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Motorcycle braking – rules or feeling?

Jeremy Clarkson said: “Speed has never killed anyone. Suddenly becoming stationary, that’s what gets you.” –
Braking is one of the most important elements of motorcycling and one of the key factors of road safety. I am certain you all know basics this is why I have prepared special tips based on my personal experiences.


Regular practice and braking in all conditions

I’m sure you’ll all agree that one can’t learn how to drive a motorcycle online. Therefore I have no better advice than to become one with your motorcycle with a lot of training. Try to find a safe place (preferably a polygon, or an empty parking lot, or in the worst case, an empty street) where you can test the brakes and braking distances in different road circumstances. In fact, one needs to be able to soberly assess their abilities and behaviour of the motorcycle in various conditions. It’s not pleasant when your wheel locks but it is a lot safer if it happens on a polygon than on the road. And with each situation, your skills and abilities will improve. And when coming in a critical situation this is all that counts. There is no progress without training, and the road is not the safest place for it (although there might be someone who might not agree).



Position of the rider and braking force

When braking, don’t grab the brake without the feeling – this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t squeeze quickly and strongly. You should, but with feeling, trying to apply pressure calmly and steadily without panic that can cause flip. Your position during braking should not be rigid, but relaxed and stable. Given that there is more force on front wheel hands must be tight on the steering wheel.
It is important to have brake lever adjusted to an appropriate length for fast reaction. It is also advised by the experts that you should always hold two fingers on the brake, as it greatly reduces the reaction time (again, perhaps someone will not agree, but this is what figures show).




Overview of speed, road and surroundings

On the bike, you should always be aware of your surrounding. And I am not talking about cute pedestrians along the road but rather the road conditions, such as the temperature of asphalt, obstacles, water, sand or even oil spill on the asphalt .. All of this, as well as the condition of your brakes and tire wear, are decisive factors for braking distance.
The chart below gives an interesting perspective on motorcycle braking distance at various speed – keep in mind – on dry and clean asphalt.



We all know that the contact between the tyre and the asphalt is crucial this is why worn tyre extends braking distances.

I am sure all of you have experience with wet asphalt. Since the motorcycle is relatively light it can lose contact with the road when there is water on the surface (so-called aquaplaning). Probably the worst thing you can do in such case (and it happens often to beginners) is a strong braking which can cause wheel blocking and inability to perform any manoeuvre when a motorcycle regain contact with the road surface. In such moments, every millisecond counts and blocked wheel is the last thing you want.

What about braking distance on a wet road? We all know that it extends but for how much?
Depends on the tires. Suppose you have a regular tire wherein the coefficient of braking in dry weather is 0.7. When riding on a wet surface it drops to 0.4. Even more dramatic is the difference on slick tire – at these braking coefficient falls from 0.9 in dry to only 0.1 on a wet road!

A motorcycle tyre is curved and has relatively small contact with the road so the sand is what calls for extra caution. Not only you can lose contact with the asphalt, but also the particle under the tire can rotate and flips you over. Small patches of sand on the road are controllable as the tyre restores the contact fast. But we must be especially cautious for larger patches that usually occur on the right turns with the sandy embankments. Cars are cutting corners and thus bringing a sand on the road. In such case, it is very important to try reducing the speed before driving on the sand.

Braking force allocation

Brake with front and rear brake simultaneously. Most of the braking power at this time is on the front wheel, so you have to apply more force to front brake (about 70-80%). Because fo this your rear tyre can lift and loose contact which reduces braking power. It’s not a reason to panic but you have to slightly reduce the pressure on the front brake and the rear wheel will drop. This can happen even to the greatest Moto GP champions (this reflects in a longer arc or even a ride through the excursion zone).

What about breaking through the curve? Adjust the speed before the turn. When entering a curve you can still use 50% of the force. Just before the peak, it is recommended to apply only 10-20% of power, as shown in the figure below. Common beginner mistake is panic braking when entering the turn with too much speed. Braking forces motorcycle in the upright position which further complicates the completion of the turn. The best you can do in such case is to lean strong to lose speed. The braking effect will be the same, but the risk will be much lower.

All of you are probably experienced bikers that already knew, what there is to know about breaking. Nevertheless, it doesn’t hurt to renew the knowledge. Once again, do not trust your abilities blindly hence train and improve your skills, especially in the safe areas, where there is no traffic (such as polygons for safety training). I am looking forward to your comments. What is your experience?