Controlling Your Controls: Braking
The most important thing when braking is to be smooth, after that it’s knowing your bike and what its braking capabilities are. The lack of either can result in a crash, whether because you couldn’t stop fast enough, or because you grabbed a handful of brakes and locked your front tire. Both scenarios could have been prevented by a properly trained hand. It is important to practice stopping your bike from different speeds, so that you can train yourself to the capabilities of your bike. A bike with a short wheel base, like the sport bikes we ride, rely much more on the front brake than the rear; longer, cruiser type bikes, do not shift forward as much under braking and need the rear brake more to stop quickly.
Remember that as you brake, the weight of you and the bike are shifting forwards and loading up the front suspension and consequently unloading the rear. This means that your use of the rear brake under heavy braking must be light and accurate, especially since many sport bikes have very sensitive rear brakes. Locking the rear tire is not the end of the world; when this happens you can still control the bikes direction and steer it from the front. But having a rear tire that is sliding around is taking away from the control you have over the entire braking situation, and narrowing your margin for error. Some riders prefer not to use the rear brake when coming to a rapid stop, but if you are able to master the use of the rear brake, it will only help you in emergency situations.
Now back to the front brakes, the ones with all the glory, and the potential to kill you. I strongly recommend using only two fingers to brake, the index and middle fingers. If your brakes are bled correctly, and your lever set in the right position, your brake lever should never come back far enough to pinch your other fingers in between the grip. Also using only to fingers will decrease the tendency to “grab a handful of front brake”, where a rider panics and grabs the front brake with all his/her fingers as fast and as hard as possible. Doing this is literally the fastest way to crash. Instead “squeeze” the front brake, ease into it before laying into it. Remember, your front suspension is loading and most of the weight of the bike is transferring to the front tire, but this is not an immediate process. It takes a few milliseconds for the mass of the bike to weight the front tire and increase its traction. If you apply to much brake to quickly then your front tire could lock before it has time to gain traction. By progressively squeezing the brake lever harder and harder then you are allowing the tire to gain more traction as is slows the bike down faster.
I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to PRACTICE these techniques, and we are all guilty of not doing it nearly enough. As you repeatedly brake as fast and as hard as you can, in a smooth manner, you will learn the threshold of your bike’s (and tires’) braking ability. On a sport bike you will be able to hear the front tire “howl” as it is right on the verge of full lock, as well as be able to lift the rear wheel off the ground. As you become more familiar with this, learn to back off the braking just enough to keep the rear wheel on the ground. Now so far I’ve only been talking about braking in a straight line, which is the purest and least complicated form of braking. But there will also be times when you have to brake while leaned over. This can be done with the front or rear brake, and gets into the more advanced technique of trail braking, which I am only going to touch on lightly since this is supposed to be a basics write-up.
When braking in a corner, remember that most of the traction of your tires is being used to turn; adding braking force will take away from your tires’ ability to maintain traction in a turn. There are many ways to look at this concept; some talk about it in the sense of a pie graph and some in terms of percentages, or I think Matt Mladin equates it to pizza. Nick Ienatsch calls it the “100 points system”, if your tire is using 90 points to turn, then you only have 10 available points to use for braking. If you use more than those 10 points, you will lose traction and probably crash unless you release the brake fast enough to regain grip. If you have to stop faster, then you need to trade some turning points for braking points; this means standing the bike up some. That is why in the MSF course they teach, that in a corner if you need to come to a stop, you should stand the bike up and stop in a straight line. For newbs, this is good to learn so they don’t tuck the front and go flying off the cliff; for more experienced riders, you need to have the awareness and control to balance your braking and turning forces so you don’t have to completely scrub off a corner.
If you want the breakdown on fuel management systems, take some time to read this thread. For a walk through on pulling FI Codes, check out this thread. Questions about Flashed ECUs vs. Fuel Controllers? Try this one. Got a Z-Fi TC System? Read This to get an idea of how it works. Here's a link to some Kawasaki Service Manuals that I've got hosted for everyone's use. And please check out my blog for more sage advice and technical ramblings. Some basics about braking here.
Last edited by EvilTwin; 04-08-2016 at 10:04 AM.