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Rear Brakes?

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I thought I would throw out a topic that I haven't seen on this forum for some time; hopefully, some of the more experienced here will weigh in on this post as it caught me by surprise when I read it.


The current issue of Sport Rider magazine has a section called "Riding Skills" by Andrew Trevitt. This month his column is labeled "Brake Dancing" in which he speaks about using the rear brake in cornering (hope I am not violating any copywrite laws here). He writes:


"When entering a turn, leave the rear brake applied until after the front brake has been released and the bike is leaned over. This will stop the front end from rising the moment after the front brake is let off and before cornering forces act to keep the fork compressed. Once the throttle is cracked open, use the rear brake lightly to modulate your speed if you find yourself going a bit too fast. Closing the throttle will load the front end excessively and cause you to run wide, whereas applying the rear binder will actually tighten your line and pull you to the inside of the corner. Try to avoid using lots of gas and brake; you want just enough throttle to pick the revs up and keep weight off the front tire."


...Well as someone who has gone off more than one track running wide exits this year (Streets of Willow Springs and Beaver Run), this statement caught my attention.


He also says:


"In downhill turns the rear brake can be used to avoid gaining too much speed once the throttle is open-especially in longer sweepers. As in a flat corner, crack the throttle open as soon as possible to unweight the front tire, and carefully utilize the rear brake to keep speed in check. Downhill turns are notorious for loading the front end and causing you to run wide, but keeping the throttle cracked open and carefully applying the rear brake will result in a more even distribution and keeping you online. With some practice and experimentation, using these rear brake techniques will become routine and give you more confidence, smoothness and safety."


...I didn't run wide on any downhills (yet) but the thought of running wide (or washing out the front) entering T's 16/17/17A at VIR South had me holding down my entry speed more than I wanted.


Anyone have any comments on this topic (besides; its your stones, stupid!)?


Kevin Kane

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Although I don?t read sport rider mag, I will inturpit this as street riding more than track riding. So in that case, most of what he says I can go with because the speeds aren?t going to be nearly as fast as the track. I use my rear brake quit often on the street. Maybe not exactly like mentioned, but close. I can picture what he is talking about and there are times I know the rear brake can play a nice part in braking in the twisties, as long as your not dicing it up with somebody. On the track, not a chance with the rear brake.

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I personally don't use the rear brake. I just have a hard time with it and I don't think I'm going to gain much by using it. I?ve been trying to get myself to use it more on my MX bike, but I?m having a really hard time with it.


I read the article and it all sounds really good. The only problem I have with it is...


Doesn't rolling out of the throttle and applying the rear brake create the same force at the rear wheel? I don?t understand why using the rear brake would be any different then applying less throttle or rolling out slightly?

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Part of what is happening with this technique of throttle and rear brake is applying to opposing torques to the rear swing arm pivoting in frame which affect the hwole chassis. The throttle-on (of course depending how much is applied) tends to jack the bike up and the rear brake tends to suck it down.


This would make the bike feel different promarily because it would dramitically alter the feel you would get from the rear suspension of the bike. Some bikes may feel better with the rear suspension in tension, especially ones that have either too light a spring in the rear or too heavy a spring. Too heavy? Yes, because under braking that too heavy spring can top out the rear shock and make the ride like a buckboard. Sucking the backend of the bike down a little in this case could provide some travel and a potentially smoother ride.


By the way, this technique worked out really well on 1970's Kawasaki Z1's which had swingarms and frames that were pitifuly weak and flexible. I raced them I know...


Magizine editors always come up with interesting material but it isn't alwasy presented after thorough investigation. I think on one hand that this technique could make up for some bad riding habits we've seen riders have but at the same time it adds complexity to the situations which is unnecesary. Situations mentioned that he suggests it be used for can all be handled by skilled riding without the complexity.


Additionally, riders can adopt techniques like this as crutches which can close the door to further understanding of the bike and their riding skills.



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I used the rear brake in heavy braking areas to help keep the rear of the bike under control.


For my mind it doesn't make sense to correct a throttle problem with the brakes.

The simple solution for me would be to work on when and how the throttle is applied.


Similar to the front brake - if the problem is the front is suddenly unloading when the front brake is releasec, then doesn't it make sense to work on how the front brakes are released?

Maybe even the suspension could do with a look over


Adding another control to the mix will just make it more difficult - trying to have balanced control of 2 things is more complicated than controlling one thing.

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The funny thing is doesn't that article make it seem as if Mr. Trevett has gained a skill far above the average racer? Funny how his race results speak to the same.


If that seems harsh I am still chapped about the Steering article he did a while back, it was equally flawed in logic.


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  • 5 weeks later...

If the rear wheel is in the air, or has so little weight on it, what's really doing?


A few years ago there was a great picture in CYCLE NEWS: I don't recall the exact 2 riders, but I recall one world champ (maybe KR JR) passing another top rider. The rider being passed had his rear wheel in the air (about 1-2 inches), the rider passing it had it about 3 inches.


If it's not on the ground, it's not doing much, is it? :)



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Keith recommends in one of his books to master using just the front brake first and then consider the use of the rear if you find a use for it. Sounds reasonable to me, there are plenty of champion riders around who use only the front. A rider I used to know just won Isle Of Man and when he was over here he was only using the front brake. I think also in TOTW2 it mentions that Doug Chandler only uses the front. I'm sure there are plenty of others.


If you can get to this level of riding using only the front brake why waste your attention bringing the rear brake into the mix when there are other more important skills to be developed. When I was racing last sometimes I would hammer the rear brake because of dirt riding habits, generally it was a pain in the arse resulting in unnecessary squirming around.

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Keith recommends in one of his books to master using just the front brake first and then consider the use of the rear if you find a use for it.

I have found a good use for the rear brake a few times. When I have run off and the dirt or grass prohibited using the front much, and once when a head shake pushed the front pads back and I had no front brake at 150 MPH. I didn't know until that moment that I actually KNEW how to use it. I was able in an instant to get enough rear on to have the rear 6 to 8 inches out of track and the bike pointing to where the most pavement I saw was. I got 20 to 30 MPH off the speed before I hit the dirt. That little bit made the difference between an injury that was a hindrance and a ride the ambulance when I hit a chain link fence at about 50, not 70 or 80!


It will always a tool little used on my road bike, I have no issue using it all the time on my dirt bike, go figure.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I dont personaly use the rear brake except for screwing around and have found that I can do everything I need with the front and the proper use of the throttle.


The thing I dont like about what is said in that article is that you are inviting people ( beginners ) to apply something that could verywell get them in trouble. I dont know about you but I have found that the amount of pressure required to lock up a rear tire can vary based on condition as well.

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  • 5 months later...

Hi guys, I know this thread is a little old but I had some thoughts to share on it that a couple people hinted at but didn't really get into. I read this article and thought about it for a little while and I totally agree with most of you that say this information is totally useless on a modern sportbike on a racetrack, BUT I think most of the information in that article could be usefull if you are riding a big heavy bike a with sloppy suspention where the back end is so heavy that it's going to want to swing around the front end when you apply the front brake only, also the same goes if you are riding on the street in the rain or snow or dirt when it's real slippery and you're trying not to fall while still trying to go at an enjoyable pace, and so with that being said, this information could MAYBE be a big advantage to you if you are at the track racing one day and it starts to rain unexpectedly, maybe you could use this and go though the turns a little more smoothly and with a little more speed than most of the other riders and win???

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