Riding Tips - Braking

Brakes, who needs 'em? In most cases when we enter a corner the brakes create more problems than they solve. We make a decision to go 'faster'. So what do we do?  We go as fast as we can down the next straight, head tucked in behind the screen. As soon as we are right in the 'fear zone', worrying about stopping in time, we jump up from behind the screen, grab a handful of right-hand silver lever, get the back of the bike swaying and moving in protest and then let go, tip in and - enter the corner at the same speed or slower than we wanted. Sheesh!

Does this sound familiar to you? It should, I have seen it time and time again both on the road and on the racetrack. So let's take a look at exactly which brake does what and how to enhance the stoppers, rather than having them be the cause of too much scrubbed corner speed.

Rear Brake
Ah, the rear brake. It's as much use as a chocolate fireguard when you are riding at high levels of entertainment.
You might see some racers using the rear brake for two reasons. One, because they feather it to bring the bike in tighter at the mid corner point. Two, to get the back end to step out and "back the bike in". Neither of these will work on the road or on a local track day.
You need a high degree of finesse to make this work, and it makes the process of cornering way too busy. There is little evidence that using the rear brake mid corner tightens your line. If anything it just slows the bike down and the rider adds more lean to tighten his line. As for backing it in, I have seen some riders do this very successfully but with engine revs rather than the rear brake.

Not convinced? Take a look at someone doing this and see if he can do it in both left and right-handers. I watched a rider do this into a right-hander at Knockhill recently. The result was an impressive looking slide, but he was too damned busy when he let the brake go to get the bike turned, that any advantage he might have had was lost by the apex. It looked way too busy and was taking away too much of his attention.
There were riders who were faster into the corners without this technique. As for road use, the only time I use the rear is at really, really low speed - walking pace really. After that I sometimes use it in the wet to keep the weight of the bike about 70/30 front to rear. Over use of the rear simply locks the wheel and you end up in all sorts of trouble.

Think about it. The rear brake is at the back of the bike. How easy is it to lose traction when you have no weight to push it into the ground?

Front Brake
Now this is where all the real braking takes place. It also shows just how useless the rear really is. Brake hard and the weight of the bike transfers to the front. The harder you brake the more weight is transferred until the back wheel could have left the ground completely. The problem with hard front braking comes when your attention switches from the brake to front tyre traction.
The harder that front tyre digs in, the greater the worry of losing the front becomes. If you were to brake a little earlier, and have a good idea of where you wanted to set your speed, you'd be more accurate with your entry speed, and have more attention left to deal with turning the bike into the corner. Brake later and harder and all you will do is make a mistake on speed and end up going into the first part of the turn too slowly, and be left to try and make up the ground on the power.

A limited idea, as you will be leant over and have less traction as a result. Be easy on yourself and have more time to set the corner up. What you lose in late braking you will more than make up in entry speed, with the ability to get on the throttle sooner and harder, giving you more exit speed.

Even if you are a racer, the more gentle you start and end your braking, the less your attention will be spent on it making it easier to re-overtake the guy who have dived up the inside, all out of shape, and run in too hot. The only time this won't work is when the rider who has just passed makes you stall on the throttle, thus making his mistake also yours. I have lost count of the amount of time I have got frustrated with other racers doing this, only to smirk at them on the exit of the turn because I could get on the gas sooner and harder.

Give yourself time and the rewards will be huge.


Andy Ibbot of the California Superbike School

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