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Engine braking - Pros and Cons

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This is more of a tech question, but it segues into technique.  So I upgraded this year to a 2011 R6 with a YEC kit ECU.  The bike was previously run by a current AMA rider and set at least one lap record, so the bike is not an issue.  Also, for background, I've been almost exclusively riding mostly stock twin-cylinder bikes for the past four years. 

The R6 ECU is set to a heavily reduced engine braking setting.  Compared to my twins, roll-off engine braking feels pretty near minimal and gives almost a freewheeling sensation.  In searching around, there seems to be a school of thought among a lot of fast riders that minimal engine braking in the ECU is preferable for smoother roll-offs and less speed loss on the way to the apex.  

The underlying question for me is, should I just keep the setting as used by known fast guys, and learn to ride it "the way it should be?"  Or is it something that should be adjusted to by resetting and incrementally reducing the engine braking setting?  Or is it really just a feel issue dependent on the rider rather than an "all fast guys at the front do this?"

 

 

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MotoGP riders are typically trying to dial up as much engine braking as possible. They can also dial it in or out for specific turns by GPS. If you are riding a track that is very "stop and go" with a lot of braking zones, I would dial it up. If it is a flowing track with transitions, I would use less engine braking so the bike does not pitch forward if you feather out of the throttle in a transition.

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Thanks for the info on the GP riders, Dylan.  I appreciate the knowledge drop, and it will definitely be something to consider in terms of adjustments based on track layouts.

Since I will mostly be riding at Thunderhill East, Sonoma, Buttonwillow, and Vegas this year, I guess I am leaning towards less engine braking to a degree, as they all have flowing sections.  I will definitely have to spend a trackday just fiddling with the engine braking settings over back to back sessions to gauge the differences.  

This is a lot more complicated than my stock, non-adjustable suspension, single fuel map power commander Ninja 300.  Haha.  

See you at Vegas this weekend.

 

 

 

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Oh yes, if you were riding the Ninja 300 you will definitely feel a lot of difference; I rode a Ninja 400 recently and I was amazed by how much it wanted to decelerate when I let off the gas - and I discovered that my roll-offs were NOT as smooth as I though they were (see Throttle Control rule #2)!

On the S1000s you can adjust the engine braking amount; after switching from another bike to my S1000rr where it is set very low it takes some getting used to, since I feel like I am free-wheeling into the corners, but it is a good learning experience as it makes me pay a lot of attention to my entry speeds. Personally, less engine braking helped me bring up my entry speeds (not always entirely on purpose!), and since I like the suspension set very soft in the front it minimizes (as Dylan said) the bike pitching forward when I roll off on flowing corners. I had trouble with the Ninja on that point, it would decelerate so rapidly on engine braking that it would compress the front. If nothing else the change to less engine braking may break some habits on entry speed and roll off points and force you to take a new look at judging the approach to higher speed corners.

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Also an AMA bike has more braking power than a stock bike. The instinct coming from street riding is to rely on engine braking, but once you get used to steel lines and a racing quality master it will come more natural to control speed by focusing on the brake lever pressure.

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18 hours ago, Hotfoot said:

Oh yes, if you were riding the Ninja 300 you will definitely feel a lot of difference; I rode a Ninja 400 recently and I was amazed by how much it wanted to decelerate when I let off the gas - and I discovered that my roll-offs were NOT as smooth as I though they were (see Throttle Control rule #2)!

On the S1000s you can adjust the engine braking amount; after switching from another bike to my S1000rr where it is set very low it takes some getting used to, since I feel like I am free-wheeling into the corners, but it is a good learning experience as it makes me pay a lot of attention to my entry speeds. Personally, less engine braking helped me bring up my entry speeds (not always entirely on purpose!), and since I like the suspension set very soft in the front it minimizes (as Dylan said) the bike pitching forward when I roll off on flowing corners. I had trouble with the Ninja on that point, it would decelerate so rapidly on engine braking that it would compress the front. If nothing else the change to less engine braking may break some habits on entry speed and roll off points and force you to take a new look at judging the approach to higher speed corners.

Thanks, Hotfoot.  Definitely thoughts to think about. 

My 300 suspension was also really soft just due to it being entirely stock.  I just couldn't justify dumping money into it versus saving for another bike (R6).  It's actually pretty funny to see photos from my last race, where my bike is noticeably a bit lower with a nose up attitude compared to others with worked over suspensions.  

In normal riding conditions,  I doubt there will really be major issues since brakes are for braking.  I am mostly intrigued to see how I fair on this thing in the morning 3/4, no brakes drills this weekend while cornerworking for CSS.  Mainly, my concern (as also discussed with Spaghetti below) was wanting to know how much of this engine braking issue is a mental barrier/technique issue I need to adjust to.  There are some moments where I feel like the engine braking is useful.  Like I've had it happen where I'm in a corner, closing up fairly quickly but safely on another rider, and transitioning from trail braking to throttle application for the drive out.  I've had the rider in front get spooked by something and roll out of the gas post-apex, sometimes being a bit unclear on their intentions.  With stock engine braking on my other bikes, I can just easily roll off a touch to keep the gap without worrying about having to get on the brakes again or making a pass while guessing if they're going to take some weird line on the drive out.

But maybe this is really also an issue of Wide View and passing drills to go for a safe pass instead of checking up behind another rider.  

 

1 hour ago, Spaghetti said:

Also an AMA bike has more braking power than a stock bike. The instinct coming from street riding is to rely on engine braking, but once you get used to steel lines and a racing quality master it will come more natural to control speed by focusing on the brake lever pressure.

I guess it just made me a bit nervous to give up the engine braking, so I wanted some confirmation from you all here.  It's not an issue of relying on the engine braking.  I'm definitely not coasting into corners.  It is just there are some moments where I feel like the engine braking is useful.  Like I've had it happen where I'm in a corner, closing up fairly quickly but safely on another rider, and transitioning from trail braking to throttle application.  I've had the rider in front get spooked by something and roll out of the gas post-apex, sometimes being a bit unclear on their intentions.  With stock engine braking, I can just easily roll off a touch to keep the gap without worrying about having to get on the brakes again or making a pass while guessing if they're going to take some weird line on the drive out. 

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One of the final things to-do from my bike build is the ECU tuning. Although my bike is "pretty old" its amazing what can be done with just ECU tuning. From the ECU, I'll have launch control, Quick Shifting, fuel and ignition curve mapping and to adjust engine braking I will be able to tune "fuel cut on decel", all of this on an "analog" bike. I've often felt that engine braking was masking my throttle control errors. My single-cylinder racebike makes them apparent again.

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I dig massive engine braking, the ultimate being electrical cars (bikes may be the same, but have never ridden one) where chopping the throttle is like applying the brakes. All one need to do then is to use the throttle to adjust the amount of engine braking desired. Riding two-strokes, with next to no engine braking, makes me feel very uncertain indeed, and I end up riding very tentatively, braking too early. Others feel the other way around, preferring to use only brakes (and throttle) to modulate their speed. I guess there is nothing right or wrong here, just preferences.

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