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Old 23rd February 2016, 16:13   #1
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Default Motorcycles: Improving Braking Skills

In the past couple of months, my urge to upgrade to a bigger motorcycle has been getting stronger by the day. To provide some context here: I have been riding a 2013 KTM 390 Duke for a little more than two years now and I have always had my heart set on the Kawasaki Ninja 650, which I believe is the perfect fit for my requirement. Progressing from a single-cylinder lightweight motorcycle to a twin-cylinder motorcycle with a kerb weight of more than two hundred kilos, I am aware of some of the changes that I will have to make to my riding style. That said, my biggest concern with the upgrade is braking. After riding the ABS-equipped KTM 390, I aware of my depleting braking skill, which makes the prospective upgrade to the Ninja quite daunting. Though there are other motorcycles that are equipped with ABS in the market at a similar price range and Kawasaki is expected to equip the ER6F with the ABS from the 650 Versys, the awareness that my braking skills have gone from bad to worse is reason enough to bother my OCDed self. Even as the government is expected to make ABS mandatory for all two wheelers in the near future, I would like to know how to become better at braking. Here are a few questions I have:

1. What is the safest method to stop or slow down a speeding motorcycle in different road conditions like wet, dry and a mix of both?
2. Is braking different on tar/concerte roads and unpaved roads?
3. What is the difference between the use of the front and back brakes?
4. What is the difference between braking on public roads versus braking on race tracks?

These are a few questions that I have had recently. Please feel free to add on any other questions that you may have regarding braking on motorcycles.

Gurus, please enlighten us newbies on braking techniques, so that we can make our roads safer and lap times quicker.
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Old 23rd February 2016, 16:50   #2
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Default re: Motorcycles: Improving Braking Skills

I'll recommend you go for ABS equipped bike only. Here's why.

There's a technique called Cadence Braking. Normally, if you apply brakes fully, the wheels lock up and you tend to fall. BUT if you pump the brakes fast, the wheels don't lock up and you'll be safe.

Now why is ABS necessary? Because ABS performs the same operation many times per second automatically. And we know, we humans don't tend to think straight when we sense trouble.

Read more about this technique here : https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cadence_braking

And please buy an ABS equipped bike only.
Note : This technique will not work on surfaces with low traction (slippery). So be careful and ride safe.

Last edited by emperorofindia : 23rd February 2016 at 16:51.
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Old 23rd February 2016, 18:06   #3
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Default re: Motorcycles: Improving Braking Skills

I do not ride a big motorcycle. Neither I am an expert compared to biking gurus here but will share my knowledge.

It is recommended to use front brakes with more intensity than the rear. Reason: weight shift. When you grasp the front brake lever, the entire weight on the bike is taken to the front wheel. The shock absorber compresses to absorb the weight. Due to this increased weight pressure on the front wheel, the traction with road increases thereby enabling a better grip and braking. This also helps avoid a skid vastly.
The reverse happens with the rear wheel. While braking, due to normal laws of physics, the weight pressure decreases on the rear and the traction is much lower. Hence you should avoid tapping that brake pedal hard. You should only tap that lightly so as to modulate it and not hard so as to cause a skid.
However, make sure that your handle bar remains straight so that the front wheels is rolling in a straight line while braking hard.

Also google the term 'counter steering' if you don't know about it and you will be amazed. Also weight shifting is used by good riders with amazing possibilities. Good riding skills is an absolutely amazing thing to learn.

Regards
Saket.

Last edited by saket77 : 23rd February 2016 at 18:09.
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Old 23rd February 2016, 18:34   #4
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Default re: Motorcycles: Improving Braking Skills

Quote:
Originally Posted by MonsterTorque View Post
In the past couple of months, my urge to upgrade to a bigger motorcycle has been getting stronger by the day. To provide some context here: I have been riding a 2013 KTM 390 Duke for a little more than two years now and I have always had my heart set on the Kawasaki Ninja 650,
1. What is the safest method to stop or slow down a speeding motorcycle in different road conditions like wet, dry and a mix of both?
2. Is braking different on tar/concerte roads and unpaved roads?
3. What is the difference between the use of the front and back brakes?
4. What is the difference between braking on public roads versus braking on race tracks?

These are a few questions that I have had recently. Please feel free to add on any other questions that you may have regarding braking on motorcycles.

