Why are motorcycles not automatic

Assistance systems for motorcycles

Modern bikes don't just have ABS on board. There are more and more electronic helpers - from cruise control to traction control to rear wheel lift control. The ADAC presents the assistance systems for motorcycles.

Driving around bends - perhaps the best reason to get on a motorcycle. Until the moment when the curve says: Brake immediately - for whatever reason. Suddenly the bike straightens up and leaves the targeted curve line in the direction of oncoming traffic or a ditch. Or the tires lose their traction, the motorcycle slips away in an uncontrolled manner.

At least that's how it used to be, when there weren't any assistance systems for motorcycles. In the meantime, with ABS that is suitable for bends, emergency maneuvers in an inclined position are quite manageable - provided you have practiced the system on board and "shock braking" in the bend often enough. The "curve ABS" meant one after the "classic" anti-lock braking system Quantum leap in terms of motorcycle driving safety.

By law, the conventional ABS, which is only effective when driving straight ahead, has been mandatory on new machines since the beginning of 2017. But the manufacturers have long been equipping their models with others, some of them highly effective assistance systems out. These can be divided into two types:

  • Security systems to reduce the risk of accidents or injuries (e.g. ABS, ABS suitable for bends, traction control suitable for bends)

  • Comfort systems to relieve the driver and to improve ergonomics (e.g. cruise control, spring-damper systems that can be set by means of a switch)

Differences in assistance systems in cars and motorcycles

A car is stable on four wheels and, as a two-lane vehicle, is not threatened with tipping over in most driving situations. The motorcycle is completely different: when it is "wobbly", it only stabilizes after driving off due to the turning movement of the wheels. Active intervention in the brakes or steering (such as in a car, e.g. with emergency braking or lane keeping assist) is therefore only possible to a limited extent on a motorcycle. If it comes unexpectedly for the biker, the critical situation can worsen rather than resolve.

Many assistance systems in motorcycles therefore have warning character or they influence and optimize driving maneuvers at the edge of the physical limits in such an advanced phase that a saving reaction by the driver no longer seems possible. Nevertheless, Ducati and KTM are the first manufacturers to currently offer radar-based, adaptive speed control that even initiates braking with delays of up to 0.5 g. This is a new quality of driver assistance.

Use many of the modern, directly intervening assistance systems sophisticated sensors to determine the forces acting on the motorcycle. The other relevant variables are derived from this.

This is what assistance systems do

Assistance systems are never intended as a technical request to take a higher risk. The opposite is the case: They are designed to reduce the existing risk of motorcycling.

The following tables also list those systems with which engine power, throttle response or chassis can be adapted to special conditions such as rain.

1. Safety systems for motorcycles



Security potential

Standard ABS (primarily for straight-ahead braking)

Mandatory since 2017, prevents a fall by emergency braking with locked wheels, especially when driving straight ahead

Very high

ABS suitable for bends

Like standard ABS, but can also be used on a steep incline, prevents the machine from standing up, including leaving the driving line and the wheels from slipping (within the physical limits)

Very high

Rear wheel lift control (stoppie control)

Prevents the rear wheel from lifting off when braking hard, and in extreme cases it prevents the vehicle from rollover. Function is partially integrated in good ABS


Combined or integral braking system

Brake circuits for the front and rear wheels are wholly or partially linked, the brake lever also acts on the brake of the other wheel. Ensures better braking stability and faster braking


Wheelie control

Prevents the front wheel from lifting off when accelerating too hard. Motor power may be limited


Slip control suitable for bends

Ensures the grip of the rear wheel when cornering by limiting the engine power, especially when driving in a sporty manner


Standard slip control

Ensures grip and guidance of the rear wheel when driving straight ahead, "spinning" is prevented


Anti-hopping clutch, engine braking torque control

Prevents the rear wheel from locking for a short time when downshifting or releasing the gas, thus ensuring grip and guidance of the rear wheel, especially when braking into tight corners


Automatic, dynamic adjustment of the spring-damper system

Improves the contact of the wheels on uneven surfaces with a sporty driving style, increases driving stability with very dynamic driving maneuvers (e.g. strong acceleration and braking)


Distance radar (e.g. adaptive cruise control)

Continually monitors the distance to other vehicles, primarily facing forward. Function similar to that of a car, control of engine power, autonomous braking up to 0.5 g

medium, primarily for comfort

Blind spot assistant / side view assistant (radar-based, similar to distance radar)

Warns of vehicles moving sideways that could be overlooked when changing lanes


Different driving modes

The engine characteristics can be adapted to the weather and road conditions, and off-road mode is also possible. Often also includes brake and chassis settings. The gain in safety depends on driving habits


Flashing brake light

When the brakes are fully applied, the brake light flashes to warn the following traffic


Tire pressure monitoring system

Warns of pressure loss in the tire. Can reduce the risk of an accident if the driver reacts correctly


Hill start-up help

Clamps the rear brake on steep inclines until you start off


(Adaptive) headlights

Illuminates the road better than standard light when cornering. Safety gain only with frequent night trips


Hazard warning lights

Like a car, useful e.g. in the event of a breakdown or at the end of a traffic jam


Emergency call system / eCall

Comparable to a car, automatic emergency call for events that the system interprets as an accident


2. Comfort systems for motorcycles



automatic transmission

Makes coupling and shifting superfluous

Automatic switch

Allows shifting without using the clutch

Electronic suspension adjustment

Spring preload and damping properties can be adjusted at the push of a button

Reversing aid

Makes it easier to maneuver heavy machinery

New assistance systems - an outlook

Further measures and systems to improve motorcycle safety will become increasingly evident Networking of vehicles surrender to each other. Vehicle-2-X communication plays an important role here. It can identify potential risks at an early stage and generate appropriate warnings. This can reduce potential conflict situations and thus increase motorcycle safety, for example in intersection and junction areas.

Tips for the motorcyclist

Familiarize yourself intensively with the effect, functionality and setting options of assistance systems and safety equipment on your machine. That means: The Operating instructions are required reading. In addition, let your trusted dealer explain the systems to you in detail.

With ABS - and especially with modern cornering ABS - you have to be able to handle it properly in an emergency in order to really be able to use the increased safety.

The ADAC experts recommend: Do appropriate safety training at regular intervals. With modern braking systems, you have to change driving habits in order to be able to react optimally.

How did you like the article?