Few Cruiser Motorcycles Parked

Cruiser Motorcycle with ABS: All You Need to Know (+ Why Are They Rarer than Gold?)

Have you ever looked for a cruiser motorcycle with ABS only to find out it’s rarer than gold? 

There’s a good reason for that.

All other ADV, dual-sport and even heavy touring bikes have ABS built-in. Not as a premium option for salespeople to bug you with, but actually built-in!

The thing is, even if you find a cruiser with ABS, chances are it’s a pricey option that few riders can afford.

Here’s Why Most Cruisers Don’t Have ABS Brakes

Person Riding Red Cruiser Motorcycle In Open Road

So why are cruiser bikes with ABS so uncommon? 

Here’s the thing. Cruiser manufacturers don’t offer it since their audience doesn’t demand it. Manufacturers know what precisely we (cruiser boys) want, and ABS brakes aren’t on the menu. 

Chrome, chrome, chrome, and old-fashioned design.

That’s what matters more to us than having ABS or traction control. It’s all about that frozen design that captivates us more than anything. There’s a reason why cruiser motorcycles lag a whole decade behind the rest of the motorcycle industry.

“It adds too much weight. And it ain’t isn’t pretty to look at!” You’ll often hear these white lies.

Sure, back in ’88, when ABS was first introduced into the motorcycle market, it used to weigh around 11 pounds and was the size of a BRICK!

And now?

It weighs around 1 pound and is smaller than your fist. Plus, it can easily be stored under your gas tank. Unnoticed!

So, all those white lies about weight and looks of ABS just don’t add up. Is there something else at play?

Heck, Harley Davidson was pretty hesitant about producing bikes with built-in ABS and selling them to their customers. It wasn’t until ’08 that they introduced Road King Glide Special. And it’s only the “special” version that came with an ABS option!

Don’t believe me?

“Harley-Davidson was one of the last motorcycle manufacturers to introduce Anti-Lock brakes on its motorcycles. Hence, the majority of its old models do not have ABS on them. Most of the newer Harley motorcycles now offer ABS, either as a standard feature or optional equipment.”

Peter Jones, MotorsAndWheels.com

It Has to Do With the Regulations

Young Man With Glasses Carrying Heavy Folders
THIS is how it got decided.

The thing is, politicians learned from the numerous research studies that ABS saves over 40% lives.

So they made ABS mandatory on every bike above 125 cc produced from 2016 onward! 

And what about older bikes?

Until fairly recently, the cruiser niche used to be like Svalbard of the motorcycle world when it comes to tech. A dark, cold place where time stopped. Manufacturers almost forgot about it.

In the time of GXers and ‘Busas rolling out of the factory with built-in ABS and traction control, chrome was basically the rule in cruiser niche.

Only a few brands introduced ABS into their bikes, two of which are Honda Fury and the famous Goldwing.

Fortunately, times are changing. 

Manufacturers are now catching up with the technology wave and putting ABS into their cruiser bikes. 

Even the C-ABS or Cornering ABS can be found on come cruiser bikes, like Honda Rebel 1100 and Indian Challenger.

A piece of tech that was considered Sci-Fi in motorcycle world back in the 2000s.

Which Cruiser Brands Offer ABS Brakes?

Cruiser Motorcycle In Sunset

From Chinese brands, like Keeway to US brands like Indian, many manufacturers now include ABS on their cruisers.

But a better question is:

What’s the price range for a cruiser motorcycle with ABS?

When you offer a cruiser motorcycle for a couple of grands like the new Honda Shadow Phantom, does it make sense to include ABS? 

Of course not!

For the iconic model to be affordable while keeping that legendary look, some things had to be excluded. Customers want that frozen ’80s look, not some schmancy ABS.

However, if you offer a cruiser bike beyond $10,000 and don’t include ABS, you’re simply robbing your customers!

Just like the new Indian Challenger does.

You don’t need a fancy 100W audio system built into your motorcycle. You need ABS that will save you when the front wheel slips on gravel or rain!