Gurus, please enlighten us newbies on braking techniques, so that we can make our roads safer and lap times quicker.
I would urge you to look at the Versys from the current lineup for the ABS advantage. To me it does not make sense to upgrade on power but go the other way on safety. By the way from what I know, while the 650 is a great tourer, the brakes are a weak link in an otherwise awesome package as they lack bite and feel. It will feel very different to someone graduating from a D390

To answer your questions, here are some pointers -
  • The front brakes will provide about 80% of your braking power, that said, train yourself to use both the front and the rear in conjunction as that is far more effective than the front alone
  • Instead of using the brake levers as an on/off switch, squeeze the pedals as you begin to brake so that you are able to transfer weight from the rear to the front, as you progressively use the lever the front tire has an opportunity to 'load' which will offer far better feel and grip as opposed to 'grabbing' a handful of the lever; without the weight transferring, you are facing the unhappy prospect of the front locking up
  • Generally speaking, motorcycle tyres will grip better on tarmac with grip levels going down on a wet surface and plummeting on gravel. You need to be exercise extreme caution while braking if there is sand/gravel. Look ahead for such less than perfect conditions and try and finish your braking (combined with downshifting) before its too late. Dirt bike riders rely heavily on their rear brakes with very little use of the front as the front is prone to 'washing out' on unpaved dirt roads
  • The rear brakes are also great to tighten your line while turning into a corner, gently dab them as opposing to jabbing them and try and develop a feel for them, this will only happen with practice.
  • Finally, braking on tracks vs public roads, needless to say the latter will always have a nasty surprise lurking around the corner. Nothing like a race track for you to practice and perfect your braking techniques, which you then may apply during riding on the street.

In conclusion, the above theories can only be brought to life by practice, practice and more practice. Try and find an empty stretch and see what kind of braking distances are involved under hard braking at the speeds you usually do (say >100 kmph), you dont want to figure that out during an emergency situation.

Ride safe
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Old 23rd February 2016, 18:51   #5
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Default re: Motorcycles: Improving Braking Skills

Please go through the book Sport Riding Techniques by Nick Ienatsch, it will help you a lot to understand not only braking techniques but how to improve as a biker. The book is not just about track riding as the title may seem to suggest, it is very relevant for street riding as well.

The following page might also help -
https://www.n2td.org/trail-braking/
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Old 23rd February 2016, 18:53   #6
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Default re: Motorcycles: Improving Braking Skills

I am not a big bike rider, but from my riding experience of more than three decades, can tell this. The front brake is the main brake, the rear one is used mainly to stabilize the bike during braking.
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Old 23rd February 2016, 19:40   #7
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Default re: Motorcycles: Improving Braking Skills

@MonsterTorque

I have been riding motorcycles for the past 18 years now (Bajaj 4S Champ to Pulsar 150, 220, Bullet, ZMA, ZMR and now NS200).

I beg you not to look for anything outside ABS. You can learn about braking from anybody, but let me tell you, a dog jumps in front of you, a rickshawalah takes a sudden u-turn, THE HUMAN MIND will just cling on to the brake lever. I personally use a two finger braking approach for front disc's but still I have fallen down.

My brother own's a CBR250ABS. Ever since I rode that for a few trips and of course did some testing on loose gravel, I am a firm believer and advisor that next BIKE SHOULD BE ONE WITH ABS. Your case especially, you own one with ABS and it is crazy to come out of it. Especially when our Govt itself is considering ABS to be made mandatory soon.

And of late, I have begun to start feeling like an idiot for not buying CBR250ABS which was in my budget but I wanted a more 'responsive' and 'nimble' bike in the NS200 for use in traffic.

Meanwhile I have a million dollar question - Was D390 your first bike? If yes, I am not surprised why you even asked this question.
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Old 23rd February 2016, 20:04   #8
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Default re: Motorcycles: Improving Braking Skills

Not a big bike rider or a biker guru - some points out of my limited experience as a rider.

1. No two motorcycles are alike in the braking department. Take your motorcycle to a deserted road or vacant parking lot and practice braking - normal and panic braking. Start from a speed of 30 kms / hr and go up at your ease.

2. Don't grab a handful of front brakes - gradually increase the pressure on the lever while monitoring the report of the front tyres.

3. As everyone else said use the front brakes as primary and back up with the rear brake. Use engine braking to its advantage. From the studies it has been found that using both brakes reduced the braking distance in comparison with using front or rear alone.

