Safe braking

Continuing with the basics, this month BIKE India teaches you how to refine your braking skills. Follow our tips on how to brake effectively without losing control over your bike

Braking at curves is more critical than on a straight line. Some experts even suggest to avoid braking in corners. Nonetheless you should be prepared for unexpected circumstances. Losing speed before entering a corner is the safest way. If you ever need to brake midcorner, apply the front brake very smoothly while pushing the inner side of the handlebar. Slowly release the lever again as you reach the desired speed. Throughtout the process, you must keep the level of traction available under check. At curves, speeding vehicles can lose grip far more easily. However, a banked corner allows for safer manoeuvres than the one without it. Take care not to apply and release the brakes instantly as the front end will dip and rebound with a shocking force. Practice effective braking on different surfaces ranging from concrete roads to tarmac to gravel as well as wet surfaces. This will also help you get accustomed to your your bike’s behaviour.
On a downhill section, gravity will not forgive a mistake and you may easily lose control here. It’s better to engage a lower gear and maintain a safe speed. Allow engine braking to do the job. Keep the clutch operation subtle whenever shifting gears.
Practice braking on gravel as well, for you don’t know when you might end up facing such riding scenarios. Many evasive actions lead us to go off the tarmac. Preferably use the rear brake here with a gentle tap on the front one.
Braking becomes easier on uphill roads where gravity works in your favour. Here you can concentrate more on the line you follow and it’s easy to maintain your balance.
Refrain from going hard on the front brake on gravel. A locked front wheel can easily result in loss of traction and your steering ability.
Wet roads mean lesser traction. Don’t go for hard braking unless your bike has a specialised set of tyres. Keep your speed under check and you’ll be safe.
This is one of the worst case scenarios. Oil spill on a road can virtually defy the laws of physics if you ride on it without caution. Simply look ahead to avoid such surfaces. In case you run into this, never ever apply the brakes.

Tyres and grip play an important role during braking. A good set of tyres will add to your stability. A tyre made of fairly soft rubber compound wears and tears faster but offers very high traction/footing. Similarly, the better the tyre grips, the more effective your stopping competency will be. This is why you need to check your tyres from time to time. In contrast to an easy rider, a harsh or fast rider may have to change tyres more frequently. Note that a groove line running around the middle of a front tyre offers enhanced stopping power without skidding. During the rainys, it is recommended to go for a special set of tyres that have additional anti-skidding grips.

While your technique matters a lot, it will go in vain if the brake components of your bike are not in a healthy condition. Remember to check the disc brake oil level from time to time. If it falls below the indicated minimum level, get the fluid changed and refilled with the manufacturer recommended grade. Caution should be taken so that no air bubbles get trapped in the pipe which could dampen braking effect. Check if your rear brake setting feels adequate to your ankle movement. If not, adjust it accordingly. In case you experience a lack of feel from your brakes despite all requisite settings, check the brake shoes and the disc pads. Get them replaced, if required.

Your sitting position largely determines if you can safely reduce speed without losing control. If you need to brake while riding in a straight line, shift back a little and sit securely with a firm grip on the handlebar. In addition, grip the fuel tank with your knees. This way you can tackle the retardation force even under a hard braking screnario. While the rear brake is quite effective at slow speeds, it’s the front brake that works better at higher speeds. Squeeze the front brake lever progressively in conjunction with the rear brake which should be pressed gently to avoid the rear wheel from locking up. Remember to keep the handlebar straight during hard braking.

Emergencies are followed by panic braking which locks the wheels thus setting you off balance. Remember not to go hard on the rear brake. Practice to gently release and apply brakes successively if the wheels get locked

Progressively applying the front brake with your index and middle fingers will result in effective braking while also allowing a good grip on the handlebar. Follow it by applying the rear brake in sync for added stopping force. Keep your fingers on the clutch lever but don’t apply them while braking and losing speed. As soon as you reach your desired speed, shift gears accordingly so that the engine doesn’t stall.

Without a firm sitting position, emergency braking with the front brake could result in a stoppie. Refrain from shifting too much weight to the front so that the rear wheel remains grounded to aid braking.'

Bike India Team – who has written posts on Bike India.

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