Trail Braking - Triumph Forum: Triumph Rat Motorcycle Forums
Riding and Survival Skills Tips for improving your riding skills and your survival on the road.

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post #1 of 39 (permalink) Old 04-07-2019, 04:42 PM Thread Starter
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Trail Braking

As motorcycle riders, we have to consider what traction is available to us at all times. Two tiny patches of rubber keep us planted to the ground. If we understand this, we can maximize that traction properly and release our uneasy cornering feelings for good. Replacing it with confidence.

Traction, or the amount of grip each of your tires has on the road, is strongly connected to three factors: throttle, lean angle (turning), and braking. Understanding how these work, will allow you to maximize traction in any situation.

One nice rule of thumb regarding traction is:

DON'T SURPRISE THE BIKE. Meaning don't ever communicate with the bike in both a rapid and dramatic fashion. Don't immediately roll all the way on or off the throttle, don't immediately lean all the way to maximum angle, and don't immediately apply all of your might to the brakes. Allow the bike to accept your input by being deliberate not dramatic. Remember, all of these inputs transfer weight to/from the tires, and rapid transfer causes the tires to give out. Give the tire time to accept the new load.

In keeping with this idea, trail braking involves slowly and deliberately relieving pressure from the brakes as you enter a turn. This allows for an even deliberate transfer from brake traction to lean traction.

Trail braking means applying your most heavy pressure to the brakes before the turn, but slowly fading off the front brake as you begin to lean and head to the apex of the corner. t allows you to slow down after you are already turning, which is valuable if a blind corner is tighter than you thought, or if there are obstacles you did not see before turning.

As you become more adept at this technique, you will learn that it is quite fine to brake while cornering, and in many cases it is even desirable. In fact, most experienced riders employ trail braking regularly when entering steep corners, especially if they are unable to see the apex immediately. It is especially useful to control corner speed when riding downhill.

I came across this video by CanyonChasers, and it is really the best explanation of the technique that I have seen.

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Last edited by ranger995; 04-07-2019 at 04:42 PM. Reason: Typos
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post #2 of 39 (permalink) Old 04-08-2019, 01:52 PM
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I did an extensive interview with Keith Code (author of Twist of the Wrist series and owner of the California Superbike School) on the topic of trail braking:

You can read it here: http://www.motomom.ca/keith-code-on-trail-braking-exclusive-interview/


See if it brings up any questions or comments.....I'll address this subject further when I have more time, (off to jiu-jitsu class!)

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post #3 of 39 (permalink) Old 04-08-2019, 06:22 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Misti Hurst View Post
I did an extensive interview with Keith Code (author of Twist of the Wrist series and owner of the California Superbike School) on the topic of trail braking:

You can read it here: http://www.motomom.ca/keith-code-on-trail-braking-exclusive-interview/


See if it brings up any questions or comments.....I'll address this subject further when I have more time, (off to jiu-jitsu class!)

I read that article a while ago. I know it is not useful all the time. I look at it as one technique that is available. Learning to ride is kind of like learning martial arts, there are lots of techniques available, but the fundamentals always apply.

Anyway, I look forward to reading your response and any insight you might add. It's cool to get to communicate with such an experienced riding coach. Thanks
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post #4 of 39 (permalink) Old 04-08-2019, 09:58 PM
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I trail braked for years before I learned not to. Which is a lesson I mostly ignored. I'm sure I had some issues braking too much while turning at first, but those are easy lessons to learn at 6 or so years old. Not as easy to learn from mistakes when you are starting as an adult.
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post #5 of 39 (permalink) Old 04-09-2019, 01:57 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by jmq3rd View Post
I trail braked for years before I learned not to. Which is a lesson I mostly ignored. I'm sure I had some issues braking too much while turning at first, but those are easy lessons to learn at 6 or so years old. Not as easy to learn from mistakes when you are starting as an adult.
Yeah, I think the big draw back would be not having the proper touch, which could cause traction problems. It is certainly a technique that requires the crawl, walk, run method.
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post #6 of 39 (permalink) Old 04-09-2019, 03:49 AM
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Originally Posted by ranger995 View Post
As motorcycle riders, we have to consider what traction is available to us at all times. Two tiny patches of rubber keep us planted to the ground. If we understand this, we can maximize that traction properly and release our uneasy cornering feelings for good. Replacing it with confidence.

