TVS Apache RTR 180 ABS will be a boon for Indian conditions, helping reduce the number of accidents caused by sudden braking, more so by novice riders

The European Union plans to mandate ABS for bikes above 125cc from 2017 since it is certainly a boon for most riders — novices and experts alike — with motorcycles becoming quicker. India being one of the largest two-wheeler markets in the world, road accidents due to negligent riding are common.

Also, traffic conditions in most of the major cities are such that speeds are low, and rider inputs do not match the reflexes demanded by the traffic at times. Add to that the fact that road surfaces are not uniform, making for more adverse conditions.

Keeping these conditions in mind, TVS has developed ABS in collaboration with German component supplier Continental, suited to the Indian market.

The Chassis and Safety division at Continental has developed this unit considering the fact that Indian motorcycles are more compact and lighter than their larger counterparts abroad. The unit weighs about 1.2kg, and can be fitted easily into the bike. The ABS on the Apache RTR 180 works just like any other conventional ABS, avoiding wheel lock-up in the event of sudden braking, and helping to reduce braking distances. It consists of two small discs mounted onto both wheels of the motorcycle with the brake disc, each connected to non-contact magnetic sensors.

These sensors are connected to the HECU (Hydraulic and Electronic Control Unit) mounted behind the engine which receives pulses from the sensors every one-tenth of a second and monitors wheel speeds. The HECU also houses a pump to regulate oil pressure acting on the calipers at both ends. In the event of sudden braking, the HECU recognises the sudden drop in speed and regulates brake pressure through its digital valves to avoid wheel lock-up. The primary source of information for the HECU is the front wheel.

ABS can be switched on or off via a small push button on the dashboard, unlike most ABS systems, so you still can pull a stoppie when in the mood. It also features an on-board diagnostic system with an LED lamp on the dash, informing the rider whether or not the ABS is functioning, or is off. Each time the ignition is switched on, the ABS system activates and does a self-check.

To complement ABS, the Apache RTR 180 now comes with softer compound tyres for both ends, though tyre sizes remain constant. This further aids handling. Apart from this, the Apache RTR 180 ABS gets a DC-powered headlight, and refreshed decals.

We checked out TVS's latest bike at its special test track near Chennai with its variety of surfaces — normal tarmac, wet tarmac and two special patches with minimal grip, one of concrete blocks, and the second of wet ceramic tiles.

A special ABS-equipped Apache RTR 180 was at our disposal. It was rigged with metal pipes on both sides with two wheels on each side to prevent tipping over. Without ABS, the tyres barely had any grip on the wet patches, and loss of traction was imminent with the wheels instantly locking up during braking. But the effectiveness of the ABS was experienced when we braked hard on the same patches, as the wheels simply refused to lock up. Large differences in the braking distances were immediately apparent, the bike covering considerably shorter distances with the ABS on.

We tried the ABS on an adjacent off-road patch too, where the system amazed us again. The feedback from the rear brake lever was far more discernible than the front, the lever pulsing severely, giving a feel of the system while it prevents the wheel from locking. It also helped us keep the bike in a straight line on all surfaces, and never allowed the rear to step out.

On a dry patch of tarmac, the RTR without the ABS system covered 23.47 metres in 2.74 seconds to come to a halt from 60kph. With ABS and from the same speed, it took 18.68 metres and 2.49sec. The major advantages of ABS are much better control of the bike even under hard braking on almost any kind of surface, apart from inspiring confidence, especially for novices.

While initial impressions are that ABS is fail-proof, only a long term test can ensure this. TVS has not disclosed the pricing of the ABS-equipped RTR 180 yet and we expect it to be costly. Given its effectiveness though, it will be worth the money. It is a great value addition and a boon for Indian conditions, helping reduce the number of accidents caused by sudden braking, more so by novice riders.

TVS plans to bring its technology to us by April 2011. It is commendable for TVS to be the forerunner in bringing ABS to India and we hope this initiative paves the way for other manufacturers in the country to follow suit, promoting safer biking for Indians in the future.

Keywords: TVS Apache