sample. This may partly derive from a de facto
minimum age of 23 for this kind of driving license.
In total, 73% of the male and 57% of the female probationers
already had experience in driving PTWs, i.e. mopeds for which no
driving license is necessary. 7 of 47 probationers were currently
driving a moped, but most of the others gathered experience from
the age of 16 to 18, mostly several years ago.
5 Results: decelerations achieved
5.1 Sample experienced drivers
5.1.1 Deceleration values
For an average modern passenger car we can
assume that the average deceleration
achieved under optimal conditions is about
10 m/s². Modern trucks and busses achieve
deceleration up to 8 m/s². Technically the
achievable braking deceleration of a modern
motorcycle is at least comparable to a
modern passenger car.
Despite this, among the experienced
motorcycle drivers there were 18 persons
(13%) with a deceleration below 5 m/s², i.e.
these persons would need twice the braking
distance of a modern passenger car.
All deceleration values shown here are
calculated from the mean of the both
attempts of a test person.
The mean value for braking deceleration of all test persons using their own vehicle was 6,6 m/s² (std. deviation +/- 1,4).
age male female
20 - 25 3 1 4
26 - 30 4 1 5
31 - 40 8 5 13
41 - 50 10 6 16
> 50 8 1 9
total 33 14 47
table 3: probationers by age and sex
experience how long ago? (years) total
current < 5 5 - 10 10 - 15 > 15
only little 2 1 1 4
< 5 years 2525721
5 - 10 years 3 1 4
> 15 years 2 1 3
table 4: probationers' driving experience
< 4 4 - 5 5 - 6 6 - 7 7 - 8 8 - 9 > 9
braking deceleration [m/s²]
number of participants
vehicle with ABS
figure 3: decelerations of experienced drivers
Using the ABS vehicle, the mean value of braking deceleration rose to 7,8 m/s² (standard deviation 1,1). The T-test
proofed this difference to be significant (p=0,021). 85% of the probationers could improve their deceleration with ABS.
The remaining 15% mostly achieved very high decelerations with their own vehicle, an improvement therefore was
Even the probationers having their own vehicle fitted with an ABS improved decelerations when braking with the test
motorcycle significantly by 0,9 m/s².
5.1.2 Correlation of deceleration and driver data
Neither the deceleration with the own motorcycle nor the ABS deceleration nor the improvement of deceleration were
depending on the age of the driver.
Correlations between driver parameters and deceleration results can be found in the table below. Some interesting
• Annual mileage was a very important moderating factor. Deceleration with the own vehicle significantly correlated
with annual mileage.
• Probationers with higher deceleration using their own bike also achieved better deceleration with ABS.
• Deceleration achieved with the test motorcycle rose together with the duration of active experience and duration of
k 0,587deceleration with test
k -0,662 0,218improvement
k 0,329 0,097 -0,306annual mileage
0,000 0,284 0,001
k 0,138 0,175 -0,004 -0,128duration of licence
0,044 0,960 0,157
k 0,164 0,178 -0,032 0,123 0,538duration of active
0,042 0,717 0,174 0,000
table 5: correlation between deceleration values and driver parameters
Some other interesting results of the correlation between driver parameters and decelerations achieved:
• No significant correlation between self estimation of driving experience and any of the deceleration values could
• No significant correlation between self estimation of driving style and any of the deceleration values could be
• Everyday drivers significantly showed better brake performance with their own vehicle than weekend drivers.
Braking the test vehicle, there was no significant difference between everyday drivers and weekend drivers.
Therefore weekend drivers' improvement was higher by 0,45 m/s² (T-test for mean equivalence: p=0,035).
• Probationers usually using both brake achieved better results in the deceleration test with their own vehicles and
with the ABS-vehicle as well. Obviously "back wheel brakers" were not able to change their habits just by
receiving instructions on correct use of ABS.
• No correlation between type of own motorcycle and deceleration parameters could be detected.
• Probationers owning motorcycles with higher engine power achieved better decelerations (p=0,256, k=0,01).