Traction, or the amount of grip each of your tires has on the road, is strongly connected to three factors: throttle, lean angle (turning), and braking. Understanding how these work, will allow you to maximize traction in any situation.

One nice rule of thumb regarding traction is:

DON'T SURPRISE THE BIKE. Meaning don't ever communicate with the bike in both a rapid and dramatic fashion. Don't immediately roll all the way on or off the throttle, don't immediately lean all the way to maximum angle, and don't immediately apply all of your might to the brakes. Allow the bike to accept your input by being deliberate not dramatic. Remember, all of these inputs transfer weight to/from the tires, and rapid transfer causes the tires to give out. Give the tire time to accept the new load.

In keeping with this idea, trail braking involves slowly and deliberately relieving pressure from the brakes as you enter a turn. This allows for an even deliberate transfer from brake traction to lean traction.

Trail braking means applying your most heavy pressure to the brakes before the turn, but slowly fading off the front brake as you begin to lean and head to the apex of the corner. t allows you to slow down after you are already turning, which is valuable if a blind corner is tighter than you thought, or if there are obstacles you did not see before turning.

As you become more adept at this technique, you will learn that it is quite fine to brake while cornering, and in many cases it is even desirable. In fact, most experienced riders employ trail braking regularly when entering steep corners, especially if they are unable to see the apex immediately. It is especially useful to control corner speed when riding downhill.

I came across this video by CanyonChasers, and it is really the best explanation of the technique that I have seen.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gPE67XqGsV4
When I first started riding with others on the road I would hear the most bizarre garbage from so-called experts. Then I would watch them ride off the road and into ditches. Things like “never use the front brake” or “countersteering is something I only do when I have to”. Two of my kids ride now and I had to correct the nonsense of their MSF courses about trail braking. I get it. If you have never been on a bike it is easier to get all of your braking done before turning. That’s fine in a parking lot when you can’t remember which foot controls the brake, but as this video so eloquently points out, the road isn’t an MSF course.

I loved the twisty roads of Northern California. The best ones are just a series of curves with no straight sections. The road up Mt Hamilton is said to have 365 turns. I never counted but it sure was fun! Now I live in the desert and ride with the cruise control on much of the time.

I was put off by the crash videos but I understand why they were included here. I’ve seen too many people do exactly those maneuvers with the same results.

Thanks for posting this.
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post #7 of 39 (permalink) Old 04-09-2019, 05:23 AM
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Thanks for posting this.

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post #8 of 39 (permalink) Old 04-09-2019, 02:41 PM
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Originally Posted by ranger995 View Post
I read that article a while ago. I know it is not useful all the time. I look at it as one technique that is available. Learning to ride is kind of like learning martial arts, there are lots of techniques available, but the fundamentals always apply.

Anyway, I look forward to reading your response and any insight you might add. It's cool to get to communicate with such an experienced riding coach. Thanks
Thank you! And yes, like martial arts (which I train in as well).

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Originally Posted by ranger995 View Post
Yeah, I think the big draw back would be not having the proper touch, which could cause traction problems. It is certainly a technique that requires the crawl, walk, run method.
My main issue with trailbraking discussions (and some of the comments in this video) have to do with the fact that may people think that it's an all or nothing technique- You either do it or you don't and I dislike that mentality. As Keith Code says, you are aways "trailing the brakes off" in some regards as opposed to suddenly releasing the brake lever, whether you are straight up and down or leaned over. However, some corners require more trail braking (scrubbing speed) than others. There are corners where I don't need to trail brake at all, and some where I may trail brake deep into the corner.

And yes, the issue IS a light touch. The dangers of telling riders that they need to trail brake to a certain spot (at or past the apex) in every corner can lead to poor skills in other areas. It can alter their senses of speed by having them always rely on braking, it can cause them to over brake or charge the corners and it can cause them to have poor throttle control (mainly being late with getting back on the gas) Plus, in terms of having a "light touch" many riders aren't that able to demonstrate smooth and consistent braking at first so to push them to brake longer or later into a turn can cause them to tuck the front tire. In my opinion its a technique best taught with the bike upright FIRST, along with good throttle control and then add in trailing the brakes into the corner so that there is a certain gradient that is followed.

