A recent discussion thread in a closed Facebook page went all weird, when somebody said all matter-of-fact that rear brakes should never be used. Weird. Way to go buster, I hope his front brakes are more than he’ll ever need. FYI for the rest of us, Mick Doohan was unable to use his rear brake lever by foot due to leg injuries and so Honda engineers made him a thumb operated rear brake instead. Tells you just how wrong that other guy was.Also, here’s 5 things you may or may not know about braking.
- Manufacturers in a way of sorts try to tell you where the best braking lies. Bigger front discs amplify braking pressure up front on performance bikes where riders need to shed speed quickly for accurate control, complemented by the rear, while almost equally sized front and rear brake discs can be found on commuter machines meant to serve as work horses for regular daily riding are setup for braking under lesser speeds with less momentum to deal with.
- Higher compression engines carry a much harder engine brake than those you find on a regular commuter. Abruptly closing the throttle on these high compression engines can cause a momentary lock the rear tyre and surprise an inexperienced rider. In our tropical weather, this is especially unwelcome on wet days. Rolling the throttle or otherwise blipping while downshifting can prevent lockup. With the introduction of slipper clutches on newer bikes this is no longer an issue, but do not confuse this with anything to do concerning traction control.
- Another application for engine brake but better kept a last resort comes in the event the regular brakes are for some reason unusable, (brake fluid leak/gremlins/offending a higher being) would be to kill the engine and then dropping the gears 2 at a time while fanning the clutch to get the braking that you need. This was taught to me by a more experienced biker. You may think this could create a a full sized basketball court of room for bad things to happen, but if the regular brakes already don’t work, aren’t we already headed there anyway? I’ve used it before, but would I recommend it? Use with caution.
- Back on the subject of regular brakes, while negotiating a corner, squeezing the front brake just a little will also load the front, even when coupled with “maintenance throttle”. This technique is taught at defensive riding classes, for avoiding obstacles. What it does help sharpen the turning radius in the event of a surprise mid-corner. While this may sound a little for advanced riders, it is something very usable for riders of any level on our public roads and daily riding. Give it a try in a parking lot or empty stretch of road. Get a feel of what it does. This technique also decreases the need for lean angle, leaving plenty of lean available in the bank for when the need arises.
- By extension, trailing the rear brake while splitting lanes lightly loads the front, affording the rider more control at slow speeds while tackling daily problems like traffic congestion. Give it a try and you’ll realize you can wiggle that motorcycle around in a more controlled manner while trailing the rear brake.
Know more advanced braking techniques? Feel free to start a discussion in the comments below! – TGA