4. Panic braking should be done only with the motorcycle upright.

5.If the front wheel locks up during braking, release the brakes immediately and if the rear wheel locks up, don't release the rear brakes until both the tyres are in the same line. If you release the rear brakes on a skid with the rear stepped out, you get a nasty head shake and a high side.

6. Always cover your front brakes- it reduces reaction time and helps to avoid grabbing a handful while surprised.

7. As a concluding point - practice.. practice..practice..-You will loose it if you don't use it. Don't ever be rusty in the braking department.

Last edited by adrian : 23rd February 2016 at 20:07.
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Old 23rd February 2016, 22:36   #9
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Default re: Motorcycles: Improving Braking Skills

If you don't know how to properly shed speed, I would recommend sticking with your Duke for a while before moving to something faster. In my limited experience (not even half a year riding bikes) I can say that while the front brake is primary, rear brake is also important. The rear brake would be used more on a Duke or any streetfighter/touring bike than on an RC or any supersport kind of bike. You can practice rev-matching down the gears and since you sit upright on a Duke, it might help if you lean forward during braking to increase traction and control even if the rear tyre slips.
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Old 24th February 2016, 03:59   #10
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Default re: Motorcycles: Improving Braking Skills

A Ninja 650 rider here (in the US).
I would recommend ABS as well, although my bike doesn't have that (wasn't available in 2012 when I bought it). If a machine can do something better than a human ever can (multiple lock-release cycles in a second) why not take advantage of it?

Quote:
Originally Posted by BlackPearl View Post
Please go through the book Sport Riding Techniques by Nick Ienatsch, it will help you a lot to understand not only braking techniques but how to improve as a biker. The book is not just about track riding as the title may seem to suggest, it is very relevant for street riding as well.

The following page might also help -
https://www.n2td.org/trail-braking/
I haven't read Nick Ienatsch's book but did quickly read the article. Important points explained very well. Thanks for sharing.

I will also recommend reading Motorcycle Safety Foundation's BRC Handbook here: http://www.msf-usa.org/downloads/BRCHandbook.pdf

If not getting an ABS equipped bike, I would recommend reading up on wheel lockup (both front and rear) and how to recover from it. Also read about high-side and low-side falls and why high-side falls are so dangerous. You can even search for "high side crash" on youtube and see how devastating it can be at high speeds.

A lot of actual practice after knowing why you are doing it is the only way to master it. Another thing I have felt is when I am not riding with my gloves on (have been guilty at times of violating ATGATT - All the gear, all the time) my feel is off. So I recommend always wearing proper riding gloves during practice runs and during actual riding.
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Old 24th February 2016, 12:21   #11
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Default Re: Motorcycles: Improving Braking Skills

Here is what I plan to do to hone my riding skills including effective braking. Although I have been riding for over 10 years now, riding is always about ever improving one's technique in order to enjoy to the fullest in the safest manner.

1. First and foremost, go with the best tyres available. Tyres will make a huge difference on any bike's braking ability.

2. If felt that braking power is not sufficient, go for steel braided lines along with better brake pads from the likes of Brembo etc.

3. Attend level 1 and level 2 racing classes from Apexracing, 10tenracing or CBS. We all grow up with compromised/convenient mode of riding a motorcycle and need to unlearn some of these mistakes. Attending even level 1 racing class can teach a lot on how to best ride and enjoy a motorcycle.
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Old 24th February 2016, 12:26   #12
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Default Re: Motorcycles: Improving Braking Skills

An old mechanic once advised me to try riding without ever having to keep my legs down. So I would ride to office everyday and consider it a fail if I kept my feet down except at a signal.

Slowly this meant that I would slow down before stuck traffic. Made me more aware of how traffic as a whole moves.

This also ends up teaching you to slow down when entering a turn using your gears and exiting it at a much higher speed.

Last edited by bblost : 24th February 2016 at 12:28.
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Old 24th February 2016, 12:58   #13
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Default Re: Motorcycles: Improving Braking Skills

IMHO learning to keep a 'safe distance' and 'safe speed' is needed before learning to brake faster.
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Old 24th February 2016, 14:15   #14
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Default Re: Motorcycles: Improving Braking Skills

