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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 (μ).

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.

Taking over Valentino Rossi’s factory Yamaha seat, multiple AMA Superbike Champion, 2010 WSBK Champion, and 2011 MotoGP Rookie of the Year Ben Spies will have the same equipment as reigning World Champion Jorge Lorenzo. Given how well Spies did on the satellite Tech3 Yamaha in 2010, the factory bike and a year of experience could mean the difference between being the “Best of the Rest” and the “Big Four” becoming the Big Five.

As a California native, I’ve always wanted to ride around Laguna Seca on a sportbike. However my passion for track riding didn’t manifest itself until I moved away from the Golden State to Pennsylvania, making a Seca track day all but implausible. Having just moved back into California, and the warm weather finally upon us here in the San Francisco area, track days and Seca have been on my mind. So when Michael Czysz, Lead Instructor at the Skip Barber Superbike School (and of MotoCzysz fame) shot me an email asking me if I wanted to ride for two days around the fabled circuit and take Skip Barber’s two-day superbike course, I of course took him up on the offer. With perfect 70°F weather, I made my way to the Californian coast, ready to take on The Corkscrew with the brand new 2010 KTM RC8 motorcycle and with the help of Skip Barber’s instructors.