It sounds wrong, doesn’t it?
In an area where you’re often looking to slow down and set your corner speed quickly to save the most time, here I am telling you to use less brakes to go faster.
It sounds counter-intuitive, I know, but there will be many riders that will profit from this advice.
That said, it won’t be advice that everyone reading this will need to apply now, so let’s first take a look at who this isn’t applicable to before going into why braking less could be of benefit to you.
Typically newer riders of the track won’t be using a lot of braking potential in their earlier days out there. It isn’t uncommon for some riders to use almost no brakes simply because they are rolling off the throttle to start slowing down a very long way away from the corner.
This being the case, telling you to brake less isn’t really going to help you here.
If this is you, your first steps to improving in the braking zone are to actually get used to using MORE braking potential. Once you get used to using more brakes you’re going to be able to start using more appropriate braking points and you’ll slash a lot of time off in these areas of the track.
As you get more and more confident using your brakes, eventually you’ll reach a point where you have a fairly late braking point and you’re using a very healthy portion of the bike’s braking potential on the approach to the corner.
In the search for more speed the temptation at this point is to brake later and later, using more and more braking potential, often without considering what’s happening as they begin entering the corner.
I was one of these riders who reached a point where I was braking fairly late and using a lot of the bike’s braking potential, even to the point where faster riders were commenting on how late I was managing to brake.
The problem was that I was still losing a bunch of time to those riders, the vast majority of which was coming at corner entry.
On the odd occasion I would see them coming past in the braking zone with quite a difference in speed, which falsely lead me down the path of thinking I had to brake even later.
But I was already feeling pretty near to the limit of the bike in terms of outright stopping power and I knew my bike had very good braking equipment, so for shrot time I couldn’t work out just how they were gaining so much time here.
It wasn’t until I started lining my riding footage up with a few riders running a similar pace to them that I realised that they weren’t braking later, they were just braking less.
In the majority of places we would be braking at a similar point, the difference was that they were not braking as aggressively initially, and in some cases they would begin releasing the brake lever and tapering off their braking effort earlier too.
This meant that they approached, and therefore entered, the corner with more speed which was carried through and out to corner exit.
Braking very hard from high speed bombards the senses and makes you feel like you’re really pushing on and attacking the corner, and the later and more aggressive you are the more effort it takes to complete, which gives the impression that you’re shaving off time.
It’s only when you see a rider coming past you with ease that you get the perspective that your ‘Maximum Attack’ approach isn’t as quick as you initially thought.
Or as can often happen, you get into the corner and you’re left with the sensation that you could have entered the corner quicker.
If this is you and corner entry is an area you know can be improved, using less brakes could just be the answer for you.
This might mean using a more modest braking point so you don’t have to brake as aggressively, or beginning to release the brakes earlier and in a more controlled way on your approach into the corner.
This is going to not only mean you arrive at corner entry with more speed but you’ll also free up a good helping of time and attention to better judge that speed into the corner – probably making for more tidy and consistent entry lines too.
A higher average speed over a whole lap means your lap time is going to be lower. Removing less speed in the braking zone (and then carrying a higher speed through the corner) is going to mean that you increase your average speed over a lap.
Yes, it might mean sacrificing a little more time accelerating down the straight, but that’s not a bad trade-off if it means you have more speed going into the corner as well as a greater level of composure.
Being fast isn’t about being aggressive. It may feel fast to ride like that, but it often won’t show you the number of the lap timer you were hoping for.
So, if you feel that you’re still losing out at corner entry and you also feel like you’re using a healthy portion of the brakes already, consider just what you’re doing with those brakes and consider whether your goal should really be to brake less, not to simply brake later.
Where and How to Practice Getting Your Knee Down at the Track
Move Inside, Not Down: How Hunkering Down Creates Body Position Issues
The “In Too Fast” Feeling: What Causes it and How to Reduce it
Track Riding Technique & Skill Order of Importance