News 1 Mar 2009

Road: Pull It Up

Braking correctly is critical, allowing riders to become both safer and faster at the same time.



Braking for a corner and braking to stop are two very different things. While in the main story in this Moto Coach I explain braking for turns, pulling up at traffic lights or into the pits is quite a different skill, and much easier to learn, altogether.

Braking to stop will seem quite easy for experienced riders, while newer motorcyclists will still be learning the fine art of braking on two wheels — especially in a hurry.

On the road, it’s crucial to use your vision and judgement to stop accordingly, whether it be for a set of lights or in traffic.

Always be alert, and if you do have to pull up in a hurry, I find the best way is to pull in the clutch, shift down gears, and brake as hard as possible according to the conditions, while still remaining smooth, and applying front and rear brake together.

This will pull you up very quickly, but always remain aware of what’s behind you. This is exactly why we need to stay at least three second behind the vehicle ahead, to allow sufficient time to stop safely in an emergency.

If your braking isn’t an emergency and you’re pulling up at lights etc, the engine braking of the motorcycle will also help as you can shift down gears with time to allow the engine brake to kick in.

Tuck in, twist the throttle and watch the speedo hit triple digits before you know it. Motorcycles, of any capacity, are getting faster and faster with each model released. Going fast in a straight line is simple — it’s slowing down for the corners where the going gets tough.

Whether you’re riding on the race track or on the road, good braking skills are essential. Braking is actually one of the most common areas of mistakes, with riders either applying too much and losing the front-end, or not using enough and running too wide.

Either way, a simple mistake under braking usually causes the end result to be a crash.

It’s the amount of braking used that counts, and each corner requires different amounts. Depending on the surface and radius of the turn, braking should consist of around 60-80 percent front and the remainder at the rear.

Some racers I know don’t even touch the rear brake, while others including Nicky Hayden admittedly overuse it.

Braking for tight corners requires a lot of front and a bit of rear into the turn and throughout it, with the rear also allowing you to keep the bike balanced once into the turn.

When setting up for tight corners, the brakes need to be applied progressively and smoothly, keeping the bike balanced and reducing risk of the front wheel locking. You need to slow the bike down enough to make it through the corner, so depending on your skill, this will determine how early you should begin applying the brakes.

The majority of braking should be completed while the bike is still up right, before you begin to turn into the corner, but trail braking is a great skill to have that allows you to continue to brake deeper into the turns.

Trail braking is when you continue to apply the front brake while on lean angle, with this technique mostly only used on the race track. I don’t suggest trail braking on the road in any circumstance, unless it’s an emergency and you need to pull up while still holding lean angle.

On the track, however, trail braking is basically a matter of comfort, as you continue to apply more braking power with more lean angle as confidence grows. This effectively allows riders on track to brake even later and lower lap times as they rush from turn to turn.

Flowing corners require a lot less braking power, with a touch of front brake helping the bike to steer in before the rear helps adjust the speed well mid-turn without upsetting the chassis as much as applying the front would.

In fact, rear brake at mid-corner is handy not only to help keep the bike on a tighter line, it reduces risk of a crash than if you chop the throttle or apply front brake.

Like most aspects of riding, braking efficiently is a skill that needs to be learned and requires many hours of practice, so let’s break it up and go over each stage of braking on both the circuit and street in steps.

Step 1: As you’re preparing to enter the turn, judging where to brake is best done on track by selecting braking markers, while on the road using your judgment is necessary, always erring on the side of caution to ensure you pull up in time.

Step 2: Once you have committed to a braking marker, back off the throttle and apply the brakes in one smooth motion, squeezing the font brake lever progressively while adding rear brake to help balance the bike. Blipping the throttle and feathering the clutch on downshifts can also minimise rear wheel lock.

Engine braking is also another way to slow the bike if you overcook it, depending on what bike you have.

Step 3: In the real world you need to brake according to the surface, with the safest way to slow enough and release the front brake before you apply any lean angle. On the track, braking as late and hard as your skills allow before trail braking into the turns will give you the best lap time.

Trail braking on the track requires you to get the majority of your braking done before tipping in, but softly maintaining front brake and adjusting it according to feel will allow you to be able to hold lean angle on the brakes.

Step 4: Applying rear brake to help maintain the correct rolling speed is optimal when mid-turn, allowing you to add throttle and then adjust your speed with the rear break. I personally drag my rear brakes a little too much and wash off too much speed, which is easy to do.

Step 5: Once the bike is stable and turned, release the brakes and begin accelerating to the exit of the turn, applying more gas as the corner begins to open up.

There are many variations of braking techniques required for both the race track and real world, with no real set way of approaching each corner as conditions change, but the priority is always safety before working on increasing your speed. Good luck!