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Brakes--front/rear And When


Cobie Fair
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Lots of different ideas on the brakes. Many of you on this forum have read Keith's books, and/or done schools, but I'd still like to know--which brake do you use, and what for?

 

Best,

Cobie

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For spirted riding and track days I only use the front brake - unless I go off track, then the rear. The only time that changes, occasionally, if when going downhill. I will use some rear brake initially, but let it off while still braking with the front.

 

For city riding I will use the front and rear brake during stop and go traffic to keep the weight from pitching forward.

 

Oddly, I use the front brake exclusively when teaching MSF courses. I put my foot on the rear brake to demonstrate it, but I don't use it, not even while doing tight exercises.

 

I use both brakes when riding in the rain. It gives me a feel for braking traction and if the front slips at slow speeds it doesn't shoot the bike forward as rapidly.

 

I will also use the both brakes when I start to get tired during a long ride through the twisties. I will usually start running at lower RPMs and use the rear to keep the chassis from pitching.

 

On cruisers and some standards I use the rear brake a lot to keep the suspension settled.

 

I've experimented with using the rear brake, either right before or simultaneously with the front, when at a good clip and then switching to all front while down shifting and then adding rear back in before releasing both.

 

If I am smooth with the front brake, then adding rear brake just makes it more work and things to think about with little or no real benefit. The other problem is it is difficult for me to get my body into position and manipulate the rear brake.

 

If it is a right hand turn I move my body to the right and my weight ends up on the right peg. If I lift my foot to reach the brake it means I have to transfer weight off the peg to my seat and then do it again to move my foot back on the ball of my foot again.

 

If it is a left turn, once I move my body I can't reach the brake. I don't know how much of this is physical. I'm 5'10", 30" inseam, riding a ZX9 with Woodcraft rearsets.

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Thor---seems like you can get pretty busy with all the different combinations!

 

CF

I'm not real clear with that post, but the last part is why I don't mess around with the rear brake when riding at a spirited pace.

 

I think a lot about my riding, but when it comes to the rear brake there isn't much conscious thought when riding. I use it based on how the bike feels, what I want to happen, and if it is worth the effort.

 

I only started thinking hard about it last year (after 24 years of riding on the street) because I started getting tired of people commenting on how I "should" be using my brakes. Their arguments didn't seem to have much basis in logic or experiential truth.

 

The bottom line is that I seldomly use my rear brake, on a sportbike, to stop. I use it to control the chassis, sample traction, or when I am in the dirt.

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Sounds like we mostly agree on how to use it. One problem I have seen is that in a panic, if riders use both brakes, they can go for the rear, and it just stays locked on, when it is doing about zero. Or, if they lock the rear, they let go of the front (we found th is in testing years ago). Just today looking at a picture of Rossi and he was coming into a turn with the rear wheel in the air. Since it's possible on any modern sport bike, I wonder why so many use it, for street or track riding (unless it's slippery/wet or you get in the dirt).

 

CF

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Sounds like we mostly agree on how to use it. One problem I have seen is that in a panic, if riders use both brakes, they can go for the rear, and it just stays locked on, when it is doing about zero. Or, if they lock the rear, they let go of the front (we found th is in testing years ago). Just today looking at a picture of Rossi and he was coming into a turn with the rear wheel in the air. Since it's possible on any modern sport bike, I wonder why so many use it, for street or track riding (unless it's slippery/wet or you get in the dirt).

 

CF

I definitely agree with that. As an MSF RiderCoach we teach the students to use their rear brake in a "quick stop."

 

For myself, when practicing quick stops, I don't use the rear brake. I've tried to learn how to use it, but when a true panic stop happens - which is about once every three years or so - I always end up noticing the rear brake locked the last 20-60 feet. That is usually the point where I have the opportunity to release the brakes and steer to avoid the obstacle. If the rear is locked and starting to go sideways, I've given up the option of swerving until I can get the rear back in line.

 

I know there have been studies done where the results show that using both brakes, even with experienced riders, gives the shortest stopping distance. I think those studies either show how poorly even "experienced riders" are at stopping, or they don't take into consideration that a locked rear brake and the 10 feet you save stopping from 60 MPH isn't worth the loss of vehicle control.

 

(It was a Canadian study that was done in the last few years. I can't find it right now.)

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I'm with you on that. Wonder what that Canadian study was? I'm hoping we do get a current study done in the US to show what's happening (there was talk of one on accidents, as they have been on the rise lately).

 

I thought it interesting a few years ago that 4 time World Superbike Champion Carl Fogarty (in a magazine article, don't recal which one) said he never used the rear brake---even riding in the dirt.

 

CF

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I confess to using the front only. I've tried using the rear, but so far have found that all this does is use up too much of that precious $10 for no apparent gain. Perhaps it is something that I should continue with, but then I am perfectly happy as I am (I don't feel as though there is any real benefit to using the rear).

