In my last blog I talked about the importance of being smooth when opening the throttle on corner exits. Another aspect of riding smoothly is how you apply – and, just as importantly, release – the brakes entering the turn.
Many riders use the brakes more as a simple on/off switch rather than realizing their full potential, and miss out on some of the nuances of braking that come in handy in certain situations.
I talked about some of the data acquisition aspects of braking in a previous blog. https://www.insidemotorcycles.com/blogs/item/703-ride-better-using-data-acquisition-braking.html
At the end of a straight when the brakes are initially applied, we are looking for a rapid increase in braking to a maximum of about 1 G in deceleration. That maximum is determined by either the friction between the pavement and your tires (the front tire skids) or the height and wheelbase of your bike (the rear wheel lifts). From the point of view of riding smoothly, you cannot get to maximum braking instantaneously; you must smoothly and gradually apply the brakes, letting the front suspension settle as the weight transfers to the front wheel. And it goes without saying here that for maximum braking you will be using almost entirely the front brake alone.
The data I have for experienced riders shows that transition to maximum braking taking about one second. If you try to apply the brakes at a faster rate, the front tire will not be loaded enough for the braking forces, and a skid will result. The results are most often seen at the end of a long straight in the rain; this transition requires longer in the wet, and a very common crash is for riders to lock the front wheel on the very initial application of the brakes, before the front suspension has a chance to compress. One thing to consider: If the braking zone is short enough and you don’t have to scrub off much speed for a particular corner, you may not be on the brakes for more than that one second. In that case, you will not be able to get to maximum braking no matter how hard you try.
To maintain that maximum deceleration through the braking zone, you will most likely have to reduce lever effort slightly. At the corner entry, how much trail braking you use will determine how quickly you release the brake lever. The more the motorcycle is leaned over from vertical, the slower you will have to release the brake to avoid unloading the front tire too quickly. Just as the throttle must be smoothly applied on the exit of the corner, the brakes must be smoothly released on the entry.
How can we monitor all this? Braking performance can be seen by looking at actual deceleration, either by a wheel speed sensor or GPS data. A pressure sensor in the brake line can also be used to record the rider’s input. Using that data, a math channel can be created that displays the rate of change of either brake pressure or deceleration; here we can see – and put numbers on – how quickly the rider gets to maximum braking, how consistent that maximum braking is through the braking zone, and how smoothly the brakes are released entering the turn.