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Just Stop Yourself Motorcycle Braking Information

Braking your motorcycle is the only thing between you and misfortune

According to the Hurt Study, motorcycle rider errors were present as the precipitating factor in about two-thirds of the cases in single vehicle accidents.

The typical error?  A slide out and fall due to over braking or running wide on a curve due to excess speed.

Most riders don’t fully understand the distances required at various speeds to bring their machines to a full stop, and while braking distances increase with speed,  increases in the necessary stopping distance is not strictly linear. If you’re traveling at 30 MPH – and from there you can stop in 33 feet – the same machine and rider do not stop from 60 MPH in 66 feet as it might appear. Stopping from that speed actually takes more like 134 feet.

Here’s a handy tip; the increase in braking distance is proportionate to the square of the speed increase. Fancy math, but you get the point. Go faster and stopping distance stretches out further and further. Any reduction in your speed decreases (and by a lot)  your braking distance.

While rider reaction time factors in as well as you can imagine, you can get a slightly clearer idea of braking distances from the table below. Again, this chart doesn’t include the amount of time it takes a rider to perceive a threat or the time it takes for an individual rider to react, but it’s a useful guide to give you some benchmarks.

Braking Distance
90 MPH
300 feet
80 MPH
238 feet
70 MPH
182 feet
60 MPH
134 feet
50 MPH
93 feet
40 MPH
59 feet
30 MPH
33 feet
20 MPH
15 feet
10 MPH
4 feet

The real key to stopping is how you use both the front and rear brakes. Using one or the other alone is never recommended and doing it wrong can spell the difference between life and death in a tight spot.  While braking in less challenging conditions may be straightforward, more difficult road conditions complicate matters considerable. A slippery road surface, gravel, rough pavement and other road hazards mean how you use both brakes to stop or slow your motorcycle takes touch and understanding.

In ideal conditions, the front brake will provide 70 to 100 percent of the total stopping power of your motorcycle.  What does that mean in practice? It means you should practice using more front break much more often than you practice using the rear brake.  If you’re doing it right, you’ll find that there’s a sweet spot to balance between the use of the front and rear brakes. As a rule of thumb, shoot for about 70% of the stopping power coming from the front brake.

Here’s how it’s done:

  1. Apply both brakes (the front and the rear) gradually and with nearly equal force during the first phase of braking.
  2. Once you’ve done that, the weight of your machine will be transferred forward as the front suspension compresses and your arms take up your weight and the front tire grabs the pavement.
  3. Once that’s happened, most of the weight is on the front
  4. Once you begin to slow, begin to let off most of the rear brake pressure and gradually increase pressure to the front brake. If you’re using less than 85% of the available stopping power of the front brake, you’re nowhere near your bike’s braking limits.
  5. As your machine begins to slow, the forces you exert through the brakes,  tires and suspension components diminish in proportion to the square of your speed as well.
  6. Much of the weight has transferred as the rear of your bike begins to drop down the front suspension and will  rise back up on its suspension as you slow.
  7. Slowly taper off the pressure you apply on the front brake (to prevent a low speed wheel lock up) and increase the rear brake pressure once more until you feel you have full control of the stop.

Front braking requires touch, as the bike’s weight moves to the front wheel, you come closer and closer to the threshold of your machine’s braking ability. Here’s where touch comes in, if you continue to apply pressure to the front wheel brakes, you’ll feel where that limit is and you should avoid, at all costs, exceeding that threshold. At maximum braking, you can feel the tire locking for fractions of a second before it begins spinning again. Don’t lock up the front brake, ever. It would be bad.

Braking on slippery surfaces requires much, much more care, so keep that in mind.

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