5.2 Sample novice drivers
Quite surprisingly, the deceleration the novice drivers achieved with ABS almost equals the experience drivers'
deceleration. All of the novices improved their deceleration with ABS. Correlations between any of the deceleration
values and any of the driver parameters could not be found.
without ABS with ABS
1.test 2.test mean 1.test 2.test mean
mean 5,53 5,77 5,65 7,54 7,90 7,72 2,07
standard deviation 1,25 1,15 1,02 1,31 1,20 1,13 1,12
minimum 2,90 3,20 3,85 3,90 5,40 4,65 0,00
maximum 8,20 8,40 8,15 9,90 10,00 9,85 4,95
table 6: decelerations of novice drivers without and with ABS
These results together with the experienced driver results make us suppose that quality of brake handling has to be
measured in two different dimensions. On the one hand there are the skills of controlling brake forces having a feeling
about driving dynamics and possible decelerations. This seems to be influenced by driving experience. On the other
hand there is the ability to trust in technology by suppressing subconscious fears.
5.3 Feedback by the probationers
Probationers feedback after the test procedure was not recorded systematically. In the following the impressions of the
instructors carrying out the tests mostly gathered during the discussion of the test results are summarised:
• Most of the probationers, particularly the novices, were impressed how easy motorcycles fitted with ABS can be
handled during emergency braking.
• Most of the probationers were interested to purchase a motorcycle with ABS if available in their preferred vehicle
class and economically affordable.
• Only very few persons denied usefulness of ABS, mostly using emotional arguments.
• Several probationers would like having a motorcycle with ABS, but were afraid that it would not be affordable.
• Several probationers unrequestedly expressed that ABS should be mandatory equipment for al motorcycles.
6 Accident statistics
Although the number of licensed motorcycles in Austria constantly rose during the recent 15 years and is now tripled
since the late 80s, the number of injured (between 2400 and 3400) and killed (between 75 and 109) motorcycle riders
shows no significant trend. At least the recent years show that a lot of the ups and downs which are supposed to be
blamed on weather conditions during the year.
In the middle of 1991 a graduated licensing system for motorcycles was introduced in Austria and in 1997 replaced by
the EU-model. Growing numbers of injuries and deaths in the age classes 35 to 55 were equalised by a huge reduction
of loss in the novice driver segment.
Sporner and Kramlich (2000) by in-depth investigating 610 accidents showed that in 65% of all accidents between
motorcycles and cars, the motorcycle driver was able to brake before the collision. In 19% of these cases the
motorcycle driver fell off before the collision.
83% of the single vehicle accidents investigated in this study occurred in corners, 40% of them with the motorcycle
driver falling off before leaving the road or hitting an obstacle. On straight roads it was 50% of the drivers falling of
before crashing into an obstacle or sliding off the road. The authors supposed that in most of the cases, a brake
manoeuvre with blocking one or both wheels was responsible for falling off. They concluded that 93% of the single
vehicle crashes could be positively influenced or even avoided with ABS.
On an average, they concluded that about 55% of the motorcycle accidents could be avoided or at least positively
influenced by ABS.
The shares of accident types found in this study were recalculated for Austria and found comparable.
7 Summary and Conclusions
• Experienced motorcycle drivers on an average achieved a braking deceleration of about 6,6 m/s², novices after 6
hours of training 5,7 m/s².
• After an introduction in brake handling and some minutes of exercising experienced drivers improved their braking
deceleration to 7,8 m/s², novices to 7,7 m/s² driving a motorcycle equipped with ABS.
• Decelerations achieved by experienced drivers are strongly depending on their experience, particularly on the
• Drivers usually driving a motorcycle fitted with ABS are able to improve their brake performance immediately
after receiving instructions on correct ABS brake handling.
• Correct use of ABS needs instructions.
• The average experienced motorcycle driver and novice drivers as well do not achieve braking deceleration suitable
for road traffic. But if they use a motorcycle fitted with ABS after having received adequate instruction, they do.
• Theoretical and practical instruction on correct emergency brake handling is urgently recommended to be part of
the basic driver training. During the basic driver training the candidates should also be made familiar with correct
handling of ABS. This shall also help to encourage motorcycle driver to purchase motorcycles fitted with ABS and
serve to reduce prejudices against ABS.
• ABS should be mandatory equipment for every powered two-wheeler.
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Keywords: motorcycle, deceleration, ABS, accident