More Motorcycle Control by Understanding your Brakes


It's surprising how many riders in Thailand of all abilities neglect to hone their braking skills or else fail to realize braking's essential role in overall motorcycle control. Let's clear it up.

'It never fails to amaze me how even some experienced riders lack fluency in braking control' says one of the the instructors at a riding training in Bangkok. 'In fact, bizarrely, some so-called advanced riders regard using the brakes as almost a fault. Well that simply isn't true.

'As with any skill, there is not substitute for practice. If the first time you have to do an emergency stop is an emergency, the chances are you will fall off in the attempt. Unlike our car-bound cousins, hard braking for a motorcyclist is a highly skilled affair.

'Done correctly, we can reach amazing rates of deceleration. Done badly, we lock the front and end up flying... and meeting the ground quickly.

The advice from advanced rider instructors is often simple: find a safe place to practise you braking – a trackday, where entering a hairpin is an especially good place to improve your skills, or a quiet stretch of road. Then consider the braking process as a three-stage procedure.
'The first stage is that initial bite, this puts the motorcycle on notice; the front-end dips and the weight is transferred forwards. This allows you to reach the second stage, where the full power of the brakes comes in – with the front end burying its nose in the ground, phenomenal levels of braking can be achieved. Use both brakes when you're trying to lose speed quickly – if the back wheel's on the ground, it will be slowing you down, but don't go mad or it will lock up. Then, just before we reach the desired speed, release the brakes gently so that the motorcycle settles back down smoothly'

Although most motorcycle riding instructors will agree that braking in corners should be avoided if at all possible, they also agree there are times when it may be essential, and if so you need to know how far you can go.

'Losing speed on a corner can be interesting. Be ultra smooth, remembering there is a finite level of grip available, and you have to proportion that between cornering and braking forces. Conventional wisdom used to be that the back was the brake to use, but you can get more power from the front. However, gentle application is the way to go. If ever a vehicle needed ABS, it's a motorcycle, let's hope you bought a motorcycle with ABS when you need to brake in a corner.
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