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When to Use Rear Brake Only?

49512 Views 196 Replies 49 Participants Last post by  The_AirHawk
The heavier the bike and the lower teh center of gravity, the more rear brake can be used. Also, with a passenger, more rear brakes can be used for smoother stopping and less front end dive.

A good rule... the engineers aren't stupid, the size fo the brake is a good indicator of how hard it should be used. I beleive the rear brake surface area is less than 20% of the total braking surface.

When do I use only rear brake. At low speeds when trying to reduce the effects drivetrash lash at small throttle positions. I also mostly rear brake at low speed turns where the front brake can be grabby causing a loss of balance. Finally on loose surfaces I will favor the rear. For one reason, the rear tire is wider and therefore easier to control when sliding that the narrower front wheel.

For emergency stopping (I hate the term "panic stop". You never, ever panic on 2 wheels.) ... it's ALL front brake. Engine braking provides plenty of rear braking force... especailly on my BMW twin.
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Works great to bring those out-of-control-up-and-over wheelies crashing down to earth. Holds the bike at stop lights on hills. Helps pass the MSF course test. Great for flat-spotting your rear tire. The best for low siding while leaned over. Can help stabilize your machine (less front fork dive) when using your front brake to the max. Gentle use can help tighten your arc when leaned over. A great aid in making tight U-turns--linked brakes can make this one REAL exciting (these two actually require considerable skill and finesse, the others are pretty much no-brainers). A great way to learn how to be Ben, Aaron, Nicky, Anthony Gobert or a MSF test flunky, depending on your skill level. An instant cure for those that can't figure how to dump their girlfriend. ABS ruins all the potential drama. No ABS and too much pressure is an instant reminder you forgot to wear diapers (they love to take 'em off adults in the ER). Really good for inexperienced riders who had to "lay it down" only to have it slide to a halt before it came to the object in question. The manufacturer's best friend--lots of profit in the those wiped out fairings, cases, turn signals, footpegs, ad nauseum. Perhaps the best teacher in the world for an instant lesson in wearing proper road gear. Pretty damned versatile for one little pedal donchathink??
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If I'm not mistaken MSF still teaches to use both brakes in a maximum stop. With the front brake, you squeeze the lever adding pressure as the forks dive down to just short of lock-up. If you do lock the front brake, release it immediately and reapply. With the rear brake, apply pressure on the pedal, again to just short of lock-up. If you do lock up the rear brake, keep it locked until you come to a complete stop. This is where I differ with the MSF and here's why: In forty-four years of riding, I have found saving my hide has been a combination of maximum braking then swerving around the offending object more often than coming to a complete stop. With your rear brake locked, you are either going in a straight line or your butt is lowsiding down the tarmac with virtually no choices in between. In this situation (maximum brake then swerve), if your rear wheel is locked, at the most critical time in your avoidance maneuver, you must remember to release the rear brake and allow it to rehook-up before making any swerving attempt. This takes time you may not have in this situation and if you swerve with the rear wheel locked, you're down down instantly. For this reason, if you are still travelling in a straight line and your rear wheel locks, I advocate releasing it and reapplying it in gentler fashion or, especially on a sportbike, not using it at all.

Of course, the absolute best way to handle this situation is by scanning ahead to anticipate problems so that maximum braking, or anything close to it won't be necessary. However, if you ride long enough, sooner or later, something will happen in front of you very quickly that you couldn't possibly anticipate and you will have to react instantly and intuitively to avoid going down. And sometimes, no matter what you do, it'll be too late and you will hit the pavement. There's nothing like practicing those avoidance skills because if they aren't instant and reactive, they won't be in your repertoire when you need them the most. Here endeth the sermon.....
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The biggest problem with a bike that can do a stoppie easily is that almost 100% of the time, the frame rotates either to the left or right around the steering stem necessitating you put the rear wheel back on the ground to get the rear wheel in line with the front. This is where a light touch on the rear brake can stabilize your chassis and avoid lifting the rear wheel off the ground. In a perfect braking world, you would smoothly and progressively apply the front brake as the bike transfers more weight to the front. At the same time, you would apply the rear brake and ease up on it progressively as it lightens from the transfer of weight to the front. The fact is even legends like Eddie Lawson and Kevin Schwantz have stated this is almost impossible to do effectively. The brain can't handle modulating the front and rear brakes to maximum efficiency at the same time. Kevin teaches in his school not to use the rear brake and to my knowledge, Eddie didn't use it either. They stress using the front brake to the max since, in a sportbike, 90-100% of the braking force transfers to the front. There are several world class riders that advocate using the rear brake and it certainly can be useful if the rider has the proper training to manage it. For the most part, I prefer the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) theory and use only the front brake 90-odd % of the time. And you could be in lots worse company than Eddie & Kevin.
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If you've hung in there for 30+ years, you've obviously done a lot of things right no matter what anyone says. Motorcycle riding isn't necessarily black or white. There are all kinds of shades of grey. Once you have exposed yourself to as many options and techniques as possible, you can then determine what works best for you. Somebody else's right or wrong doesn't mean squat. Taking the time to decide which techniques work best for you and practicing them till they are instinctive and reactive are the keys to motorcycle survival on the street. But it sounds to me like you've already got that figured out.
The best way to make a tight U-turn is to do five things correctly at once: 1) Hang off the outside of the motorcycle. 2) Look as far as you can in the direction of the turn, completely over your shoulder if you can. 3) Hold a constant throtttle. 4) Keep the revs up by slipping the clutch. 5) Use only your rear brake to change speed while keeping the revs up and constant while slipping the clutch with a consistent amount of slippage. Be careful not to overrev the engine and let the clutch out too fast. You won't like the surprise in store for you.
The point to my previous post above is that it is the gyroscopic turning of the engine that creats the balance and stability to make a tight U-turn. That's why you have to keep the revs up by slipping the clutch.
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