Women Riders

Stop, Halt, Alto, Arreter, Opschtal! Braking Techniques

Written by  February 28, 2006

Whether its English, German, Spanish, French or Yiddish, it all means the same; STOP…and in order to do that, you need your brakes!

Let’s discuss the various techniques of braking, but first you must understand the types of brakes that are on motorcycles. The “standard” braking is very simple. If you want to hit the back brake, you press the foot pedal; if you want to apply the front brake you squeeze the hand lever on the right hand side.

“Linked Braking” comes in many large tourers like those made by Gold Wing and BMW as examples. Link braking is when the foot lever is pressed down; it not only activates the back brake, but one of the front brake calipers. Then by squeezing the front brake, you apply the other caliper.

Anti-lock Brake System (ABS) can be on bikes with either standard or linked braking. The system pumps the brakes faster than you could ever do it yourself. It prevents wheel lockup by automatically changing the brake fluid pressure at each wheel to maintain the best braking performance. This also allows you to maintain directional control around hazards if you can come to a complete stop in time.

So now you are asking, which brake is the most effective? The majority of riders I talked to said the front brake gives you 60-80% stopping power in hard stops. The reason is, most of the weight of the bike and rider shifts forward onto the front wheel when the brakes are applied. The transfer of weight pushes the front wheel onto the ground and makes it grip very well.

If you apply your rear brake hard it will lock up and cause you to skid. If this happens, keep your eyes up to the horizon and look where you want to go (not necessarily where you re actually going…..like in a ditch!) and the bike will skid in a controllable manner with a minimum of fishtailing. The front brakes can also lock up. You will then skid, the momentum will throw you forward, the front wheel will turn and most likely you will go down. Right now are you thinking; “been there, done that!” Releasing either the front or rear brake will ease you out of the skid, and then focus on keeping the front wheel turning.

Everyone who has been through the MSF classes will remember the emergency stop drill of accelerating up to 30 mph, apply both brakes simultaneously and come to a complete stop right in front of your instructor. Sorry to say, it doesn’t always happen that way. But, you can practice locking wheels up by riding in a straight line up to about 15-20 mph. Lock up the back wheel and keep your head up and pedal pushed down until you stop. The idea behind this is to learn how to control a skid. The same goes with locking up the front brake and then release and reapply the front brake.

According to the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, if you try to get the best out of both brakes in an emergency, you will get the best out of neither. MSF teaches their instructors that “in an emergency braking situation you should apply the back brake hard and let the back wheel slide, if it wants to. This way you can concentrate on what is happening up front; there is enough to think about in the use of the front brake.”
So, it seems to get the best braking, you have to concentrate using either the front or the rear brake. Since the front brake gives up to 80% of your braking power and incorrect application is likely to make you go down, it makes sense to concentrate on the front brake.

Other braking problems occur in curves. If you find yourself in a situation where you have to stop in a curve there are two ways to get you through it. Slow the bike down as you apply both brakes evenly and smoothly. As you slow down you start to lean the bike up to an upright position. By the time you stop, the bike will be at a perpendicular angle. The other way to brake, which is a quicker method, is to straighten up the bike and apply both brakes quickly.

When braking on slippery or loose surfaces tailor your braking to what’s under your wheels. Be observant of the road surface, brake carefully, but not timidly and brake in plenty of time.

When improper braking occurs, two types of events can happen; Low Side/ High Side.
Low side happens most frequently when you don’t keep a “ head up” approach when braking. The bike will turn to its low side and slide the bike and driver on the ground until it comes to a stop or hits something. A High side is more serious and you may not walk away like you can in the low side. The driver locks up the rear brake and then releases it before the bike comes to a stop. The inertia of the bike causes a violent shift in inertia and energy plus weight. The driver and/or passenger is thrown from the bike and the bike will flip end over end. Riders can be thrown as far as 50 plus feet.

Another tip, braking is only as good as the ride and the tires. Keep adequate rubber on those tire, and when you change tires make sure they check your brake pads at the same time.

Braking is a learned skill, not a natural one. I would encourage everyone from beginner to advanced riders to practice high level braking to make them an instinctive reaction before you can be sure that you will do the right things in and emergency. Go to a large parking lot, set up obstacles and practice, practice, practice. It will never get comfortable, but a least you will have more confidence to apply your skills in what to do in an emergency stop versus being in a panic state.

Dear Goldie,

My husband has gone to Daytona Beach Bike Week every year with his buddies. This year he wants me to go with him instead. While I am thrilled that he asked me, I’m not sure what to expect. Any hints on what really goes on there?

Belton, MO

Hi Ariana,

Chill out, don’t expect anything, and just go with the flow! There is plenty to do in Dayton,a and if the weather cooperates it’s even better. The beaches are beautiful, you can ride your bike on them, stop at a few happy hour beach bars and people watch. Traffic is bumper to bumper everywhere so in order to get any decent riding in you will have to get out of the rally crowd. Save going down Atlantic Avenue (like Main Street in Sturgis) for the evening, park your bike and hit all the vendors and other nightlife. Ride over to Ordman Beach and check out Broken Spoke and Full Throttle Saloon. David Allen Coe plays at Full Throttle every year and you will be in for a real treat if you get a chance to see him. Of course the Harley-Davidson Dealership is bigger and better, vendors are staged at the Daytona International Speedway and you can demo ride just about any bike you so desire. Oh, if you want to see some bizarre events head over to the Cabbage Patch Bar and watch the women’s coleslaw wrestling! It was a hoot.

In answer to your question, “what really goes on during Daytona Bike Week,” it’s just a huge gathering of biker enthusiasts wanting to get away for a little fun in the sun. There is plenty of security and it’s a biker friendly town.

Take plenty of sunscreen, sit back on your hubby’s bike and enjoy the fresh air, the scent of the orange and grapefruit trees, beautiful scenery and awesome bikes.

May the Luck of the Irish be with you and have a safe and fun trip.

Goldie Arnold:
Goldie Arnold

“Never rider faster than you angel can fly”

TIP OF THE MONTH: Never ask a biker for directions if you are in a hurry to get where you are going! (Author unknown)