So I've got this big fat tourer fitted with radial brakes and ABS but is ABS all it's cracked up to be?
A lot of people have said things like "a good rider doesn't need ABS - their reactions are better and they can brake harder without ABS." Well I always doubted this and still believe that ABS is worth whatever premium the manufacturer charges for the option. But I've now had the ABS come on three times while riding the Concours and have good and bad experiences.
Firstly the bad. Twice now I have come up to a corner and had the ABS come on when it shouldn't have and so increased my stopping/slowing distance. On both occasions this was on road surfaces that were very bumpy: the first time the road had lots of little bumps and the second time was on the Napier-Taupo road on a corner where there are actual judder bars in the braking zone (who's dumb idea was that?).
What I believe happens is that the bumps may be enough to take a bit of weight off the front wheel and so allow the brake to slow it to a speed which is less than that of the rear wheel. The ABS computer thinks "heck the wheels locked, off with the anchors." Hence the increase in braking distance. Repeated bumps only make matters worse with repeated activation/deactivation of the brakes. On the "judder bars" my braking only really happened once I was clear of the bumps and darn nearly into the corner. Not exactly "safe."
But now for the good. On the Grand Challenge I had to hit the picks pretty hard on a wet road. The ABS kicked in but was very smooth in it's operation and braking performance was more than enough to slow me up for the corner. Excellent - I think that I may have been in trouble if the bike had the same monster brakes but no ABS to back them up.
So, on the whole I think that ABS is definitely worth having especially on a heavy bike with awesome brakes - I don't think I'd like a bike with such powerful brakes and no ABS, it could be a recipe for disaster in the wet or if the rider is not paying attention. I think that they only way to get around the problem on bumpy roads is to aware of the problem and to be observant of the road conditions (as you should be anyway). On bumpy roads brake earlier and smoothly and be ready just in case the ABS kicks in.
This is all just my opinion but I hope it at least informs you to some extent on the merits of ABS.