Quote:
Originally Posted by MonsterTorque View Post
In the past couple of months, my urge to upgrade to a bigger motorcycle has been getting stronger by the day. That said, my biggest concern with the upgrade is braking. After riding the ABS-equipped KTM 390, I aware of my depleting braking skill, which makes the prospective upgrade to the Ninja quite daunting.
Mate I am glad that you have considered one of the most important safety feature of a motorcycle while shortlisting and upgrading your ride. Braking correctly with judgement is an art and can be a life saver. Top it off with an ABS equipped motorcycle and your job is made easy. BUT the presence of ABS does not mean that the braking will be taken care of in any situation. Presence of mind and experience which comes with practice is also important as mentioned by fellow members.
Quote:
I would like to know how to become better at braking. Here are a few questions I have:

1. What is the safest method to stop or slow down a speeding motorcycle in different road conditions like wet, dry and a mix of both?
Well all the situations you've mentioned above require different braking techniques. On a wet surface firstly try to reduce your riding speed as best of the tyres and braking systems fail against a slippery watery surface. Brake progressively instead of slamming on the brakes. I always follow the braking technique of 60% front and 40% rear to keep the motorcycle stable. On dry surface too the same technique is useful and effective.
Quote:
2. Is braking different on tar/concrete roads and unpaved roads?
Yes mate it is, in fact most of the unpaved roads render the ABS ineffective due to the nature of surface viz. loose soil, gravel, stones, clay, etc. The way ABS helps on paved roads it actually intrudes with the braking while going off road. On unpaved roads it is advisable to use rear brakes 70% and front brakes 30%. I have found braking on paved tar roads better than on concrete roads. Again I use braking ratio of 6(Front):4(Rear) on paved roads.
Quote:
3. What is the difference between the use of the front and back brakes?
Some members have already explained this in detail, just to add my thoughts. No single brake should be used for braking, in fact both the brakes must be used as it distributes the braking force and helps keep the motorcycle stable. Again 6:4 ratio is what I stick to.
Quote:
4. What is the difference between braking on public roads versus braking on race tracks?
There is a vast difference as the traffic situation and the roads itself are unpredictable while riding on public roads. So one needs to be more alert and ride at sane speeds to react and minimize the damage to self and others. Track racing is different where one knows the track(if they have been there before) or can take a practice ride for the first couple of laps to understand the track and then gun the throttle for racing. One should avoid doing engine braking while racing as it will lock up the rear wheel(unless equipped with slipper clutch) and throw the rider in the air. Again I feel combination braking with both front and rear will help to keep the bike stable.

P.S. The above rules may or may not apply to all the motorcycles as some have sharper front brakes while some have sharper rear brakes. Also the weight dynamics of the motorcycle(front heavy, centre of gravity, tyres, etc.) and whether it comes with ABS and Slipper Clutch dictates how the rider should effectively brake on paved and unpaved roads.

Lastly to end my post on a funnier note, Braking! "It's all in the reflexes." says Jack Burton.
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Old 24th February 2016, 14:18   #15
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Default Re: Motorcycles: Improving Braking Skills

Quote:
Originally Posted by sam_sant2005 View Post
@MonsterTorque

I have been riding motorcycles for the past 18 years now (Bajaj 4S Champ to Pulsar 150, 220, Bullet, ZMA, ZMR and now NS200).

I beg you not to look for anything outside ABS. You can learn about braking from anybody, but let me tell you, a dog jumps in front of you, a rickshawalah takes a sudden u-turn, THE HUMAN MIND will just cling on to the brake lever. I personally use a two finger braking approach for front disc's but still I have fallen down.

My brother own's a CBR250ABS. Ever since I rode that for a few trips and of course did some testing on loose gravel, I am a firm believer and advisor that next BIKE SHOULD BE ONE WITH ABS. Your case especially, you own one with ABS and it is crazy to come out of it. Especially when our Govt itself is considering ABS to be made mandatory soon.

And of late, I have begun to start feeling like an idiot for not buying CBR250ABS which was in my budget but I wanted a more 'responsive' and 'nimble' bike in the NS200 for use in traffic.

Meanwhile I have a million dollar question - Was D390 your first bike? If yes, I am not surprised why you even asked this question.
@MonsterTorque. My suggestion is the same too. Testing your braking skills and improving them can be done at leisure times. If you are going to invest over 5 lakhs on a bike, then get one with ABS. Though most of the times braking is in a controlled, sometimes under emergency you just react by just fully applying both brakes. If it's gripping tramac, it's fine. But on sand/gravel you end up rolling on the road before you even realise it. Once I have experienced the front wheel washing out from under me on a road under construction at less than 25kmph. Ever since, I never touch the front brake lever on loose gravel. Only ABS can assist in such situations.
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