Learn to brake better
Practice prevents nasty surprises LEARNING EXPERT
Simple steps to stop faster
Get to know your brakes
It is possible to ride many miles without the need for hard braking. In fact, if you are frequently using heavy braking in your everyday riding then it is a sign that your planning and anticipation skills are falling short. However, when confronted with an emergency, your brakes are your best friend, so it’s worth getting to know them well. A bike’s brakes are way more powerful than its engine, so they need to be used with skill.
Don’t wait for an emergency
Like any practical skill, there is no substitute for practice. If the first time you have to do an emergency stop is a real emergency, chances are you will fall off in the attempt.
Break down your braking
Car drivers only have to remember which pedal to hit, but braking on a motorcycle is a much more skilled affair. Amazing rates of deceleration can be achieved, but only with loads of practice. You should aim to separate braking into three stages, leading with the front brake. The first is that initial bite, this puts the bike on notice; the front-end dips and the weight is transferred forwards. This allows you to reach the second stage where the full power of the brakes comes in. With the front end burying into the ground, you can get everything stopped very quickly. Remember that the weight transfer to the front will make locking the rear wheel more likely, so be gentle with your application of the back brake pedal. Then just before you reach the desired speed, release the brakes gently so that the bike settles back down smoothly.
Link it up for extra power
Getting all this to happen seamlessly and in the blink of an eye is where the skill comes in – so practice. Trackdays are ideal for this, but a quiet piece of road to practice on can be just as good. Some riders dismiss the rear brake, but it can supply a useful braking effect and also reduce ‘nose dive’. If you are a sceptic, try a ride on a bike with linked brakes to see just how effective they are.
Braking round the bend
In an ideal world you’ll only ever be braking in a straight line, but there are times when you’ll need to brake in a corner. This is going to be harder as you’re trading the available grip between cornering and braking. The front brake will make the bike want to stand up, so use it smoothly. The rear brake can be effective here, as progressive use can shed loads of speed without affecting the steering.