Motorcycling - Knowledge

Riding Basics: How to Brake Properly- The Art of Speed Control

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Motorcycle brakes have become exceptionally efficient since the invention of disc brakes. The technology of motorcycle braking has transcended other technologies like suspension, high-performance gears etc. Even the installation of brakes now is easier than ever. If you love performance riding or speed racing, it is necessary you learn how to brake properly, hard barking, effective braking etc.

Motorcycle Braking and Weight Distribution

When brakes are applied, the weight is transferred from rear to front. This is the most important factor that one must be aware of while braking. Normally, the weight is distributed equally on both wheels; However, when brakes are applied only to the front wheel, it carries about 75% of the weight and the rear wheel carries only 25% of the total weight. This means that the front end is three times heavier than the rear end.

The stopping force is even greater in the case of high speeds where up to 90% weight is transferred to the front wheel. So, the rear brakes – have to stop the 10% of the weight including the momentum of the rear wheel and the engine. Any heavy rear braking at the time will result into skidding of the rear wheel.

Rear and Front Brakes

We are often advised to avoid the front brake and use the rear brake, which can be very dangerous. Rear brakes are overused by most drivers around the world. At high speeds, rear brakes require – attention and should be used properly. Otherwise, it may result in hopping or sliding of the rear end.

You only have two small contact patches on the ground and any one of them being out of control can be dangerous.

front brake of a bike
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Always use the front brake at the beginning of braking. After the front brake is released, most of the weight is transferred back to the rear wheel making it safer for you to use the rear brake.

On an uneven road, hard braking of the rear brake will cause the rear wheel to lift off the ground. This will result in the air coming between the tire and the road, which is eventually a bad traction situation.

Motorcycle Braking Purpose

Brakes are used to adjust the speed downwards. The overall purpose of motorcycle braking is to control the deceleration. Many riders assume that brakes are some sort of an on/off switch; thus, when they reach a certain brake marker, they pull them on and when they reach another marker, they pull them off.

purpose of braking properly
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However,you are never supposed to use them like that. In racing, brakes are very important for getting around the track or down the road faster and safer. Start braking when you are at a comfortable position and set up the speed for the corners correctly. In this way, you can gain a good second or two every time you use brakes efficiently.

The Product of Braking

The product of braking is the right setting for the speed, such that no further action is required. If you are going too fast on a turn, it requires more braking which will affect your timing. It is better to re-adjust your speed with brakes correctly so that your sole attention is on taking the turn.

how to brake a motorcycle
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For effective motorcycle braking , you must establish a Reference Point to decide on the spot. This involves two Points of Timing, when you start it and when you complete it. Establishing an End of Braking marker is just as important as establishing the Reference Point. It allows you to adjust your speed more easily.

How to Brake Properly and Sense of Speed

Your sense of speed is your ability to know the right speed required in a situation. You must know how fast you are to make the right speed adjustments.

Use the brakes as a reverse speed dial. It allows you to reach the desired speed more gradually. It will also eliminate any radical changes in your bike’s behaviour and develop your own sense of speed. The more sense of speed you have, the more accurate speed adjustments you can make.

The Braking Drills

As already mentioned, rear brakes have little to no use in case of hard braking. However, it is still a good idea to practice it. For this, you should know exactly what happens when you lock the rear brakes.

When you are riding your motorcycle at a comfortable speed and lock your rear brake, the rear end will slide out of the line with the front end. When you let up on the brake, it might snap back into line. If you are at a high speed or the wheels are severely out of line, this action might be so abrupt that it could cause your bike to lose control.

the braking drill
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With practice, you can learn to use both brakes more effectively.

Rear Brake Drill

Here is a drill you can easily practice to learn the sensitivity of rear brakes and how to brake properly:

  1. Ride at a comfortable speed on a road with no distractions.
  2. Apply the front brake steadily and evenly.
  3. Apply the rear brake gradually. Observe how much pressure it takes to lock it up.

Repeat the steps until you understand when the rear brake is locked. Also, try practicing the above steps at different speeds.

Remember the harder the front brake is applied; the lighter the rear brake is required.

Front Brake Drill

The purpose of this drill is to learn how much pressure it takes to lock the front wheel and what happens thereafter.

  1. Ride at a speed of 5 to 10 mph.
  2. Apply the front brake to lock the front wheel.

When the wheel is locked, you will feel like your bike is going to fall. If you do not release the brake, it will fall. When you let go of the brake, your motorcycle will straighten up immediately. The same thing will happen when you are riding at 100 mph, provided you have to be extra cautious while performing the act.

3.Release the brake for the bike to gain back balance.

Repeat steps 1 to 3 at higher speeds until you learn to use the front brake and you are certain that you can control the machine.

When you know how to brake properly, it substantially reduces the maintenance cost of your bike.

The Engine

The engine is there to increase your speed not decrease it. Using downshifting to reduce speedwill cause more harm to your engine that you would realize. Try avoiding it as itis cheaper to replace brake pads than pistons or crankshafts.

engine of a bike
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The purpose of downshifting is to bring the RPM at a range for you to start accelerating.

Mostly braking and downshifting occur at the same time. And many riders tend to downshift immediately after they apply brakes.

Changing Gears

Your bike does not care what gear it is in. It only matters when you start accelerating. The best time to shift gears is at the end of braking. You must know how much you need to shift. It does not matter which gear you are in, as long as you know how many gears to go down.

shifting gears while braking
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Use the highest possible gear,accelerate in the power band. If you go down too many gears, you will have to immediately up shift.

Another problem with shifting too many gears at a time is that the engine will start to vibrate, which can dampen the vibration of the wheels on the road.

The Rider’s Job

The rider’s job is to distinguish between the vibration from the engine and the vibration from the traction of the wheels. You should spend a lot of attention on your sense of traction. You need a combination of your sense of speed and your sense of traction to accurately determine the speed that you want.

Throttle and clutch actions are also important for downshifting. They must be rightly timed when shifting gears. Always rev the engine to the correct speed between downshifts, otherwise, the rear wheel might get locked and your bike will chatter.

Front Brake + Throttle

Mastering the technique of using the throttle and front brake at the same time comes with practice. The purpose of this technique is to apply the bike brake as hard as possible and still be able to rev the engine between the downshifts.

front throttle
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It is an important technique that cuts cost as you are performing two things at once:

  1. Get the gas off before applying the brakes.
  2. Apply the brakes as much as possible before you start to downshift.
  3. Rotate the throttle on and off while maintaining the brake lever pressure. It will rev up the engine while downshifting.
  4. Repeat step 3 for each downshift.
  5. Release the brake when you are done.

There is so much more to braking than just applying the brakes. You need to know when and how to brake properly for maximum efficiency. Using them the wrong way might get consequential.

Also read: Overcoming your Survival Reactions to Improve your Riding!

Becoming a good rider involves continuously practicing the advised steps and being aware of how impactful your applied pressure on the braks can be. Having the knowledge of the how and when of motorcycle braking, surely results in safe and effective riding.

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