Anti-lock brakes (ABS) are mandatory for new motorcycles, both petrol and electric (11kW or more with a power-to-weight ratio of more than 0.1kW/kg), from April 2020. Any new motorbikes over 125cc must have them. Motorbikes from 50cc to 125cc, or with an electric motor between 4kW to 11kW, can have ABS or a combined braking system where a single brake control operates brakes on both wheels at the same time.
From November 2021, all dealer stock, including models that were for sale before the rule came in, must have ABS. There is no requirement to retrofit ABS to used motorbikes.
Around 60-70% of motorbike models entering the fleet in 2017 already had some form of ABS, so it’s not expected that this will increase the cost for the majority of motorbike consumers.
ABS is designed to prevent a wheel locking and causing a skid. This increases stability and, in panic braking situations, ABS will consistently outperform non-ABS options, allowing for shorter stopping distances. ABS allows the rider to provide the maximum braking input without needing to practice this in a controlled environment such as a race track.
Sensors monitor a wheel’s speed and its rate of deceleration to determine whether it’s skidding. Research has shown that motorbikes with ABS technology are involved in fewer on-road crashes.
Off-road motorbikes and other exemptions
Motorcycles designed for off-road applications (e.g. mud and gravel riding) are exempt from requiring ABS or could have switchable ABS, given that locking the rear wheel is necessary in some situations. Motorcycles that will not be driven on the road are likely to be fitted with an ABS override switch by the manufacturer; end users are not permitted to make modifications to turn off ABS on motorcycles.
If you own a motorbike overseas for over 12 months, it can be imported if you migrate to New Zealand, even if it doesn’t have ABS.
Agricultural motorbikes and quad bikes will be exempt.
Motorbikes registered prior to 1 January 1990 will be exempt. This will allow classic motorbikes to be imported by collectors; a permit will be required from NZTA and only 100 permits would be issued per year. NZTA will determine whether the vehicle has historic value or whether it qualifies as a low volume vehicle.
The Light Vehicle Brakes Amendment (No 2) 2019 can be found here.
Impact on motorbike crash casualty numbers
Over a 26-year period, ABS should reduce deaths by 34, serious injuries by 375 and minor injuries by 656 according to a study by NZTA. However, in one year (2017), there were 46 fatalities, 511 serious injuries and 820 minor injuries; the impact of improving riding skills would far outweigh the benefits of ABS.
As of 2017, the average age of a motorbike was 16.6 years, so it will take decades before practically all motorbikes have ABS.