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Css...and Brakes

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What's the effect of my CSS training... I follow two 2-day camps. These were the first 4 days of track riding in my life. Got addicted...and now I have been at a few track days here...more to come.

What did I noticed. I noticed that on long straight lines, people overtake me...simply because I ride on tracks that are new for me, and I am still working on finding the proper reference points...so not surely knowing yet when to brake, I don't over-accelerate in the straight...and people overtake me...but I guess the whole art of cornering that was taught to me during the class is just super effective, because as a matter of fact, I am quite faster than the very same people in the turns. So more work on the reference points for braking will seal the deal ! And Sonoma is coming in a couple of months to even improve more.


Now question... My understanding of braking from the CSS camp is the following. Brake, brake, brake until basically almost reaching the entry point, then no brakes, steering, throttle control etc... Works great. But some local riders here told me that their technique is slightly different. Heavy braking, then release slowly while getting at the turn (so far so good), but in fact, then they keep slightly on the brakes, slowly releasing, almost until the apex sometimes...and then throttle on. Quite different. According to them, it's aimed at limiting the "dead time" between releasing the brakes and opening the throttle. It feels actually that I open the throttle earlier than they do. And for me, braking during the turn is going slightly against what the bike wants to do. But they claim "my" method is actually slower. I haven't tested yet to make my own opinion on that matter. Or is it just that when reaching a certain level, you brake sligthly differently that what is initially taught at CSS ? Also they use the rear brake a fair bit, just before the front brake when getting close to the turn.


Any insight about this ?

Thanks !!!

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The method your friends describe is called trail braking. It has advantages and disadvantages. A disadvantage is that if you are still on the brakes, you have less traction left over for steering, so you can not turn the bike as hard - you have to steer more progressively. I think it is fair to say that trail braking takes more skill or at least caution, since if you steer it too hard while on the brakes you might lowside the bike. If you are already completely off the brakes well before turning in you can generally steer it as hard as you like without breaking the front tire loose. In my opinion most intermediate level track riders will go faster and be safer getting the braking done before turn-in. Street riders should generally avoid trail braking (again, in my opinion).


In a racing situation, late braking can sometimes be the easiest way to carry out a pass into a corner after a straight, and so in that scenario trail baking is pretty much mandatory. That doesn't mean it necessarily produces the best lap times overall, but it can momentarily put you ahead of someone and once you have that position the other rider is going to have to do something beyond simply being faster than you to get it back.


Another advantage is that, done properly, trail braking can lead to a more stable chassis as you enter the corner, since as cornering forces build you release the braking forces and the suspension (at least the front suspension) stays pretty much in a constant stroke position.


I think you can see that I consider aggressive trail braking a fairly advanced technique. For most riders who are still rapidly improving on track, there is so much speed to be found just in things like quick steering, hitting apexes, proper throttle control, increasing corner speeds, etc., that trail braking should be well down the list of things to try to master.

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Lots of people believe ( incorrectly ) that the CSS curriculum does not include trail braking and that it teaches students not to trail brake ever. This is not the case, but IMO braking techniques isn't something the school really delves into in any of the first 3 school levels so I can see the confusion here.


The school and Keith's books discuss trailing off the brakes as you turn the bike in to keep the suspension happy and prevent the pogo effect that would occur if you released from hard braking right before you tried to flick the bike into a corner. Trailing the brakes all the way to the apex isn't a technique for a beginner rider, and since CSS is a riding school and not just a racing school their curriculum is geared towards all manner of riders with a huge range of skill sets, so things like trailing the brakes deep into the corner and backing the bike into corners aren't on the syllabus for the normal school day.


However if you're ever going to set a new lap record or win even a club championship I'm fairly confident you will need to be comfortable trailing the brakes deep into the corner, depending on the situation and the corner, and the tires your using it may be the fastest way or it may allow you to make a pass etc. etc. I'm also fairly confident that you're not going to win a Moto 2 championship without the ability to "back it in" pretty aggressively from time to time, perhaps not every corner all the time, but its a skill you need to have to compete at that level, but it's not something every track rider needs to learn to turn a quick lap, or have a good time.


To put it another way, you can have plenty of fun on a ice skating rink without knowing how to perform a triple lutz, but if you wanna win a figure skating contest you should probably have that in your back pocket.


Slight rear brake application before heavy braking will help to squat the bike, lower the COG and allow you to brake harder. I would also clasify this as a more advanced technique as it adds a extra step to concentrate on, but when you're looking for that extra few tenths on your lap and you need to brake just that much harder it's a viable option.


With regards to the "dead time" how soon after your steering input do you get back on the gas ?

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Thanks for the replies ! I was just interested in understanding the principles, as right now, I indeed have so many other aspects of my riding to improve before this becomes next on my list. But on the other hand, I will try it sometimes, in corners I feel very confident with !

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Keith described trail braking braking very early on in A Twist of the Wrist Volume #1, back in 1982:


“To get into a turn correctly, you must time the braking and turning so that the bike stays even, not going up or down, at the point you let off the brakes. You must let off the brakes at the exact moment your fork is compressed just enough for the speeds and cornering loads it will be undergoing through the turn. Apply the throttle so that the fork extension doesn’t change, or changes the least amount possible. This will allow you to go into the turn without any up and down motion. If your timing’s off, you may complain that the bike handles poorly, possibly thinking the shocks are gone.” P. 35


“Your target, or sub-product for any turn in which you brake and turn in succession, is timing the braking, steering and throttle so that fork and shock extension are kept as even as possible.” P. 35


“To go in perfectly, you would let off the brakes as you go into the banking just as the suspension is taking the load from the centrifugal force. This will give the smoothest entry. You back out of the brakes just as the turn takes over the job of compressing the suspension.” P. 36

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