How to apply brakes effectively
Snapshot: We all know why are brakes important and how to apply them. But if we do, why does the art of braking go wrong every now and then resulting in serious injuries?
Probably the second thing you learn while riding a motorcycle is to apply brakes mastering the clutch and throttle synchronisation. It is also the most preferred way to avoid an unwanted situation. The more skilled ones use techniques like countersteering and engine braking, but braking is something that cannot be avoided by anyone including the insanely fast MotoGP riders.
#What stops your motorcycle?
Braking on a motorcycle is divided between both the wheels in the ratio of 70:30 for front and rear wheels respectively. Front brakes have to work more because while stopping, the entire weight shifts from rear end of the motorcycle to the front end. If the rear is slammed too hard, it might end up locking the rear wheel which can end up making it slide out causing a downfall. The ratio can however change depending the type of motorcycle you are riding (cruisers, choppers, sport bikes, dirt bikes etc.). There are, however, some things that must be kept in mind depending on the motorcycle you are riding and what kind of equipment does it carry in terms of stopping power. There is also significant difference between 'knowing how to apply brakes' and 'applying brakes', so some good practice will be needed before you master the art of 'braking' in the real world.
#Practice the art of stopping
On a straight stretch, unless you are going too fast, the front brake should be able to stop your bike without making the bike go places, but even if you are slightly fast, try applying both the brakes. Make it a habit to use the rear brakes first and then within a fraction of a second, apply front brakes too. Do not slam the brakes in any of the situations. A bike skidding would go farther than a bike grounded. There is a very old proverb in the world of motorcycling that says, "Fast riders have slow hands," meaning that one should go slow on the brakes to stop the motorcycle. The same logic works fine for all the three categories of motorcycles (disc brakes, drum brakes and the combination of both). The ones with ABS will work even better as the technology will ensure that none of the wheels lock even under hard braking.
#Time to revise your Physics lessons
Once you get accustomed to your motorcycle's brakes, you will get to know the logic of weight transfer more clearly. By saying so, I mean that the tyres will make maximum grip when upright and as the angle starts to decrease, its ability to maintain the grip will also reduce. While the bike might not throw you over if you slam the front brake on a straight line, doing so while leaning can do a hell lot more than that. The sudden loss of traction can be your moment of your downfall as the bike is way less tolerant than usual to brakes in such a situation.
Rainy days are tougher to negotiate with. The gravity finds it a good enough occasion to go on a vacation and friction is nowhere to be found. While riding during the downpour or through mud or slush, try to keep riding the motorcycle at 90° or somewhere close to it. As we said, the tyres make maximum grip when upright. Leaning on a wet road or slush has twice the repercussions as the tyres are not making enough grip and the road too is not providing enough friction for your tyres to hold onto it. Try using the rear brakes and then the front in dire circumstances. The best thing to have in such a situation is ABS, but not many motorcycles in India come with an ABS. Not even as an option. ABS stops both the tyres from locking under hard braking and stops them gradually which works much more effectively than skidding. Even if your motorcycle does not have ABS, you can try pressing and releasing the brakes again and again for a better result. It will do the same thing to you and your motorcycle as the ABS. Even though it might not prove to be as precise as it, but will worl better than your normal practice.
#Know the surface you are riding on
Understanding the road condition is very important and depending to where all have you been, you will be able to gauge the pros and cons much more nicely and like everything else in life, this too will get better with more kilometres under your belt. After spending more than a few thousand kilometres in hills, I can surely say that it's easier to revive a rear tyre sliding than the front one. Especially on a turn. One easy thing to get used to is to not have your hands always on the brake lever. It is a golden rule while doing off-road as it hardly or never involves using the front brakes.
#Pamper your brakes
Also remember that regular maintenance of the brakes is also very very important irrespective of drums of discs. They both work to do the same thing even though the mechanism and efficiency are different and follow the same rules of Physics. There is some difference though between applying brakes and slowing down. A good hand eye coordination will tell you when to slow down to avoid a mishap and in most of the cases, it is enough.
I will end this piece here by saying that all the scenarios we have mentioned above do not cover all the situations you might come across. It depends on a lot of different things like your neighbourhood, IQ level of the people who are riding/driving around you, number of animals your ecosystem has, your luck and many more, but there is no harm in practicing. If you have no other option than to ride in rain and the traffic is on the lesser side, go ahead and check your skills without risking anything. Go a little further next time. Practice some more and you will soon find your comfort zone.
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