The Fine Art of Braking - Chicagoland Sportbikes
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post #1 of 3 (permalink) Old 11-21-2003, 05:03 PM Thread Starter
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The Fine Art of Braking

Got this in an email today
Seems like worthwhile offseason reading.

Here is a little article I thought you might enjoy. We’ve started a Riding forum where I am also posting them. If you have any questions about riding come and visit the forum and I or one of my instructors will do our best to help answer them for you.
The Fine Art of Braking
By survey 100% of over 10,000 riders agree on this point: they know that if they possessed the ability and skill to get their turn entry speeds consistently right, their confidence would soar; they would feel more in control; they would be faster and they would be smoother. Here is more on why you might want to master that ability.

Coasting Races
In the mid ‘70's I was introduced to an amazing form of “racing”. Four or five of us would get together at the top of one of our favorite So Cal canyon descents; turn off the engines; line up across the road; heckle each other; count to three; pick up our feet without pushing off any more than was necessary to get moving and laugh and yell out insults to one another all the way down to the bottom. Most of the runs were a couple of miles long with lots of turns. That’s a coasting race.

The rider who coasted the farthest and fastest (they were usually the same rider) “won”. There weren’t any tricks, equipment mattered little, it was all you. Well, I did have one little trick--pushing the pads back into my front caliper to eliminate the pad drag.

The camaraderie was elevated enormously by the fact that, unlike our usual canyon rides we could, for the most part, communicate throughout the descent. It was such a delight. Even when it went wrong and someone crashed (like me) I still have fond memories and get a warm sensation when recalling it.

Strategy of Coasting Races
On the technical side of things: I was immediately impressed with several aspects of this form of entertainment and a couple of those points were indelibly printed in my memory and became a part of the school over 20 years ago.

The simple trick to winning a coasting race is the obvious, the rider who could maintain his momentum by using his brakes the least generally would prevail. Doing an entire run down some of the steeper roads with little or no braking took as much or more mental grip than doing it with them, this became immediately apparent in the first semi tight corner you came to. Unwilling to give up the momentum yet afraid of the speed which had accumulated, your focus and interest became laser sharp.

Sure your hand would be poised over the lever and sure it took some supreme acts of willpower to keep from using brakes and sure you would make errors and have to use them but you also paid closer attention to the speeds than you normally would. The reduction of distractions like engine noise and gear changes and throttle and charging the corners with hard braking were all eliminated and it allowed you to make much finer estimates of your corner entry speeds and maintain that precious momentum.

Low Noise, High Speeds
After my first coasting race I realized I never would have gone through those turns as fast as I had done with no engine running, no charging and, for the most part, no brakes. It made me realize just how distracting those things really were and just how much of my attention they absorbed.
One of the things I continually notice when I watch students is how erratic their turn entry speeds are. It comes from the idea they have to charge the corners and brake hard but they tend to over-brake and foul up their entry and corner speed momentum. Has this ever happened to you?.

Low Speeds, Quick Times
As I was driving up to Laguna Seca to do a school one day I realized that if anyone was going to overcome this self generated confusion from over-braking, the quickest route to that was riding no brakes.

Once I got to the track I tried it out and rediscovered what I’d already figured out before from the coasting races, I went faster into the turns, my speed sense and judgement became sharper, I worried less about my entry speed and found that getting back to the throttle earlier was significantly easier. I thought it would be worthwhile to have the students try it out.

While it is true that some tracks lend themselves to this form of sharpening your riding skills better than others, I did begin to notice a trend at different tracks. The riders who stuck with the no brakes, even after we officially switched back to using them, made more improvement in their speed and confidence than those who were “testing” our brake pad material by charging the turns.

Ignore the Instincts
It’s almost as if riders feel obligated to charge turns. It’s the idea that you will go faster because of it and seems such a simple and direct route to that end but rarely works. The instinct to brake late and hard is like clubbing a female and taking her for your wife. Great plan but it isn’t going to work.

I have observed many truly diligent riders who ignored the instinct and stayed with the No Brakes format knocking off seconds from their lap times even compared to when they were using the brakes. To top it off they were achieving their quicker times with only one or two gears instead of the usual thrashing through the gear box. They might be going 20 mph slower on the straights but one should pay attention to the results (improved lap times and corner speed) not your impulse to go fast on the straights.

As I have said a thousand times, the brakes become more of a crutch than a tool for most riders. Someone always whines about the no-brakes riding format at school. Well, crutches are notoriously hard to put down aren’t they? Riders claim it is difficult (of course it is), that they could go faster with them (faster down the straight away, yes); that they “had” to use them (the crutch again) and on and on.

What these riders don’t realize is how satisfying it is to persevere at the exercise until you really get it, so you really can judge your entry speeds and really know you can do it. Very, very satisfying. Very, very big contribution to your riding confidence. Very!

The Basic Idea
The logic is flawless. Using or not using the brakes is irrelevant to the intended result of getting into the corner at the exact right speed. One either knows what that right speed is and can achieve it or they are guessing. If they are guessing they are paying more attention to it than they should have to. Guessing brings about inaccurate braking, inaccurate braking brings about rough and uncertain turn entries.

Trail Braking
Trail braking is a valid and useful tool for any rider at any level of riding. The warning is this: when used too often, or as a crutch to calm the fear brought on by the inability to sense speeds accurately, it not only doesn’t solve the source of the problem it makes it worse.

As the pilot you must make the decision on when to let off of the brake(s). It is a complicated little piece of work with all of the other usual distractions you encounter at the turn’s entry, e.g., setting the lean, getting the line and feeling the traction. Bottom line–if you are trailing the brakes towards a well known, accurately understood speed it is a tool. Otherwise it tends to become a crutch and invites riders to “charge” the turns,
low line them, leave the throttle till late and make tricky and sometimes dangerous mid-corner steering corrections all of which could be avoided with accurate turn entry speed sensing and setting.

Panic Crutch
In contrast to that I see many riders who feel compelled to stab at their brakes in the last moments before entering a corner. While watching them do it, the only conclusion you can come to is that the speed was a big surprise; all of a sudden they become aware of it and it seemed too fast. This is an obvious error. They aren’t using the brake to adjust anything except their fear. In either of the above cases, an accurate sense of speed opens the door to confidence.

Results Then and Now
The essence and final result of any brake release for cornering remains what I said in 1980 in my first Superbike School lecture and on page 64 of the first “A Twist fo the Wrist” book in 1982: To set the speed of the bike correctly for that place on the track (or road) so that no further changes are necessary. In other words, you get it right. Not too fast, not too slow.

Braking itself is an art within the art of cornering. Your sense-of-speed is the underlying resource you have to get it right. As an exercise, no brakes riding will help improve your sense-of-speed. Do no-brakes whenever you have the opportunity and see what happens to your sense of speed and see what happens to your riding.

The best part is that once you have combined a good sense of speed with the other basic skills of cornering it all begins to come together. I hope we get the chance to help sometime this year.


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post #2 of 3 (permalink) Old 11-21-2003, 05:23 PM
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Interesting read. That guy is awesome. Didn't get to page 64 of that book yet lol
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post #3 of 3 (permalink) Old 11-21-2003, 05:29 PM
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Yeah, good stuff. Reading Dano's fast lap at BHF post the other day, I really enjoyed his reference points descriptions (ie braking at which marker, etc.)

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