TVS are all set to launch the RTR 180 with ABS. Is the new safety feature good enough? Adhish Alawani tries to find it out on a track especially devised to test brakes
Photography: Adhish Alawani

TVS are all set to launch the RTR 180 with ABS. Is the new safety feature good enough? Adhish Alawani tries to find it out on a track especially devised to test brakes
Photography: Adhish Alawani

TVS had an RTR parked at their stall during the 2010 Auto Expo in New Delhi carrying a small sticker reading ‘ABS’ on the fender. It has been over a year since then and the curiosity to check out this new feature on the RTR had almost evaporated into thin air.

However, much to my surprise, the test turned out to be one of the most exciting ones. TVS invited  journalists to a track at Oragadam, near Chennai in Tamil Nadu, that has specially been set up to test brakes. The facility has a long straight having a variety of surfaces such as regular asphalt, blue basalt and ceramic tiles. Once bathed, these surfaces simulate real world road conditions like spilt oil, first rain etc. with a wide range of traction, the frictional co-efficient varying from 0.8 mu to almost 0 mu. The task for the day was to experience braking with ABS as well as without ABS and judge if TVS had got the technology and gadgets right.

To start with, the demonstrators from TVS rode two bikes – one without ABS and the other equipped with the unit – on various wet surfaces. The RTR without ABS had an out-rigger with four support wheels to keep the bike upright whenever it lost traction. Without doubt, the wheels of the one without ABS were bound to lock up and skid and so they did. However, the RTR equipped with the ABS unit showed immense road hold even when a fistful of brake was applied.

To test it myself, I hopped on to the bike with the out-rigger and went out on the various wet surfaces. First, with the ABS off, I slammed the brakes and experienced one of the most fearful things ever on two wheels – the front wheel got locked, the front end went down and there was no chance of recovery. This was on the regular wet tarmac. On the blue basalt it was bad and even worse on the ceramic. After getting a feel of what happens without ABS, I switched on the unit and went in again. To my extreme disbelief, the bike was amazingly composed and stable even with the brakes slammed. I even tried braking at the end of the wet patch and carrying the brakes on to the dry patch. What I found out then was that the wheels, of course, didn’t lock up on the wet. However, when they hit the dry patch, the ABS was still working, but now it knew that the bike was on dry patch and it immediately improved the braking and reduced the stopping distance. Mightily impressed by the ABS unit, I returned to the resting area admiring one of the best upgrades on an Indian bike I had seen.

Talking technically of the ABS unit, TVS have developed it along with Continental. During the development, the company says, there were various challenges that had to be dealt with, especially considering Indian road conditions. These included slow speed control, more braking per kilometre, people stuck with the mentality of using only the rear brake and wide variations in road surface etc.
Another issue was that the RTR is essentially a lightweight machine and hence placing the extra three to four kilograms perfectly on the bike was a tough job. The ABS system comprises the HECU (hydraulic and electronic control unit) that has digital valves, low-pressure accumulator and a pump. The HECU has independent control over the front as well as the rear brake. There are speed sensors mounted on each wheel that send signals to the HECU if the wheels are locking up and then the HECU guides internal valves accordingly. The system also has a manual switch near the instrumentation console with which you can switch off the ABS unit. Though it is a highly effective feature, it cannot be denied that it’s electronics and chances of a failure, though very remote, cannot be ruled out altogether. In such circumstances, a light will come on in the instrumentation console telling us that there is no ABS support available but that the conventional brakes are working.

TVS say that the ABS system was developed and tested initially at the IDIADA testing facility in Spain under all possible road conditions before fine-tuning it for the Indian environment. Also, the company has stated that when the ABS system was tried on professional racers’ bikes at the Madras Motorsports Club racetrack, they were able to cut down their lap times by over one full second, which showed that not only was the ABS effective in day-to-day use for the average rider, but also boosted the performance riding of the skilled ones.

As for the features of the ABS system, it comes with RLP (rear wheel lift-off protection), which avoids stoppies. Of course, those who are willing to have fun stunting on the bike will always have the option of turning off the ABS system and doing what they want to do.

The RTR180 equipped with ABS will appear in the market in March and will come with a premium of Rs 10,000 (approximately). An upgrade definitely worth the extra money!



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