Back to Braking Basics

Braking is one simple way to be faster.  It’s somewhat of an oxymoron, but it makes sense.  If you can’t use your brakes properly, you won’t be set up right for the corners and corners are where you make most of your time up.  Now, I know everyone has their own techniques for braking, but it doesn’t hurt to step back and really get the fundamentals down.  After all, the basics are what make you fast. 

Not all situations are the same.  I know this and anyone who has ridden a motocross track knows this.  That is why you should be able to know when and how to use the brakes.  Modern four strokes have made this a little easier on us because they have engine drag; down shift a few times and you can feel the engine slow itself down.  However, engine breaking is not really an efficient way to stop.  All pros do the same thing; they are either accelerating forward or braking.  There is NO COASTING.  I see it all the time; people will let off, coast, and then get on the brakes.  During that period of coasting, you could be driving forward and going past the people that coast.

Better braking makes for better lap times.So, either be on the throttle or on the brakes.  I just wanted to get that cleared up.  Okay, so how do you use the brakes?  The answer is simple.  Chatter them.  A lot of beginners use the back break and lock it up.  They end up sideways and out of control.  You are basically on ice and at mercy to the bike.  However, instead of stomping the rear brake pedal, lightly apply the pressure to the rear tire so it slows down and slowly stops spinning.  You want the rear wheel to almost lock up, to where it catches every so often.  This way, the wheel is still spinning and you have traction for the friction to slow you down faster.  It takes some getting used to, but it works and you can keep your momentum and speed this way as well. 

Before I knew this little trick, I was a serious front brake user.  That was all I used, but I soon found out that this was holding me back.  The key to slowing down is finding a good combo between front and rear braking.  For example, on inside ruts, I found it was better to chatter my rear wheel a little, but use more front brake so my front end would dive into the rut.  However, on the outside of the same turn, I would hardly use the front brake and chatter my rear wheel more.  You really just need to find a good combo that works for you.  Practicing braking in a field with some cones set up helped me a lot.  It showed me what worked and what didn’t. 

As always, don’t forget to grip the bike with your knees when chattering.  It will give you more control on where you want to go with your line selection.  This does take some getting used to if you’re a beginner, but if you are already using it, find a balance between front and rear brakes.  As I said before, set up some cones in a field to get a feel for how much pressure you need to get your brakes to chatter.  Once you get this down, your cornering will improve and your lap times will drop.

Posted on Aug 11 2009, under Riding Techniques | No Comments »

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