TECH ANALYSIS: Motorcycle Stability Control, Explained

A quick look at Bosch's Motorcycle Stability Control, a multitalented system that's got your back...even at full lean angle.

KTM 1190 Adventure with MSC schematic

Bosch, at the end of 2014, released what it calls the first all-in-one motorcycle safety system: MSC. This Motorcycle Stability Control is based upon the basic capabilities of ABS and traction control but expanded it by the addition of lean-angle data to situations such as acceleration or braking in midcorner. “Our mission is injury-free riding,” Bosch engineer Frank Sgambati said.

Behind the development of this system is data from the German In-Depth Accident Study. Almost half of fatal motorcycle accidents are due to rider error occur in turns, and in two-thirds of these, MSC can help. ABS is already able to prevent one-quarter of casualty-causing accidents.

The classic accident situation is one in which the rider misjudges (often by under esti­mation) how much braking power can be used in a given turning situation or whether the machine has the grip to negotiate a given turn. Go to YouTube and see case after case of riders who ran wide, off the road, because they did not in timely fashion make the effort to turn tighter. Such riders need something to give them confidence that the machine can safely complete the necessary maneuver.

Motorcycle Stability Control in-use example

As a motorcycle leans over in a turn, the tire grip required to turn the bike is subtracted from total tire grip—the tighter you turn, the less is left for accel­eration or braking. But how much is left? As you accelerate or brake, weight is transferred from one wheel to the other, increasing or decreasing its grip. But by how much? The more accurate your information, the wider the range of your machine’s safe operation.

The novel element in Bosch MSC is a combination of a tiny but accurate Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU), which constantly monitors the machine’s orientation and accel­erations in the three dimensions, and GPS, which tells the system which way is up. The IMU constantly measures the machine’s lean angle and its angle of pitch (nose down or nose up). With this data, angle algorithms tell the system how much extra grip each of the tires has at a given angle of lean or pitch, for turning, braking, or accelerating.

With this data, the system knows how much braking or throttle can safely be applied and modulates the rider’s control inputs accordingly, extending the range of safe operation. In a classic accident scenario, a rider feeling he has entered a turn too fast brakes and turns simultaneously, asking more from his tires than they can give. MSC makes more grip available for completing the turn by reducing braking force to what the tires can actually give.

Motorcycle Stability Control unit

The system also functions like MotoGP engine-braking control, preventing drag torque from a sudden reduction in throttle from breaking loose rear tire grip.

A composite braking function adapts front and rear braking torque to the riding situation, and there are both rear-wheel-lift and wheelie mitigation.

Brake pressure is also adjusted to compensate for inclines, with a hill-hold function. The system was introduced on the 2014 KTM 1190 Adventure and Adventure R models and is also fitted to some BMWs, but, says Sgambati, "We have motorcycle ABS projects with European, Asian, and North American partners."

Riders may argue the pros and cons of such systems, but the healthy future of motorcycling depends upon steady improvement in accident statistics.

Your riding talent is free to shine through these aids, but MSC is there just in case.

Ducati 1299 Panigale with MSC schematic


Ducati's new 1299 Panigale S also employs Bosch's Inertial Measurement Unit. Road Test Editor Don Canet recently tested the big-bore Italian superbike (FIRST RIDE: 2015 Ducati 1299 Panigale S) in Portimão, Portugal, and reports that he never felt any intervention from the lean-sensitive ABS, even when riding very hard. The 1299 S is a true technical tour de force, boasting traction control, wheelie control, and engine-brake control, plus three ride modes, a quickshifter, and semi-active Öhlins suspension.

KTM 1190 Adventure MSC schematic.

Motorcycle Stability Control example.

Motorcycle Stability Control example.

Motorcycle Stability Control unit.

Ducati 1299 Panigale MSC schematic.