Braking should be a pretty simple affair, but you’d be surprised to know that out of all the riding techniques we use on track it is during braking that the greatest number of panic buttons are pushed if it’s not done correctly.
In this guide I have outlined what we should work towards to improve our braking technique, as well as some of the results of getting it wrong; this I hope will leave you feeling confident on the brakes and have you pushing back your markers with ease.
Believe it or not, the goal of braking isn’t to simply slam on the anchors as hard as you can and slow down as quick as possible.
Slowing the bike down is obviously part of the goal, but how we do that can have a positive or negative impact on the corner ahead.
Every rider will have an entry speed they want to achieve, the primary goal of braking is to use the brakes to set that speed in as little time as possible without negatively affecting your corner entry speed and line.
This means that there will often be a trade-off between outright braking potential and corner entry composure. The goal is to find the balance of both to maximise potential for that particular corner.
As you may know, we don’t apply constant pressure to the lever when braking, the pressure will vary from the time you first apply the brake to the time you release the lever.
There are a number of ways in which you can structure your braking – that is to mean the points in the braking zone where you apply full brakes, soft brakes, and everything in between.
The most effective way to set our speed for a corner is to get the bulk of the braking done before you arrive at the point where you want to steer into the corner. If you leave all your hard braking right up until it’s time to steer the bike it will often have you feeling like you’re going in too fast, causing you to over brake and ultimately go in too slow.
It can also potentially have you making more serious mistakes like missing your markers, carrying too much brake into the corner (risking traction loss) or simply having you fall into a panic situation.
Instead, what would be more ideal is to start off by braking hard at first then trailing the brake pressure off as you approach your turn point.
This will not only have you feeling more relaxed at your corner entry point, but you will no doubt be going faster too. Another plus is that you’ll feel less rushed, meaning more concentration on what’s to come after you have finished your braking.
When talking about the initial application of the brake there’s only really one main point to raise, and that is don’t snap the brakes on. By snapping the brakes on you are risking the suspension bottoming out which will increase the chances of the front wheel locking up (though it should be said that if your suspension is set up properly and is working correctly it shouldn’t be bottoming out).
Brake application should in fact be quick (between a quarter and half a second between initial application and full power), but it should not be instant.
Imagine a line graph showing your braking efforts between your braking point and turn point. You would see a steep curve from initial application to full brakes; the line would then stay at the top of the graph while you scrub your speed off, then as you get closer to your turn point you would see the line come back down the graph slowly as you taper off the brakes.
The only other point to mention about brake application is what to do in the instance of a wheel lock up. If this happens then ease the pressure off the brake lever to allow the front wheel to start turning and stabilise itself and the bike.
Whether or not riders use the rear brake will mainly be down to personal preference, even up to very high levels of racing, but in my opinion until you have mastered the use of the front brake for your main braking efforts it’s something you don’t have to focus on if you don’t want to.
Minor speed and line management aside, when talking about pure stopping power alone the rear brake does little to improve the deceleration of your motorcycle, so from a personal standpoint I choose not to use it because of the little benefit it offers. With that, I’ll leave the decision entirely up to you.
As you can see from these motorcycle braking tips, the way we should be braking is fairly simple, but even the fanciest braking system in the world won’t help you if you don’t get it right.
The main lesson to take away is get all your hard braking done early to eradicate your internal panic buttons being pushed, this will mean a more relaxed head at corner entry and fewer mistakes being made as a result. You’ll probably be going faster too!
Secondary points are get the brakes on quickly, but don’t snap it on as this will only translate into an unsettled bike.
It’ll take time and practice, but with enough of it your braking will come along nicely and you’ll be pushing your braking markers further back when you see all the time you’ve given yourself from your braking point to your turn point.
Now go heat those discs!
Photo by Jerko
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