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How does traction control work and why do you need it on your motorcycle?

A safety net that will catch you before you fall.

How does traction control work and why do you need it

Traction control, especially in larger-displacement motorcycles is an extremely important system especially since quite a few of us don’t quite have the reflexes of a MotoGP racer. It goes without saying, but motorcycling can get quite dangerous especially at faster speeds. 

Considering that the contact patch on a motorcycle’s tire can be around the same size as a credit card, you need to carefully consider and manage your tires’ grip whenever you’re on a bike. Manufacturers equip more powerful motorcycles with a traction control system that doesn’t allow for the rear wheel or front wheel to slip, helping you avoid an accident on the road. 

Traction control systems may be found on higher-displacement sportbikes or nakeds, usually in the 650cc or middleweight category. However, there are still motorcycles in this class like the Yamaha MT-07 with no traction control. As such, some manufacturers may require customers to buy up a little more displacement for this feature. However, more modern platforms like the Triumph Trident 660 comes standard with traction control compared to some of its Japanese rivals. 

How does traction control work?

Motorcycle Burnout

The system is usually built into the engine control unit (ECU) of a motorcycle. For more advanced bikes, these ECUs will come with a set of sensors that allow the motorcycle to tell where it is and what is it doing, whether leaning, braking, or going full-throttle. 

With the system in place, the ECU can interrupt the power going to the rear wheel should it find a rider’s input, or road conditions to be dangerous. The traction control system cuts the power momentarily to allow the bike’s rear to regain traction in a manageable way by using the fuel supply system or via a motorcycle’s ride-by-wire system if it is equipped as such.

Why do you need traction control?

Turning on a motorcycle

The vast majority of riders will not be in ideal conditions all the time. Variances like ambient temperature, road conditions, tire wear, or even rider mood may affect a bike’s ability to hold traction.  

Without traction control, a bike may drift, wheelie, or even do a burnout. If these words seem scary to you, you’ll be glad to keep traction control on. Some motorcycles have riding modes that allow riders to experience different levels of traction control. Some bikes don’t come with the feature at all and can be dangerous without proper throttle control. 

To summarize, traction control will keep your rear from slipping and prevent a high or low-side crash. It’ll also save you from losing the rear while you are riding a little spiritedly or if road conditions are taking a turn for the worse. Either way, the best safety system is still proper training and riding habits, but think of traction control as a safety net. It’s nice to have just in case. 

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