October 2003 Safety Thoughts

Braking Strategies

by Dave Hansen, Safety Officer

By request, this month I’d like to share my thoughts on braking.  These thoughts are not meant to be construed as the “correct” or “only way” to apply your brakes, but rather than try to tell you how you should use your brakes, I’m simply going to describe the techniques I use.

First of all, almost all of my braking is done with my front brake.  This allows me to become extremely comfortable with the properties and limitations of my front brake.  I can control it well enough to allow me to maximize my stopping power without lock up.

I rarely use my rear brake, but here are the times when I will use my rear brake:

·        Whenever riding on gravel roads, I apply rear brake first & cautiously

·        Riding in rain, I apply both front & rear brake together, cautiously

·        Riding “two up” & needing to stop quickly, I add rear brake after applying front brake to begin braking & initiate weight transfer

·        In “panic” braking situations, I add rear brake cautiously after applying front brake to begin braking & initiate weight transfer

The reason I never jam on the rear brake in “panic stop” situations is because it can & will result in over application of the rear brake.  This over application will cause rear wheel lockup as soon as the weight transfers to the front tire due to the motorcycle & rider mass’ reaction to the braking forces, reducing weight & traction to the rear tire. 

Once rear wheel lockup occurs, you have only one correct choice; keep it locked until you are completely stopped.  This may cause you to “low side” but, if you release the rear brake you will “high side”.

Let me add a few thoughts about how road hazards at this time of the year should also be considered while braking.  If you encounter leaves on the road, you should already be riding slower & more cautiously than normal.  For braking on leaves I use either the gravel or rain braking technique depending upon my assessment of the particular conditions I’m facing. 

We’ve all been told how slippery wet leaves are, but leaves that look dry can actually be wet underneath & really fool you.  The same holds true for seemingly dry roads that are actually covered with “black ice” or a thin frost layer that doesn’t seem apparent at first glance.  Be extremely cautious when riding in weather conditions that lend to these road conditions being possible, especially early morning hours.

Just some food for thought.

Ride Safe!

Words of Safety