Nothing causes as much confusion or trepidation in riders as emergency braking. How hard can I brake? Will the front wheel lock? Will I go over the handlebars? How far can I lean over on the brakes?
As a Motorcycle Instructor I am continually amazed at how many of our students, who have generally had some training and are licensed, come to us with inadequate braking skills. It’s super important to understand and regularly practice emergency braking on your bike. Normally I recommend a quiet car park with a slight up-hill.
To understand braking we must first understand grip. The main contributor to grip is the weight or load on each tire. The ratio between the maximum possible grip and the vertical load is called the coefficient of friction (?). To understand this, slide an eraser across your kitchen table. Now try the same thing pushing down hard on the eraser.
This same thing happens when you brake on a motorcycle. The bike pitches forward transferring weight onto the front wheel, increasing front tire grip. More so with sports bikes, tall with short wheelbase compared to cruisers, which are long and low.
The Schwantz School will be on hiatus for the 2014 riding season, says the riding instruction school. The press release for the track school lists Kevin Schwantz’s “travel/racing schedule and other factors” as the reason for the school’s hiatus. Schwantz is slated to compete in the Suzuka 8-Hour endurance race with the Yoshimura Suzuki Legends team in July.
The MotoGP Legend also is to be a “Guest of Honor” at the Classic Motorcycle Festival at Donington Park in August, and there is possibility Schwantz will be racing in England in September as well. As for the “other factors” mentioned, Schwantz is quoted as wanting to spend time in his recently remodeled home in Austin, Texas.
Keith Code is right, riding a motorcycle is all about learning the art of cornering. Any idiot can grip a ton of throttle, and blast down a straightaway; but when it comes to tipping a bike over into the corner entry, hitting the apex, and gassing out of the exit, a bit more finesse is required.
That is why the California Superbike School curriculum focuses so much on taking a motorcycle through a race track corner. Making a short video at the Willow Springs Raceway, Code gives a preview into his classroom and two-wheeled philosophy.
It’s an interesting watch, even if it is a glorified commercial. After all, we are pretty sure the “Twist of the Wrist” author has forgotten more about motorcycle control than we will ever learn.
On the track, racers are either on the throttle or on the brakes – no free wheeling – this wastes time. Trail braking is a technique which racers use to slow the bike as quickly as possible from one speed (on the straight) to another (corner apex speed).
In applying this technique, a racer will approach a turn and at their braking marker, apply full braking force, normally with the bike being upright.
As the rider begins to turn in, they reduce brake pressure, easing off the brakes. Decreasing or “trailing” the brake lever force as the bike lean angle increases until they gets to the apex, the rider then releases the brake and applies the throttle.
Sounds easy enough in theory, but proper execution is complicated because it comes down to feel — and remember these guys are doing this seamlessly, every lap on the limit.
As Freddie Spencer once said, “fast riders have slow hands” so all this is done smoothly, progressively and powerfully.
Look where you want to go! Steer the bike with your eyes! You go where you look! How often have we motorcyclists heard these phrases?
Looking where you want to go obviously relates to vision, an important sense for everyday life; however when we introduce motorcycles, the importance of vision increases dramatically, not just as an essential tool for high performance riding and racing, but also for survival on the road.
The fact is most of us are damaging our vision, namely our peripheral vision, with our modern lifestyle of sitting in front of TV and computer screens. Compared to our ancestors, our visual field has narrowed dramatically.
If we get into the habit of looking directly at objects while restricting the awareness of our surrounding field of view, it’s comparable to not fully using other areas of our body.
For example if we routinely only bend our knee ten degrees, you could imagine this bad habit of restricted movement would ultimately lead to poor function, soreness, and long-term damage.
It’s safe to assume that our vision also follows the familiar “use it or lose it” rule that is evident in other areas of our body. In other words, if we only use one part of our visual field, the rest of our visual circuitry will begin to go inactive. So how important is peripheral vision to our riding and what can we do to increase our visual performance?
There is a weird phenomenon as one gains experience on a motorcycle in regards to the usage of the rear brake. As novice riders, we are taught to use the rear brake in conjunction with the front brake, and in rider training courses like the one put on by the MSF, this is a skill that is practiced out on the range. Out on the road, it is not uncommon then to see the rear brake light of a new rider dance with light, as a foot covering the rear brake toggles the brake light switch on and off.
As we progress and gain some more experience as motorcyclists, the trend is to stop using the rear brake entirely — relying solely on the front brake for our stopping needs. Go to enough track days and eventually you will see a motorcycle fail a tech inspection because the rider thought the rear brake was so unnecessary as to remove it completely from the machine — for the weight savings, of course.
As a rider’s skill set on a motorcycle improves though, a new love affair is found with the rear brake. Talk to any professional motorcycle racer about their rear brake, and you will begin to realize there is a huge role that the rear brake plays in bike stability, which at times makes no sense to a layman — something exemplified by Casey Stoner’s frequent use of the rear brake while also hard on the throttle.
Not quite diving that deep, Scott Russell (of Mr. Daytona fame) and Nick Ienatsch (of FasterSafer.com) explain why you should fall in love again with your rear brake, as well as giving some tips on how to modify your bike to get the most out of braking with both the front and rear tires. Enjoy!