Learn­ing to ride

Brake harder and faster with our ex­pert ad­vice

Motorcycle News (UK) - - This Week - Ru­pert Paul

Well, itõs a lot eas­ier than stop­ping a horse!

Rid­ing a horse is grand Ð but stop­ping is a ques­tion of per­suad­ing the beast that it wants to. You sup­ply var­i­ous men­tal and phys­i­cal sig­nals, but none of them have any di­rect re­tard­ing ef­fect.

At first sight a bike is more obe­di­ent Ð squeeze the lever and the pads bite the discs. In fact, itõs al­most as bad as the horse. The weak link is still there, hid­den in your head. Iõve got a di­a­gram a po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tor gave me of a fa­tal crash in­volv­ing a VFR Honda. From the marks on the road and wit­ness­esõ es­ti­mates of the bikeõs speed, the of­fi­cer showed that the poor chap had am­ple room to stop. Sadly, he just did­nõt.

So you might have the best brak­ing tech­nique in the world, but if you canõt pro­duce it when you re­ally need it, youõre stuffed.

Which is the ar­gu­ment for ABS: it takes over when you are crap­ping your­self. The method is sim­ple enough: pull and stamp as hard as you can. But it still needs prac­tice, to build trust and fa­mil­iar­ity. Can you bring your­self to make the sys­tem work in the first place? Are you fa­mil­iar with the puls­ing and bounc­ing? Is your body and brain used to the G-force? In­spec­tor Clouseau trained his manser­vant Cato to at­tack him at un­ex­pected times. This is the same idea.

If you havenõt got ABS, start prac­tis­ing in the dry. Find an empty road, and stick to the front brake at first. From (say) 60mph, sit up, keep your el­bows bent, grip the tank with your knees and squeeze the lever Ð gen­tly at first, then harder and harder as more weight piles onto the front tyre. Keep your legs and stom­ach tense and strong; your top half loose and re­laxed.

As the bike slows, ex­pand your aware­ness of how near the tyre is to the limit. Just fo­cus on that in re­la­tion to the lever feed­back. Re­peat 10 times (check­ing for fol­low­ing traf­fic, of course).

Do the same thing again next time you ride. And the next. Re­peat, re­peat, re­peat. Youõre turn­ing con­scious ef­fort into mus­cle mem­ory, and it takes ages. When you feel con­fi­dent, add the back brake. As the weight trans­fers for­wards, it will need less pres­sure, but un­til you get to stop­pie level it will still help.

‘Keep your legs and stom­ach tense, the rest of you re­laxed’

Find a clear stretch of road to pol­ish your brak­ing skills

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