When buying a new cruiser bike, look with your eyes wide open at the brake rotors. If they don’t have a tiny, separate speed ring, it means there’s no ABS on that cruiser.

Plus, if there is a rear drum brake with a price tag of nine grand on the bike – boy are you getting scammed!

Can You Retrofit Abs on a Cruiser?

You can, but it requires a lot of effort, time, and money.

I’ve done it on my ’87 Indian cruiser. But I was lucky enough to easily modify the rear-disc brakes. 

Many cruiser riders are wondering if it’s possible. And I get them. Everybody wants to have ABS save them when the “crap, I’m not gonna make it!” feeling strikes.

A better question is: should you retrofit aftermarket ABS brakes on your cruiser?

The answer is no.

Retrofitting aftermarket ABS onto your cruiser or any other motorcycle is an expensive process I wouldn’t recommend anyone to do.

It’s way better to polish your braking skills on your non-ABS cruiser and sell it to get a new, ABS one. 

Best Cruiser Models With ABS Brakes

When you google the question, one particular cruiser shows up – the Kawasaki Vulcan S.

And why wouldn’t it?

It’s a great, nimble, beginner’s cruiser that comes with ABS from the get-go. 

But what if you want that legendary, old look-and-feel?

Honda Shadow Aero is your ride! But go with the ABS option. 

Honda Shadow Aero
YRCCommSafety, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The thing with Honda Shadow Aero is that it doesn’t roll with ABS from the factory’s pavement like the Kawasaki Vulcan S. You have to buy the Honda Shadow Aero ABS if you want the ABS part.

With the price difference of $400 between non-ABS and ABS, it’s stunningly worth it. 

What if you’re an all-American cruiser boy and nothing besides Harley Davidson or Indian rolls into your garage?

Indian Scout Sixty is your next rider home from the dealership!

But being in the cruiser business for more than 120 years, Indian has learned something about its customers. It’s about successfully producing a type of cruiser where the competition failed. But with a little bit extra and new.

Indian Scout Sixty is astronomically better than Harley Davidson Sportster, with that storm blue color and ABS.

It’s just the perfection of American manufacturing!

But what if you don’t have a budget for an Indian? 

Honda Rebel 500 ABS is your savior from burning your credit card in ashes. Rebel is like Shadow, with that ’80s heritage and feel. 

I bet, even if flying cars and bikes were to arrive shortly, Honda Rebel would still be the bike showed in museums as a monument of genius engineering meant for beginner cruiser riders.

And with Honda Rebel ABS version, it’s like getting extra sparkles on your vanilla-mozzarella ice cream.

Let’s Rewind

The cruiser industry has recently awakened from its technological slumber. More and more manufacturers are starting to introduce ABS, and even cornering ABS into their new cruiser versions. 

From Indian Scout Sixty, Honda Fury, all the way to Kawasaki Vulcan S. 

All of which are great investments that come with ABS. 

But are they the right investment? Remember the “why should you” part.

Who do you think purchased a better cruiser bike: grandpa with his ‘87 Kawasaki Vulcan or his grandson with 2017 Kawasaki Vulcan S?

Why the grandson, of course.

When it comes to cruisers and the quality they are built, you’ll need to guess again.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is ABS safer on a motorcycle? 

Don’t let anyone fool you: safety is the very purpose of ABS. ABS motorcycles and cruisers have many pros over the non-ABS versions.

On the other hand, far too many riders are using the ABS feature to mask their poor braking skills and rely on the tech to save the moment.

Which cruiser has the best ABS?

The best kind of ABS is the cornering ABS. It’s like regular ABS on steroids!

You can find this type on bikes such as Triumph Rocket 3, Ducati Diavel, Yamaha VMAX and last but not least, Indian Chief Dark Horse.

They are considered the Fantastic Four within the cruiser world. With performance overflow and build quality at a prestige level, you can’t go wrong with any of these cruisers.