Traction Control - How does it Work

Traction control is the most talked about technological advancement in racing of the last ten years. And now it's on the road to Ducati's Traction Control (DTC). To be honest, BMW were first with their Automatic Stability Control. You can bet that more and more motorcycle manufacturers will be in a hurry to develop their own version for the latest 2010 sportbikes.

So, how does traction control work, how will it affect the ride, and will it ruin motorcycles for hardcore riders by castrating performance? We also spoke to an technological expert on traction control, for an explanation of the differences between these systems and those in MotoGP.

Most systems are very different. For example BMW's compares wheel speed, whereas others concentrates on revs. All systems adjust ignition timing to reduce power when they detect a slide. We'll focus on the traction control that is based on the revving of the engine, aimed at fast riding.

This traction control system will have the most effect when tolling the throttle on hard out of a corner, or finding reduced surface grip. As the rear breaks away, the traction control system will retard the ignition, preventing the tire from accelerating faster than the motorcycle. This will allow grip to return as smoothly as possible.
An ignition system reacts fast, able to adjust to every crank rev. The power will go soft, helping the tire recover grip. It should be a bonus for trackday riders. It's probably designed to save you when trying to go fast, but it won't be holding you back if road conditions allow it.

The key difference between car traction control systems, which are more anti-spin systems, and full-on MotoGP motorcycle traction control that finds and holds the optimum amount of wheelspin for the fastest acceleration, while allowing the rider to square off corners with the throttle.

Most traction control systems for superbikes are based on engine speed and ignition timing, but Grand Prix motorcycles also use fly-by-wire throttles with computer control and dual wheel speed sensors. It relies on good programming, but this can deliver optimum spin. These road systems are unlikely to generate traction and help you go forwards; only stop you from going sideways. They won't be idiot-proof either.
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