CBS, ABS and C-ABS: what’s in a name?

29 July 2013, 11:13 AM Charles Pennefather
CBS, ABS and C-ABS: what’s in a name?

Honda has a 150cc motorcycle with a unique braking system. We decode the mumbo jumbo behind why it is better than a regular braking system.

Brakes are the things that help you slow your vehicle down. Some vehicles have braking systems better than others, and not just because they follow the “bigger is better” philosophy.  A lot of safety systems are merely systems that offer the driver better control over their vehicle. Honda is offering something similar with their new 150cc offering, the CB Trigger.


An anti-lock braking system is doubly useful on a motorcycle; in a car, you’ll lose control and crash. On a motorcycle, that crash will lead to much more injury. What ABS does is prevent the wheel from locking – that’s when the wheel stops rotating and ‘skids’, and in the case of a motorcycle rider, the result is usually a fall. With the prevention of the wheel lock, the motorcycle remains rubber side down. Not only this, but some steering control is retained as well. The real value of ABS is learned on low-grip surfaces like gravel, or on wet roads. Of course, a professional dirt biker will find ABS more hindrance than help, but for the rest of us mortals, it is an essential bit of technology.


The title stands for “Combi-Brake System”, a name patented by Honda. What this means is that if you apply pressure at either one brake lever, braking force is applied to both wheels. In India, this system debuted on the Activa, where the rear brake lever actuated both the rear and the front brake as well. It is a slightly more complex system on the Aviator with the disc brake, because there has to be a hydraulic actuator as well for the rear brake lever, which otherwise has a cable leading to the drum at the back. The CB Trigger takes this to the next level with disc brakes at both ends.

How CBS helps is by applying braking force to both wheels. In many countries where rider education is poor, riders aren’t taught to use their brakes effectively. For example, India is a country where most motorcycles have drum brakes both front and rear on motorcycles that usually have a lot of load on the rear wheel. Riders learn through experience that the front brake doesn’t contribute a lot to most of their riding situations. Upon upgrading to a 150cc or higher motorcycle, they are suddenly confronted with a motorcycle with good weight distribution and who need that big disc brake on the front wheel. The rear brake and wheel are inadequate to stop the motorcycle quickly. There is also the opposite case where educated riders fancy themselves nearly-racers, and use only the front brake when application of the rear brake, however slight, can help them stop significantly quicker. 


The more intelligent among you will have already figured this out; Combined ABS takes the best of both worlds mentioned above, and applies for the safest, most technologically advanced stopping power available. Before it was within the reach of the common Indian man on the Honda CBR250R ABS, C-ABS was offered on the CBR1000RR Fireblade, and VFR1200F superbikes. Actuate either the front or the rear brake lever, and both brakes are actuated in a proportion that is electronically defined. If either wheel is in danger of locking up, it is taken care of by the ABS system. This is one of the reasons that the Fireblade has been the most novice-friendly litre-class motorcycle for many years. Now, though most superbikes offer multi-stage ABS not unlike the systems present on MotoGP machines.

If you want to take a closer look at any of these systems, your options are limited. All three will be available only in a Honda showroom at the moment. Take a good look at the Activa, Aviator, Dio, CB Trigger and CBR250R ABS. ABS systems have also been available for a while now on the TVS Apache RTR 180 ABS, and in the future you will be able to see ABS on the KTM Duke 390 and Kawasaki Ninja 250/300.


Last known Ex-showroom price

29 Used Honda CB Trigger bikesstarting at 38,000

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