Five Things not to do When Braking on a Motorcycle

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Five Things not to do When Braking on a Motorcycle

John H. Glimmerveen Licensed to About.com

Motorcycle riding can be one of the great pleasures of motoring. Riding a classic motorcycle down a twisty road in the countryside on a beautiful day is hard to beat. But, motorcycling is not without its dangers.

As riders we often get advice on what to do when riding from the media or friends, but as useful as this is, we should also know what things not to do. The following list, although not exhaustive, has five things we should not do when braking on a motorcycle.

  • We should not apply the front brake when leaned over in a corner

The tires on any motorcycle have a limited amount of grip, exceed that limit and the tire will break traction with the road (skid). If this happens with the front wheel on a corner, the front end will tuck under quickly—many riders have suffered broken collar bones because of this mistake.

  • Riders should not apply the same braking forces to the front and rear in wet conditions as they do in the dry

Again, tires have a limited amount of traction available. This traction will diminish in wet or slippery conditions. In dry conditions the rider can apply approximately 75% front to 25% rear (there are many variables that will change this, including rider style and braking system in use). The difference reflects the weight transfer as the brakes are applied. However, due to the overall lack of grip in the rain, a rider will not be able to apply as much front brake pressure, with the result that very little weight transfer will occur. Therefore, in the wet a rider will typically apply even brake pressure to the front and rear of his machine.

  • Riders should not rely on only one brake

Many riders have developed a riding style that deploys one brake only; some riders prefer the front only and others the back only. Should this single brake fail, which is distinctly possible due to overuse, the rider will be faced with having to immediately learn how to control his or her braking with an unfamiliar brake.

In addition, using one brake only will greatly diminish the overall stopping power of the bike. This is particularly true where a rider depends on the rear brake only.

  • Riders should not expect to stop in the same distance in the wet or slippery conditions as in the dry

The coefficient of friction between a tire and the road drops off dramatically when water is evident on the road surface. Needless to say, the problem is much worse in snowy or icy conditions.

On long straight roads, riders should not expect their brakes to be at 100% after a long ride

With disc (rotor) brakes, and assuming the weather is good, riding for long periods of time in situations where the brakes are not needed can result in them having reduced performance when needed. This phenomenon can be caused by simple road grime building up on the rotor’s surface, or a condition known as pad knock off. In the latter case, slightly out of true rotors can knock the pads back into the caliper as the machine is being ridden.

Needless to say, in wet conditions the rotor’s surface, and that of the pads, will become covered in water resulting in a poor coefficient of friction.

To negate, or to reduce the effects of some of these conditions, the rider should gently apply the brakes periodically to check their effectiveness.

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