Quick Steering vs Trail Braking: Which Approach Should You Take?

If you’ve spent any time learning about track riding technique, then you likely would have heard of one or both of these two corner entry approaches.

Depending on where you heard it, you may also have formed the opinion that one of these techniques should be the “main” way you enter a corner, and that other ways are less effective.

In this article I want to talk about these two techniques and why your views on them could be holding you back from greater speeds on the track.

First, to ensure we’re on the same page let’s quickly break down what I’m referring to with each technique.

What is Quick Steering?

When I refer to quick steering, I’m referring to the act of flicking the bike over quickly for the corner you’re about the enter.

This technique is also known as the ‘quick flick’ and it’s a technique that was popularised by Keith Code in his teachings with the California Superbike School. At the school it became a key part of the corner entry plan he teaches today after uncovering the benefits of using this corner entry method.

The biggest benefits of quicker steering come in the way of increased corner entry speed (compared to a slow steering action), along with the greater variety of lines you’re able to create when you know how to modulate your steering rate. The most beneficial being how you’re able to use a later and quicker steering action to open-up corner exit for an earlier bike stand-up and drive out.

The line created by steering a little later and quicker is often called the late apex or squaring off approach, and gains a lot of time at corner exit because of the straighter line you’ve created from the apex out to corner exit.

The downside is that it can cost you time on the entrance due to your later steering point. A later steering point means you need to run a tighter arc to hit the apex, so you must go slower.

What is Trail Braking?

Trail braking is the act of reducing brake pressure as lean angle increases when entering a corner.

In reality we’re ALWAYS looking to trail (or taper) the brakes off as we finish our braking (even when upright), however when the term trail braking is used, typically it’s referring to the art of trailing the brakes deep into the corner as the bike leans over.

To clarify, that’s what I’m referring to here. Using a lot of brakes at corner entry and trailing them off deep into the corner, sometimes to the apex.

The biggest benefits of this approach is that you’re moving your ‘brakes off’ point closer to the corner, typically meaning you can accelerate for longer down the straight and brake later.

Another benefit is that it allows for a higher initial corner entry speed as you work to use the early part of the corner to reduce excess speed and create the line you want.

The downsides are the risk of overwhelming the front tyre, and the line it creates.

When trailing a lot of brakes into the corner you cannot flick the bike over quickly. This forces you to steer slower, meaning you must steer earlier, and this creates a shallow line at corner entry.

This earlier turn point is going to mean you’re waiting longer for the bike to point up the track at corner exit, causing a delayed pick-up and drive out.

So Which Approach is Best?

Reading the above it starts to become clear that what we’re looking at are two extremes to tackle a given corner.

One technique looks to better leverage the rear tyre and corner exit (quick steering line), the other leverages the front tyre and corner entry (trail braking line).

So which approach should we take?

In short – both of them, and everything in between.

As learning riders it can be very easy to latch onto one approach to use for every situation. This is a pitfall I fell into myself when I first learned to quick steer the bike many years ago.

Once I first learned and began applying the technique it was a revelation to me just how much space I’d created at corner exit and how much harder and earlier I could drive out of corners.

This gained me a lot of speed against those around me at the time.

However, as I got faster, moved up and started riding with the quicker guys out there, I realised that I was losing too much time at the entry of certain corners for the corner exit benefits I was getting to be worth it.

I was forcing this ONE way of doing things into every situation, and I was losing time because it of it.

The same thing would happen in the reverse. A rider that tries to use deep and heavy trail braking in every situation is going to lose way too much time at corner exit in a lot of places.

Don’t get caught in the trap of thinking that one way is best. Whether that’s trying to attack every corner with the brakes, or square off every corner with a late and quick steering action.

That’s a sure fire way to ensure you hit plateaus as you try to make your idea of the ‘perfect’ corner entry method fit into every situation.

The techniques I’ve spoken about here are multipurpose tools, not universal ones. Each have their uses depending on the corner, the bike, the tyres, or even the rider and the strengths THEY have.

So What Should You Do?

If you’re still learning track riding and coming up through the ranks, I would always recommend that you learn to steer the bike first before adding significant trail braking to the equation, or if you’re using a little trail braking already, before you push more with that technique.

Learn how to steer the bike quickly, the difference that makes for the corner and the options it opens up for you. A quicker steering action is likely to benefit you in a lot, if not most places.

However, as you get more experience you’ll begin to see where each different entry plan gains or loses you time compared to those around you and you’ll begin to take different approaches because of that, like steering slower and better leveraging corner entry with the brakes, for example.

Just don’t fall into the trap of trying to find the ‘perfect’ approach to corner entry, because there isn’t one. Using one approach can get you a long way but in time you’ll hit plateaus, and at that point things will get more nuanced.

Your challenge is working out which tools are best used in the different corners and situations you’re faced with as a rider.