Braking by Nick Ienatsch
Nick is a member of another forum I am on. He posted this up and I wanted to share it with everyone as braking is so important. Much of what he talks about we teach in other programs like the Total Control Classes and I thought this would be good to share with everyone as it can benefit everyone.
“If you have to stop in a corner, one of two things will happen. One, you will stand the bike up and ride it off the shoulder and into whatever is over there. Or two, you will lay the bike down and slide off the shoulder of the road. Braking is done before, or after a corner. The best thing to do before taking a corner is to grind the thought “I’m going to turn this corner” into your mind.”
Hiya FZ1 lovers.
I’ve stewed for two days about the above quote taken from another FZ1OA thread…and finally decided to launch this thread. In past years I would have just rolled my eyes and muttered, “Whatever”…but not anymore. I want to tell you that there are measureable, explainable, repeatable, do-able reasons that make great riders great. And brake usage is at the very tippity-top of these reasons. It’ll save your life, it’ll make you a champion. It will save and grow our sport.
I’ll ask this one favor: Would you open your mind to what I’m about to write, then go out and mess around with it?
To begin: Realize that great motorcycle riding is more subtle in its inputs than most of us imagine. I bet you are moving your hand too quickly with initial throttle and brakes. Moving your right foot too quickly with initial rear brake. The difference between a lap record and a highside is minute, almost-immeasureable differences in throttle and lean angle. The difference between hitting the Camaro in your lane and missing it by a foot is the little things a rider can do with speed control at lean angle. Brakes at lean angle. Brakes in a corner.
Yes, a rider can brake in a corner. Yes. For sure. Guaranteed. I promise. Happens all the time. I do it on every ride, track or street. Yes, a rider can stop in a corner. In fact, any student who rides with the Yamaha Champions Riding School will tell you it’s possible. Complete stop, mid-corner…no drama. Newbies and experts alike.
There are some interesting processes to this sport, mostly revolving around racing. But as I thought about this thread, putting numbers on each thought made more sense because explaining these concepts relies on busting some myths and refining your inputs. Some things must be ingrained…like #1 below.
1)You never, ever, never stab at the brakes. Understand a tire’s grip this way: Front grip is divided between lean angle points and brake points, rear grip is lean angle points and acceleration points, lean angle points and brake points. Realize that the tire will take a great load, but it won’t take a sudden load…and so you practice this smooth loading at every moment in/on every vehicle. If you stab the brakes (um…or throttle…) in your pickup, you berate yourself because you know that the stab, at lean angle on your motorcycle (and bicycle, btw), will be a crash.
2)Let’s examine tire grip. If you’re leaned over at 95% (95 points in my book Sport Riding Techniques and fastersafer.com) of the tires’ available grip, you still have 5% of that grip available for braking (or accelerating). But maybe you only have 3%!!! You find out because you always add braking “points” in a smooth, linear manner. As the front tire reaches its limit, it will squirm and warn you…if that limit is reached in a linear manner.
It’s the grabbing of 30 points that hurts anyone leaned over more than 70 points. If you ride slowly with no lean angle, you will begin to believe that aggressiveness and grabbing the front brake lever is okay…and it is…until you carry more lean angle (or it’s raining, or you’re on a dirt road or your tire’s cold…pick your excuse). Do you have a new rider in your life? Get them thinking of never, ever, never grabbing the brakes. Throttle too…
3)If you STAB the front brake at lean angle, one of two things will happen. If the grip is good, the fork will collapse and the bike will stand up and run wide. If the grip is not-so-good, the front tire will lock and slide. The italicized advice at the beginning was written by a rider who aggressively goes after the front brake lever. His bike always stands up or lowsides. He’s inputting brake force too aggressively, too quickly…he isn’t smoothly loading the fork springs or loading the tire. He may not believe this, but the tire will handle the load he wants, but the load must be fed-in more smoothly…and his experience leads to written advice that will hurt/kill other riders. “Never touch the brakes at lean angle?” Wrong. “Never grab the brakes at lean angle?” Right!
