Being a new rider and loving my WeeStrom, I have often questioned whether I should have purchased the ABS model over the non-ABS version, and I believe I have come up with a reasonable justification for getting the non-ABS version.
Now ABS is a wonderful thing and can certainly save your bacon. There is no doubt in my mind on that. But the critical point is that out of all the bikes on the road today, a very small minority (albeit growing, but still very small group) have ABS on them. Also, chances are that if the V-Strom is your first bike, it will most likely not be your last or only bike.
Now I've been commuting (about 15-20 kms each way) pretty much every day since I bought my bike, and in the past three weeks I've put over 800 kms on it in mostly city driving. About half of that has been in wet or rainy conditions.
Since I've started riding, I have had a few wheel lock-ups in my riding and it scared the living spit out of me. Once was the front wheel and a few times the rear. If I had ABS, I would never have experienced these situations, but being a new rider, I'm learning what causes these situations and can adjust. And since most of it is in slower traffic, it's arguably a bit safer.
I am learning how a bike handles a locked wheel, how when the rear tire locks up, press harder on the rear and don't let it grip until you do stop. How it slides out on either side as it happens. How you can affect the sliding sideways marginally with your legs. When the front locks, let up on the front brakes so it can turn and regain control, because otherwise you're going to just go straight and have no control. Valuable lessons to learn, and like a kid learning to speak and walk, in the formative period of my riding experience where I'm really open to learning and not set in my ways.
If I was learning on an ABS bike, I would not have experienced any of these conditions and would probably just grab the brakes as hard as I could to stop whenever I want. With ABS, if I went onto another bike and experienced an emergency stop situation, what do you think would happen? And probably after a year or two of riding with still no experience with what happens when one or both wheels do indeed lock?
As it is now, I can feel a bit more confident that when I get onto a different bike, I still won't know how hard or fast to grab some brake when I need to, but I will practice to find out just how hard it does work before I put myself into a situation that I need to.
And, if I do end up going a bit too far, I am gaining a bit of experience on how to handle it and not panic. Invaluable lessons in my book.
Another side is that it keeps my confidence level down and keeps the cockiness in check, reinforcing the space and speed you need. I am gaining a different confidence in my riding and control, not so confident that I'm going to be doing 80 kph in a 40 kph off-ramp. Not even 60. maybe 50
As a learning tool, I think ABS will affect your riding ability on other bikes, so in my books, it might not be a good thing for riders just starting out.