July 22, 2024

Louis I Vuitton

Savvy Car Technicians

Braking – It’s Not an On/Off Switch

Tyre technology has moved on very quickly over the last few years, as have braking systems. Drum brakes are a thing of the past and mono block callipers have taken braking to a completely different level. So tyres have had to do the same, it’s no good having the best brakes possible if that force cannot be transmitted to the tarmac. With duel compound tyres for grip and mileage and heat transfer bars, there’s a tyre for all occasions.

It’s a misconception that brakes are either on or off, you have a braking point and that’s where you put the brakes on, the brakes come off when you reach the start of the corner. If only it was that simple, it’s important to understand the forces involved in braking. Under heavy braking the weight of the rider and the weight of the bike is transferred to the front tyre. On the open road and under normal conditions about 75% of the weight is transferred to the front tyre but in race conditions this can be 90% or more.

Due to the weight transfer to the front wheel the back brake is inefficient at stopping the bike and is very rarely used correctly. Most riders no longer use the back brake for heavy braking. Using the back brake is a skill all of its own and is more often than not used incorrectly and causes the rear wheel to slide or jump. Under very hard braking the back wheel will come off the tarmac and start to weave, this can be controlled by the back brake. Pressing the back brake lever with the right foot will bring the back wheel under control and steady the bike into the corner. It takes practise to get right and supreme confidence.

The object of the braking system is to reduce the speed and stop the motor bike. Like I said earlier, brakes are not an on/off switch and need to be used as you would your throttle. Coming out of a corner the throttle is used to gently adjust your exit speed until you can increase your speed to full power. The brakes are used in much the same way, a lot of people call it trail braking.

When you reach your braking point, the brakes are applied as hard as required to scrub off speed and then adjusted as you enter the corner. You are trying to maintain as much speed as possible through the corner, so don’t over brake into the corner. It is just as important to have a release point as it is a braking point. Another words, where you let the brakes off, the braking point and the release point will change as you begin to brake later into the corner.

Combined with braking is the ability to judge speed, this is very important if you want to increase your speed on the track through corners. The key to judging and maintaining speed is the ability to be smooth. Using the brakes as an on/off switch will cause the bike to act differently each time and unsettle the bike.

The average rider will use 50, 70, 90, 100, 90, 70, 30 % braking into a corner, a better rider who uses late braking will use 100, 90, 40, 20 % into the corner, the advantage to this is less time on the brakes and a faster entry speed. It’s easier to judge speed in this manner as the bike responds the same each time.

In order to improve your lap times you need to be smooth, have the ability to judge speed and have confidence in your tyres as well as your own abilities.

There is only one way to obtain full confidence in your font brake. Knowing when the front wheel will lock up and slide. The best way to find out is to travel at about 10 mph and lock up the front wheel. It sounds very drastic but it’s very necessary to find that point of travel on the front brake lever. The front wheel will want to tuck under, simply let the front brake off and the bike will sort its self out very quickly. At speed the bike does not want to go down, so the sooner the brakes are released the better. Once you have mastered the feeling at 10 mph, increase the speed to 30 mph and so on. The bike will react in the same manner at 90 mph as it does at 10 mph. Knowing what it feels like and knowing what to do will not only save the bike but boost your confidence.

Another way to improve corner speed is to front brake and throttle at the same time. If you are already using two fingers to brake you will find this much easier to master. This method of braking is great for allowing the rider to change down, blip the throttle and brake very hard at the same time. This type of braking with throttle control demands a smooth operation of the clutch or it will unsettle the bike as you enter the corner. Once again in order to master this technique it must be practised until the rider is confident enough to act smoothly with the throttle and the clutch combined with the front brake.