But what about the racers on TV who lose the front in the braking zone? Pay attention to when they lose grip. If it’s immediately, it’s because they stabbed the brake at lean angle. If it’s late in the braking zone, it’s because they finally exceeded 100 points of grip deep in the braking zone…if you’re adding lean angle, you’ve got to be “trailing off” the brakes as the tire nears its limit.
4) Radius equals MPH. Realize that speed affects the bike’s radius at a given lean angle. If the corner is tighter than expected, continue to bring your speed down. What’s the best way to bring your speed down? Roll off the throttle and hope you slow down? Or roll off the throttle and squeeze on a little brake? Please don’t answer off the top of your head…answer after you’ve experimented in the real world.
Do this: Ride in a circle in a parking lot at a given lean angle. That’s your radius. Run a circle or two and then slowly sneak on more throttle at the same lean angle and watch what your radius does. Now ride in the circle again, and roll off the throttle…at the same lean angle. You are learning Radius equals MPH. You are learning what throttle and off-throttle does to your radius through steering geometry changes and speed changes. You are learning something on your own, rather than asking for advice on subjects that affect your health and life. (You will also learn why I get so upset when new riders are told to push on the inside bar and pick up the throttle if they get in the corner too fast. Exactly the opposite of what the best riders do. But don’t believe me…try it.)
Let me rant for a moment: Almost every bit of riding advice works when the pace is low and the grip is high. It’s when the corner tightens or the sleet falls or the lap record is within reach…then everything counts.
“Get all your braking done before the turn,” is good riding advice. But what if you don’t? What if the corner goes the other way and is tighter and there’s gravel? It’s then that you don’t need advice, you need riding technique. Theory goes out the window and if you don’t perform the exact action, you will be lying in the dirt, or worse. Know that these techniques are not only understandable, but do-able by you. Yes you! I’m motivated to motivate you due to what I’ve seen working at Freddie’s school and now the Champ school…
I’m telling you this: If you can smoothly, gently pick-up your front brake lever and load the tire, you can brake at any lean angle on and FZ1. Why? Because our footpegs drag before our tires lose grip when things are warm and dry. It might be only 3 points, but missing the bus bumper by a foot is still missing the bumper! If it’s raining, you simply take these same actions and reduce them…you can still mix lean angle and brake pressure, but with considerably less of each. Rainy and cold? Lower still, but still combine-able.
5)So you’re into a right-hand corner and you must stop your bike for whatever reason. You close the throttle and sneak on the brakes lightly, balancing lean angle points against brake points. As you slow down, your radius continues to tighten. You don’t want to run off the inside of the corner, so you take away lean angle. What can you do with the brakes when you take away lean angle? Yes! Squeeze more. Stay with it and you will stop your bike mid-corner completely upright. No drama. But don’t just believe me…go prove it to yourself.
6)Let’s examine the final sentence in the italicized quote. The best thing to do before taking a corner is to grind the thought “I’m going to turn this corner” into your mind.
No, that’s not the best thing. It’s not the worst thing and I’m all for positive thinking, but we all need to see the difference between riding advice and riding techniques. This advice works until you enter a corner truly beyond your mental, physical or mechanical limits. I would change this to: The best thing to do before taking a corner is to scan with your eyes, use your brakes until you’re happy with your speed and direction, sneak open your throttle to maintain your chosen speed and radius, don’t accelerate until you can see your exit and can take away lean angle.
7)Do you think I’m being over-dramatic by claiming this will save our sport? Are we crashing because we’re going too slowly in the corners or too fast? Yes, too fast. What component reduces speed? Brakes. What component calms your brain? Brakes. What component, when massaged skillfully, helps the bike turn? Brakes. If riders are being told that they can’t use the brakes at lean angle, you begin to see the reason for my drama level. When I have a new rider in my life, my third priority is to have them, “Turn into the corner with the brake-light on.”
I’ve said it before: This is the only bike forum I’m a member of. I like it, I like the peeps, I like the info, I love the bike. Could we begin to change the information we pass along regarding brakes and lean angle? Could we control our sport by actually controlling our motorcycles? If we don’t control our sport, someone else will try. Closed throttle, no brakes is “out of the controls”. Get out there and master the brakes.
Thanks, I feel better.
Yamaha Champions Riding School