ABS scooter brakes?

After visiting Dealer Expo twice, I feel entirely justified in questioning the quality of Chinese scooters just based on build quality and looks, but I’ve had limited experience actually riding them. This weekend, I got the chance to ride a cousin’s “Boss” brand Chinese scooter (Qingqi, maybe?). Aside from the steering column’s desire to whip to the left or right if nudged more than a few degrees from center, and a less-than-peppy engine, it wasn’t the worst bike I’ve ever ridden… until I tried to stop.

Good brakes are critical on a motorcycle or scooter, especially on the front wheel. This scooter’s prominent fork decals promised “ABS,” which got me wondering. She paid $1300 for it and ABS usually costs $500 or more as an option, is available only on top-tier maxiscooters, and and involves a pretty sophisticated computerized control unit and sensors.

The point of ABS is to maintain maximum braking power while preventing your brakes from locking up. It’s common in cars and starting to take over the motorcycle world, though detractors claim that even the best ABS systems create a false sense of security, and that they may reduce stopping distance in an emergency.

Turns out my suspicion was justified. Chinese scooter ABS consists of a mechanism that basically prevents you from applying the brakes quickly, which is just silly and dangerous. POC Phil explains it better on his $999 Chinese scooter warning page:

…when you apply the brakes HARD, they open a valve that dumps about 50% of the braking energy away from the brake calipers. These systems are DANGEROUS and result in losing half of your braking energy when you need it the most. In the worst case scenarios we’ve seen these systems get jammed up, completely locking the front or rear wheel causing the scooter to lose control and pitching the rider to the road.

I can’t speak from experience to the jamming problem, but the braking distance was embarrassing for a modern scooter with a disc brake. the 30-year-old barely-functioning front drum brake on my Vespa Primavera works better, and I get nervous riding around on that one. If you’re riding a Chinese scooter with “ABS,” see if it’s possible to bypass the “ABS” system, stat.

Is her scooter a worthless piece of junk? Maybe not, it was fun zipping around the subdivision, and it started right up after 8 months in the garage, but why cut corners when your safety is at risk? For several hundred bucks more, she could have had a well-engineered, safer, much more attractive bike that goes faster and handles loads better. Once again, you get what you pay for, caveat emptor, etc.

5 thoughts on “ABS scooter brakes?”

  1. Holy Crap!! I thought my Chinese scooter had a bent brake rotor from day 1. Someone suggested removing the “ABS” but I thought it was just a stupid ad-on piece of crap. After reading your story, I went out to the garage and removed that worthless junk. I should have done it on day 1. My “bent rotor” is now straight! This condition happened ALL THE TIME, not just under heavy braking. Now my brakes work great. Thanks again. You may have saved a life.

  2. Really? Glad to know my blathering maybe helped someone out for once.

    Can you give a little more detail on how you bypassed it? It didn’t look like there was an obvious way to disable it but I was trying to be polite to my cousin so I didn’t want to take her scooter apart. Maybe I shoulda.

    Also, be careful, maybe those rotors don’t stand up to the full pressure of the caliper, keep an eye on it.

    Now I need to find a post about fixing Vespa smallframe front brakes. : )

  3. All you have to do is remove the dumb little “ABS Bottle” and reconnect the brake hose directly to the caliper (like on any real motorbike).

    Now you’re gonna have to watch the pads and rotor particularly closely. It’s my experience that Chinese companies install these dopey “brake pressure reducers” to minimize the heat and friction on your brake components.

    But Phil, aren’t brake components ALL ABOUT heat and friction???

    Yes they are, but the complete garbage pads and rotors they stick on these scooters usually don’t survive long once you remove the reducer bottle.

    Seriously, your safety is worth more than the $900 bucks you might save (ahem) buying a crap Chinese scooter. I still say “show me a Chinese scooter with more than 5000 miles on it and I’ll buy it off you so I can perform an autopsy to find out why yours is different”. We haven’t had to make good on that claim yet, and we still haven’t seen a Chinese scooter outlive the tires mounted to it. So, by that logic you can either spend $4000 on a top quality scooter or buy one Chinese scooter per year for 3 years. I’d be pretty surprised if you got a year out of it though.

  4. I just bought a Zongshen 150cc scooter. It has ABS brakes. I just came back to work after leaving for lunch and almost had a serious accident because of this problem. When I applied the brakes a little harder than normal, the scooter wouldn’t respond. It was like it was trying to stop and accelerate at the same time. I injured my left arm because of how much effort it took to keep the bike under control. My elbow and forearm are seriously hurting and I was almost hurled right into a car that was crossing the intersection where I was trying to stop. I managed to keep myself from falling and the scooter from hitting the car, but I can tell I did great damage to my arm in the process. I can barely move the arm and it is seriously painful.

    This is an old post, but if someone could help me figure out what I can do on a Zongshen Velocity 150 I would appreciate it. I certainly understand the post about “you get what you pay for”. This is a $1500 bike and I certainly accept responsibility for the choice I made. Ok….I can see I will be shopping for a Vespa or some other bike that may not be as dangerous. I was really concerned with what just happened. Aside from the injury to my arm, I could have had a serious accident just now. I know my ride home won’t be as safe, just due to the fact that this pain in my arm can’t possibly allow me to ride the scooter as safely as if my arm were ok.

  5. Well from some experience, My 50cc vespa has very predictable front brakes and will stop me on a dime. On the other hand the Roketa 150 has the abs brakes and I’m having a problem that I’m working on with squealing with New Pads. i haven’t experienced any brake fade and if I lay into them hard they stop but they’re surely not as smooth as the high quality Vespa, but the bike can be fully customized unlike the vespa which I can’t find anything custom for and it’s a whole lot more fun to ride because of the power factor GY6 150cc. For you chinese owners that want to trick out your bike try this guy Angel.
    http://scooterchromeparts.com/#/scooter-models/4531404884 I’m tricking out mine little by little. My scooter club site is http://www.beachcityscoots.com

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