Driver Knowledge Tests

Motorcycle stability control – how does it work?

Motorbike riders have had to wait much longer than car drivers for the arrival of stability control which is now standard on almost every new car. Adoption on motorbikes has been slow – there are still a huge number of bikes that don’t even have anti-lock brakes.

In 2013 Bosch introduced a system called MSC (Motorcycle Stability Control) on a KTM 1190. Where traditional ABS couldn’t cope with steep lean angles in corners if the brakes were applied heavily, MSC can. MSC also comes with traction control (just like the electronic stability control that cars use), which makes those highside accidents through applying too much throttle out of a corner just about impossible to recreate.

It works by measuring five main parameters (plus a few others):

  • wheel speed
  • lean angle
  • pitch angle
  • acceleration
  • braking pressure

The system is programmed to recognise when a particular application of the brake or throttle would cause a problem. And by ‘problem’ I mean your body hitting the tarmac as the bike less-than-gracefully departs your control.

It is looking for differences in speed between the front and rear wheels (determines if too much brake has been applied and a skid is happening, or too much throttle is applied and wheelspin is happening). Braking force is distributed between each wheel so that the maximum amount of braking can be applied at any one time, and it even understands braking on an incline at any lean angle, and braking on loose surfaces. There’s a separate off-road ‘enduro mode’┬áif you want to ride it off-road and use a locked rear wheel to help you turn.

MSC also comes with hill hold control and it prevents the rear wheel from lifting off the ground in heavy front wheel braking scenarios.

This video explains how it works.

It should be noted that all the electronics in the world can’t fix a stupid rider: it’s still possible to ride off a cliff or hit another vehicle. What it does do, though, is allow the rider more control in steering and slowing down the bike to reduce the severity of an impact.



Darren is an expert on driving and transport, and is a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists

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Posted in Advice, Motorbike