 

Even low speed. I've tried it and still do, but again I really haven't seen any benefit in using it, or reason why I should.

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I stay away from the rear brake for the most part. As I see it, as the pace increases and forward weight transfer under braking increases with it, the percentage of the total braking capacity that the rear brake possesses approaches zero. Most of us don't have need, or the necessary precision in our control inputs to tap into this tiny percentage effectively and safely. On the track, I've heard of some riders using it effectively and it being of real benefit. But I'm sure most of those guys get paid alot of money to ride. Even going at speeds most of us consider ridiculous, they still have 9 of the 10 dollars left and can afford to work out that intricate balancing act. It has its purposes, but I think it's one of those that has very specific (and limited) applications that can get overused by those of us wanting to be like our idols in pro-racing.

 

I really only use the rear on the street, and that's because my Honda ST1300 has linked ABS brakes and does it for me.

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One thing that hadn't quite been covered here (might not be a huge point), is that why do 2 things, when one will do the job, and is your foot or your 2 fingers more sensitive?

 

CF

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  • 3 weeks later...

I ride a VFR with LBS and when cornering I use only the front brake. On the street I tend to use only the front brake unless I need more stopping power in slow traffic. I generally use both brakes in the rain and on the street to stop the front from diving. I have somewhat big hands, and use all four fingers for braking, but the pressure is mostly from my first three inside fingers. This is especially true for me if I am trail braking in a turn, and I almost never use the rear brake. I rarely use the rear brake alone as I just feel more control when braking using the front only. On my old Goldwing with LBS I corner using only the front brake and also use only the front brake when trail braking. On the street I tend to use my rear brake mostly and use the front brake for a level even feel when stopping.

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  • 2 weeks later...

In answer to the subject, I use rear plus front if slowing down in a straight line, or for slow speed manouvering. Otherwise it's all front.

 

 

A lot of riders in my neck of the woods still talk about using rear brake in a corner for: washing off speed if too hot, to aid tipping in, or to stabalising the bike on exit...

 

I just don't understand this logic.

 

I think these guys are lucky that modern tyres have a lot of traction available and that at typical highway / twisty road speeds, the available traction covers a multitude of sins!

 

The rear to help tip in gets me shaking my head... I reckon those guys don't actually know that when they have the "oh ######, I need to tip in more" moment and go for the rear, they are unconsciously also countersteering more, otherwise going for the rear must make you go wide with the weight transfer forward...

 

Using rear to wash off speed might work to a point, but is a bit dicey since the rear is being unloaded.

 

The stabalising the bike on the way out doesn't make sense unless they're spinning it up, but generally they aren't. Good throttle control on modern bikes with good suspension shouldn't need any rear brake being dragged since the bike should be well planted already!

 

Sure skilled racers use rear brake, but that's to initiate "backing it in" and then to control wheel spin on the way out... they're certainly not trying to wash off speed!

 

 

...I don't know, am I missing something??

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The whole backing it in, honestly seems like a fad that is fading a bit. A few years ago when Rossi and Nicky were teammates, Rossi suggested that Nicky not do it.

 

If the rear wheel is in the air (possible on any modern sport bike), what exactly is the back doing? Also, what's keeping the bike stable?

 

CF

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If the rear wheel is in the air (possible on any modern sport bike), what exactly is the back doing? Also, what's keeping the bike stable?

 

Well if the rear is in the air while you're hard on the front brakes it's not going to be able to contribute to any braking at all!!

 

If the rear stops spinning in this situation, then you're going to lose its gyroscopic stabalising influence on the bike... life might get a bit interesting in that circumstance!

 

 

Cheers,

 

Rob

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  • 2 months later...

When I began riding, the training I received taught using the rear brake (if any braking at all), but this training was mainly at parking lot speeds, when the front brake is difficult to use gingerly. Over 10-15mph, it was said that's when you use the front brake. These weren't hard rules mind you, if you were about to hit a car at 10mph, for sure that front brake would get hammered!

What puzzled me was that the fastest rider in these drills/riding course had a rear brake disc that was 30% cooler than everyone else's (verified by a laser temp sensor), under the same conditions, and going sinificantly faster than everyone else. Upon watching this person closely as he rode, I noticed he used his front almost exclusively, mainly using the rear just prior initiating the front at the heaviest braking area. It's my belief he did this to start the weight transfer so that it wasn't a violent pitch forward, lessening chassis stability. I should add that the suspension on the bike(s) being used aren't anywhere near as good as most modern sportbikes.

So I guess I say all that to say this, as I have become progressively faster, I use the rear less and less (as many others just said). Threshold braking is all front, all the time. Training otherwise is to invite disaster, IMHO. Personally I found rolling off the throttle and leaving the clutch engaged helped somewhat (but most importantly didn't require much, if any attention), I know the engine isn't very effective as a brake, but either is the rear caliper under heavy braking!

