1. Twenty years ago, you weren't even supposed to touch your front brake. You'd flip right over on your face, so the stories went. Five years ago, racers and riders were preaching the exact opposite: "Don't even bother with the rear brake; the front is all you need." So, in the pursuit of the ultimate braking performance provided by your average Bandit 600S, we hooked up our Stalker radar gun and the laptop computer and set out to solve the big braking question: What is the optimum braking procedure, and how do you do it?
2. Keep your head up when riding, eyes always scanning what's going on around you. When applying the brakes, squeeze them smoothly, don't yank them. This gradually transfers weight to the front tire, increasing front tire traction and reducing the chance of locking the wheel, which eliminates the rider's control over the motorcycle. A hard stop using the front brake has the front tire howling on the verge of lock-up. The line between optimum braking and lock-up is a thin one, so make it a habit to go to an empty parking lot and practice hard braking. Our braking distance from 60-0 mph using only the front brake was 151 feet.
3. We didn't judge the distance correctly and nearly ran into the radar gun for the first rear-brake-only stop from 60 mph. Using the rear brake is useful when tightening turns, checking surface traction or settling the rear at corner entrances, but to use the rear brake exclusively in everyday situations is asking for a Volvo sandwich. Modulating the rear brake is tough to do without locking it at some point. Press down on the pedal firmly until you start to hear the tire howl; this is the point just before lock-up, and is the hardest you can brake without skidding. Impending lock-up is far more effective at stopping a motorcycle than a locked, skidding tire, so practice working up to it. If you're not accustomed to using the rear brake, lock-up is very easy to achieve, as shown in the photo. If lock-up occurs, keep the tire locked and countersteer in the direction you want to travel before you release pedal pressure. Braking distance from 60 mph using only the rear brake was a long 289 feet.
4. Keep at least one finger on the brake lever at all times when riding. This cuts down on reaction time by eliminating the finger movement from the bar to the lever in the case of an emergency. Two fingers are generally all that is needed for hard stops on modern sport bikes.
For our final test, we modulated both the front and rear brakes simultaneously. Not surprisingly, we brought the motorcycle to a stop in the shortest distance of the three tests: 146 feet. Both brakes together undoubtedly provides the best braking performance.
If you're feeling confident, practice your braking over painted lines, through puddles and on bumpy surfaces, which further bring suspension forces into play. The more you practice hard braking, the better off you'll be next time you're forced into a panic-stop situation.
1. Throttle control is one of the most important aspects of motorcycle riding. Together with shifting and braking, throttle control combines to make the operation of a motorcycle one smooth, cohesive action.
Riders with poor throttle control can be spotted a mile away. Their motorcycles will lurch, their bodies will sway back and forth with each application of throttle, and if a passenger is on board, simply watch for the ceremonial butting of the heads.
Learning proper throttle technique means getting in touch with your right wrist, smoothing your inputs and trying to develop an almost extrasensory connection to both front- and rear-tire traction. Sound like a bit much? Maybe so, but learning to properly control the throttle in every situation takes a lot of skill and even more practice. Ultimately your riding will be smoother and this will give you more confidence.
2. Precise throttle control is necessary in every aspect of riding: accelerating, decelerating, and the transition from throttle off and braking to releasing the brakes and cracking the throttle off idle. The point at which you release the brakes and apply the throttle is crucial because it usually occurs when the bike is beginning to be leaned over. If you're a trail-braker, these actions take place when you're already near maximum lean.
There's a lot going on while you're cornering, so it's difficult to be smooth at the controls too. It's important to remain in a neutral position on the bike; don't put too much pressure on your hands and wrists. The key to being smooth is to make every action damped and controlled. Release the brakes and pick up the throttle with a minute wrist movement. Practice so the transition from brakes to throttle is seamless and imperceptible. As acceleration is added, try to feel what the rear tire is telling you: How much lean angle are you using? How much traction is available?
3. So you've released the brakes and cracked the throttle off idle, and now the bike is at maximum lean angle just waiting to accelerate. This is when throttle control is most important. Even the best roadracers know that any type of aggressive throttle input while at maximum lean is a recipe for a high-side.
Here's how it works. A tire only has a given amount of traction available in relation to the contact patch, and there is always a trade-off between cornering traction and acceleration traction. The contact patch decreases in size as lean angle increases, so during hard cornering the tire's capabilities are being used up merely by having to deal with lean angle. If you ask the tire to then handle acceleration, it can result in a slide or crash.
4. The solution to this dilemma is to have a steady throttle hand and begin standing the bike up before rolling on the throttle. Decreasing lean angle slightly allows you to accelerate on a larger contact patch, affording more traction and better stability. Again, try and feel what the rear tire is doing. Make all of your adjustments with the right hand fluid, controlled and in relatively small increments.
Whether you're on a Sunday ride or commuting in the rain, developing a keen sense of throttle control will give you a better grasp of the motorcycle's capabilities. Smooth action with the right wrist goes hand-in-hand with effective braking, shifting and steering. Successful integration of these skills will increase your riding enjoyment as well as your riding prowess
1. Simple as they may seem, U-turns can pose a significant problem to riders of varying levels of experience. In fact, talk to any beginning rider and one of their biggest fears is typically tight turns. At one point or another, most riders have dropped a bike while attempting to turn around. Steering lock, rider height, bike size and a number of other factors come into play when negotiating a U-turn, so here are a few tips to help those struggling every time they find themselves wanting to go in the opposite direction.
The rider shown in the first photo has pulled all the way to the edge of the road in order to give himself as much room as possible for the U-turn. Notice the over-the-shoulder head-check to assure that there is no traffic coming. This is important for obvious reasons.
2. The important thing to remember is that to execute a tight U-turn, the bike must lean toward the inside of the turn. The more you lean, the tighter the arc of the turn. Many riders, especially beginners, want to feel the security of having both feet on the ground, but doing so increases the radius of the corner since the bike remains nearly straight up-and-down.
This rider is using a respectable amount of lean angle and has turned the bars to full lock. In order to ensure that the bike does not stall, it's helpful to modulate the clutch in the friction zone (i.e., slipping the clutch to a small degree). Turn the bike quickly, getting the majority of your weight on the outside footpeg; if the bike starts to fall in too quickly, the lean angle can be arrested with throttle application or by simply dabbing your inside foot. Make sure and look through the turn; this rider is not even looking at the front of the motorcycle, instead fixing his eyes on where he wants to be next.
3. In the middle of the turn, your head should be pointed down the road in the direction you want to go, with your weight still concentrated on the outside peg. At this point, the rear brake can be used to tighten the arc of the corner. Stay off the front brake, as the accompanying weight transfer upsets the chassis more and affects steering to a greater degree. The rider in the inset photo can be seen modulating the rear brake.
4. Notice that the bars are still at full lock to complete the turn. At this point, the rear brake should be released so the bike can smoothly exit the turn. The inset photo demonstrates the proper body positioning during a tight U-turn. The bars are turned to full lock, the rider is leaning toward the outside of the turn, the rear brake is being used and the rider is looking through the corner. With the proper technique, extremely tight circles can be made at very low speeds. Practice going in circles in both directions using these techniques and the next time you find yourself in a tight spot, there'll be no problem getting out of it smoothly.