In Twist of the Wrist II (Keith Code) he talks about throttle control rule number one as being "one the throttle is cracked on, it is rolled on evenly, smoothly and constantly throughout the reminder of the turn." but when are you supposed to start getting on the gas? How do you time that with trailbraking?
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post #9 of 39 (permalink) Old 04-09-2019, 04:25 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Misti Hurst View Post
Thank you! And yes, like martial arts (which I train in as well).

In Twist of the Wrist II (Keith Code) he talks about throttle control rule number one as being "one the throttle is cracked on, it is rolled on evenly, smoothly and constantly throughout the reminder of the turn." but when are you supposed to start getting on the gas? How do you time that with trailbraking?
Please correct me if I am wrong here, but the way that trail braking helps is in the moment when I am approaching the turn in point and looking for the apex. I trail until I identify the apex, and then I turn/lean more aggressively, and then I apply the throttle in exactly the way you quote until I have identified the exit point, and that is when I can start to accelerate out of the turn.

I also do not use trail braking in all turns. For example, if I identify the apex quickly, I am turning/leaning and practicing the throttle control rule. No need to trail brake.

In general the amount of time I spend trail braking relates to the steepness of the curve, the blindness of the curve, and my ability to quickly identify an apex (which is something always in need of improvement).

At my ability level, trail braking has added a lot of confidence to my cornering and I am finding that the better I get, the less I trail brake. That being said, I am never riding at track speeds, and I very carefully avoid charging turns or having early turn in points. So this works for me, as I have never trailed all the way to apex. I don't think I have ever been going fast enough to do that. I am usually on the throttle control rule the second I find my line.

I look at Keith Code's and Nick Ienatsch's books as very complimentary and meaningful approaches. Both basically give the same fundamentals, but focus on different aspects or explain the same fundamental differently. I have learned much from both. After reading them very carefully, I don't think there is nearly as much disagreement as has been suggested.

Going to CSS was super fun. I went to the Streets of Willow Springs a little over a year ago. I still need to do more, and probably will in the near future. I'd like to go to a different track, however, perhaps thunder hill or even laguna seca. We'll see.

Lastly, thanks again for your thoughtful responses, it's always great to get input from someone like you.
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Last edited by ranger995; 04-09-2019 at 04:38 PM.
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post #10 of 39 (permalink) Old 04-09-2019, 05:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DanFromVegas View Post
When I first started riding with others on the road I would hear the most bizarre garbage from so-called experts. Then I would watch them ride off the road and into ditches. Things like “never use the front brake” or “countersteering is something I only do when I have to”. Two of my kids ride now and I had to correct the nonsense of their MSF courses about trail braking. I get it. If you have never been on a bike it is easier to get all of your braking done before turning. That’s fine in a parking lot when you can’t remember which foot controls the brake, but as this video so eloquently points out, the road isn’t an MSF course.

I loved the twisty roads of Northern California. The best ones are just a series of curves with no straight sections. The road up Mt Hamilton is said to have 365 turns. I never counted but it sure was fun! Now I live in the desert and ride with the cruise control on much of the time.

I was put off by the crash videos but I understand why they were included here. I’ve seen too many people do exactly those maneuvers with the same results.

Thanks for posting this.
Hah! Lived just at the base of Mt Hamilton rd for many years, rode it countless times, crashed a few (low-side, snot in shady corners, wrestling around a KZ650/720). Worked up Hwy 9, so was on Skyline 3-4 days/week. That was 30 years ago. Still don't feel like a "pro-rider," despite having ridden for 44 years now (mostly on road, some Sears Point time, once at Laguna, still motocross, still ride long road trips on a few continents each year...). Have made all the mistakes, broken the bones for it and STILL feel like a novice rider (until I see "experienced" riders do some scary stuff!) anyway. Haven't been on Mt Hamilton in decades, but some damn fine memories you brought back!
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