 

That's my experience using front/rear brakes. I feel as if I have just submitted an article to a medical journal for peer review :)

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Lots of different ideas on the brakes. Many of you on this forum have read Keith's books, and/or done schools, but I'd still like to know--which brake do you use, and what for?

 

Best,

Cobie

Hi Cobie,

 

The front brake is it for me. I never use the rear, mainly because there's not much to gain by using it on the track.

It would probably be to distracting anyway because i think that you'll need to spend to much attention to the thing while judging speed,

turn entry-point, body-positioning and so on.

 

Using the thing just before front-braking seems like a logical and sensible thing to do, but i have'nt gotten around to trying since

there are still so many other things in my riding that could do with some improvement.

 

As far as riding the road is concerned i'm still not using it when riding a sportsbike. When riding a touring bike like the bmw r1150rt i'm using both but still in a 70-30 percent ratio.

 

Mike.

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For sure on some bikes the rear would need to be used (like large touring bikes or cruisers).

 

I'm pretty lazy, so I stick with the rear, for any kind of sport bike. I even use the front quite a bit in the dirt, the few times I get to ride in the dirt.

 

CF

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For sure on some bikes the rear would need to be used (like large touring bikes or cruisers).

 

I'm pretty lazy, so I stick with the front, for any kind of sport bike. I even use the front quite a bit in the dirt, the few times I get to ride in the dirt.

 

CF

 

Hi Cobie, Newbie here.

You do mean that you stick with the front don't you?

I use the front 99% of the time. It took a lot of getting used to after coming off British Twins and Moto Guzzis (with limked brakes). Acouple of rear brake incidents on my ZX6 put paid to that, but I had to overcome years of habit.

In the dirt, 90% front. If I hit the back brake in the dirt, the wheel will just lock up. This is good for getting around tight corners though.

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Big Willy,

 

I just wanted to see if you were paying attention, yeah sure, that's the reason :)

 

Good for catching that, I'll fix it.

 

I need to ride in the dirt a bit more, what a blast.

 

CF

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 4 weeks later...

Interesting discussion. The only time I seem to use the rear brake is when I'm going into a corner too hot. Just before turn in, I use a good amount of rear brake as it seems to cause less front fork dive and thus less unstable and more settled when tipping into the corner. I don't know if this is just a feeling that lets me feel as if the bike chasis is more settled or if there is some actual benefit from it. What do you think Cobie?

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This discussion has definitely been a topic in my mind since I started riding last year. Thus far, I've only been riding on the street and do use my rear brake as I never get near the traction limit, so the rear definitely helps slow me down. Plus, I use the rear brake to settle the bike before apply the brake front, especially on downhills. I'm signed up for level 1 at Laguna in hopes of some progress with my braking/cornering confidence.

 

On the street thus far, I occasionally trail the rear brake a little bit sometimes if I find myself entering a corner faster than I want. It's not like I'm stepping on the rear brake, but just ever-so-slightly grazing the rear brake to slow it down that extra bit. I think it's mostly a symptom of my bigger issue of my misjudging entry speeds and lack of confidence on entry, but at the same time I also do it when I'm caught off guard by a blind decreasing radius turn or sudden transition and find myself faster than visibility allows me to see into the distance. I definitely believe in a "ride as fast as you can see" on the street. I haven't found any other way so far of correcting high entry speed other than the standard "just lean it over more because the bike will handle it" arguement.

 

I don't know if it's just another divide between slower street and track riding that I'll learn, or if there's just something I'm not understanding.

 

Another awaiting answers from more experienced riders.

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It has already been pointed out here that the front brake alone can lift the rear wheel off the ground, thus nothing could be gained from rear wheel braking. On clean dry pavement and travelling in a straight line, this is true. And since I tend to do most braking in a straight line and on clean dry pavement, I use only front brake almost all the time.

 

As has also already been pointed out here, there is something to be gained from rear wheel braking on slippery surfaces such as dirt or gravel or wet pavement. This is because the front tire in this scenario does not have enough traction to transfer all the weight off the rear tire. And in this scenarios I do use some rear brake.

 

If you are in the middle of a turn, even on clean dry pavement, leaned over a lot, can you use the front brake so much that you take all the weight off the rear tire? No, you would lock the front tire and crash before you could lift the rear. It is essentially the same as the slippery surfaces situation. So theoretically, if you have to or want to brake in the middle of a turn, while leaned over a lot, there is something to be gained from the rear brake.

 

I'm just pointed this out as food for thought. I do not actually use the rear brake on clean dry pavement regardless of lean angle, for all the reason others have brought up here (the risks and complications outweigh the benefits). But could this be one of the reason why some racers use it, since they are trail braking a lot more than casual track riders or good street riders?

 

Another point:

http://auto.howstuffworks.com/motorcycle4.htm

"According to the California Highway patrol, locking up the rear brakes is a factor in the majority of motorcycle crashes."

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