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Let's Discuss - Trail Braking
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Let's Discuss - Trail Braking - June 18, 2006, 04:09 PM

I recently expressed my interest in learning to become a GOOD & EFFICIENT trail braker to some of my rider friends. I was stunned at the variety of answers I received on this topic. One said it was so dangerous, that it should never be done on the street and only by advanced track riders. Another said, it isn't that bad if you take your time to learn it and really understand the concept. Still another told me that some of the High Performance Riding Schools actually recommend it on the street for quicker reaction times should a situation oocur that requires fast reaction in a corner. Please know that these people are serious riders that ALL have raced and riden a lot on the street in the past. I respect the hell out of all of their opinions.

So, I am interested in hearing from some of you that know/use this skill and what your thoughts are about using this technique in Street Riding. For those of you that want to follow along, but don't really understand what it is I have included an article from a motorcycle magazine that covered this topic previously. In a nut shell. Trail braking is braking through the corner vs. doing all the braking before the corner. This method helps shorten the Rake & Trail of your bike, thus making cornering quicker. Here is the article with a few pics:

1 Under most riding conditions it's safest to avoid using the front brake when your bike is leaned over. But there are times when trail braking-staying on the brakes while entering a corner-can help you get out of a tricky situation. Ordinarily, in a street scenario, you would brake while the bike is vertical, let off the brakes, and only then arc into a bend. This avoids forcing you to balance braking and turning traction with the front tire, as the two are kept separate and independent. By far the most common situation where you would be forced to trail brake into a turn occurs when you enter it with too much speed, or the corner tightens up unexpectedly. In either situation, to avoid running out of road you have to scrub off speed in a hurry, while still leaned over.






2 On a clean, dry road that you are familiar with (or better yet, the racetrack), experiment with leaving the brakes lightly applied as you turn into a corner, and gradually releasing them as you arc in. For a start, use only light braking at moderate lean angles until you have a good feel for how your bike reacts to turning while braking. Be wary of the front end wanting to tuck, which means a lowside is imminent. Maintaining conservative speeds and lean angles, experiment with using more braking force at moderate lean angles, and then more lean angle with light braking force.






3 As you get comfortable with a variety of combinations of lean angle and braking force, you will find the inverse relationship between the two-in other words, with more lean angle you must use less front brake and vice versa. Ideally, you want to know exactly how much front brake you can apply for a given lean angle, and how far you can lean your bike for a given brake pressure. Once you are familiar with this relationship, concentrate on smoothly releasing the brakes as you lean into a turn, balancing the braking and turning forces so that your bike's front end doesn't dive or lift noticeably during that transition.






4 For racers, using maximum braking at maximum lean angle is paramount to outbraking your rivals and cutting a good lap time. For street riders, knowing the limits is just as important, but for different reasons. If you know exactly what you and your bike are capable of, you will be better prepared to make that blind turn, or miss that rock in the middle of the road. Another advantage of trail braking is that, because using the front brake steepens a bike's geometry (on bikes with telescopic forks, that is) and puts more weight on the front tire, your bike will steer quicker with a bit of brake applied. Once this skill becomes second nature, you may find that you can alter your bike's setup to take this into account, and benefit in other areas accordingly.

This story originally appeared in the June, 2003, issue of Sport Rider.


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June 18, 2006, 04:23 PM

In street riding I only use it if I have to. I mostly use downshifting to slow down. Once in a blue moon might hit the brakes and trail brake only if i really need to. Race track I use it alot more.
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June 18, 2006, 05:19 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Carnage R1
In street riding I only use it if I have to. I mostly use downshifting to slow down. Once in a blue moon might hit the brakes and trail brake only if i really need to. Race track I use it alot more.
I'm with you because I'm the same way but I'm trying to break that habit. I have read it before and I'm sure I'll see it again: The brakes are for slowing the bike down and the motor is for making it go faster. I saw a huge improvement in my entry speed at the track last week just by keeping that in mind and braking then turning as opposed to coasting. I do see that you prefaced your commend with street but habits are hard to break.


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June 18, 2006, 09:12 PM

one positive thing about trail braking on the street is that if you have an unexpected occurance mid corner and are already trail braking then you can simply apply a little more brake pressure while still maintaining control. If you are not then the common reaction is to grab at the front brake ( since that is the one you use the most and stops the best) which in most cases is not smooth and controled but a panic grab. this will most likely end up with you tucking the front and wondering how expensive itis going to be to get repaired.

this was one of the first things that freddie spencer teaches in his level 1 school. they demonstrate the practicallty (sp) of it by throwing things (cones) onto the track infront of the other instructors at random corner apexes. it was amazing to watch them demonstrate the right and wrong way to do things.


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June 19, 2006, 10:48 AM

GREAT READ.....I use it on the street a little bit.....but not alot on the track..i use the coast method....and then get on the gas.


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June 19, 2006, 10:57 AM

Its a great tool to have and use if done correctly. The key is being smooth. Parking lots and cones for practice. The furnace after Corner Suave is a place to use this tool to save your ass.


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June 19, 2006, 11:30 AM

At the race track like VIR or Summit I can actually tell when I do it, like my mind knows when it's being done. I don't do it by accident and not even know when im doing it. BAMBAM had a good point I only really use it on the street when I've noticed the turn is sharper than I predicted.

I can be at the track now and I know that I am doing it. Street rarely use it, brakes rarely use it.
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June 19, 2006, 11:32 AM

Jonathan, I'm the same way. I can visibly notice myself trail braking on the track but don't actually force myself to do it - it just kind of happens naturally. Don't really use it too much on the street.


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