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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
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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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!)

:nerd:
 

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Discussion Starter #3
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!)

:nerd:
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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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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Discussion Starter #5
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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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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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).

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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Discussion Starter #9 (Edited)
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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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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I use trail braking but instead of controlling speed with the front brake, I use the clutch, pulling the lever all the way in heading into the turn so accelerative force is removed but the bike continues to coast at speed, then controlling speed with light clutch feathering while clearing the apex, then I open the throttle and re-engage the clutch to blast out the other side. I find this much smoother than using the front brake. One guy I knew used to always give the brakes on his car a tiny tap just before entering a turn at speed in order to "level out the suspension" he said.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
I use trail braking but instead of controlling speed with the front brake, I use the clutch, pulling the lever all the way in heading into the turn so accelerative force is removed but the bike continues to coast at speed, then controlling speed with light clutch feathering while clearing the apex, then I open the throttle and re-engage the clutch to blast out the other side. I find this much smoother than using the front brake. One guy I knew used to always give the brakes on his car a tiny tap just before entering a turn at speed in order to "level out the suspension" he said.

I used to do it that way, but found when I am going downhill that I actually accelerated into the turn. Trail braking works better for me going downhill into corners. I almost always trail brake going downhill.

Going uphill, I usually only trail brake in very steep or blind turns.

As I mentioned above, these are all different techniques, there is not necessarily a right or wrong way to do it, as long as traction rules are not violated in the process. Thanks for contributing to the discussion. I appreciate it.

As I understand it, track driving courses also teach trail braking for cars when cornering. Not a tap, but a fade before accelerating.
 

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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.
Not wrong at all! I think it's spot on what you've written and especially about how Code's and Ienatsch's approach to trail braking aren't as fundamentally different as everyone thinks. It's interesting to me when we have students that say, CSS doesn't trail brake at all! Not true, just a different method and approach to teaching and building on certain skills.
 

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I use trail braking but instead of controlling speed with the front brake, I use the clutch, pulling the lever all the way in heading into the turn so accelerative force is removed but the bike continues to coast at speed, then controlling speed with light clutch feathering while clearing the apex, then I open the throttle and re-engage the clutch to blast out the other side. I find this much smoother than using the front brake. One guy I knew used to always give the brakes on his car a tiny tap just before entering a turn at speed in order to "level out the suspension" he said.
So you're trail-clutching :wink2:

Can you explain how this could possibly be smoother then using the front brake? And how you could have good control of the motorcycle when it's essentially costing into a corner?
 

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I use trail braking but instead of controlling speed with the front brake, I use the clutch, pulling the lever all the way in heading into the turn so accelerative force is removed but the bike continues to coast at speed, then controlling speed with light clutch feathering while clearing the apex, then I open the throttle and re-engage the clutch to blast out the other side. I find this much smoother than using the front brake. One guy I knew used to always give the brakes on his car a tiny tap just before entering a turn at speed in order to "level out the suspension" he said.
This is hardly trail braking. You've turned your 4 stroke engine into a 2 stroke with no engine braking. Can't say I would recommend coasting into a turn like a bicycle. I sometimes will feather the clutch out into a turn after downshifting for a tight, let's say with a decreasing radius, corner mostly to remove any off/on throttle jerk for a smooth transition from maintenance to on throttle. You lose connection with the rear wheel and float the suspension.
 

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I like pulling the clutch and coasting because using the front brake gives unpredictable performance depending on weather, built-up heat from heavy use, cheap Triumph parts, brake dive etc. I don't understand why people believe there is less control with the engine disengaged from the back wheel. It actually adds control because it puts you in a state of slight deceleration. I have found that most of the times I have lost control on my motorbike is because I was applying too much power at the wrong moment, or I was carrying too much momentum going into a manouever. De-clutching does not work in all situations. Of course it is not a useful techinique when going into an uphill turn. The decreasing radius turn would be an unlikely place too. If I saw that the turn was decreasing radius from before I initated the turn, I would likely slow down a bit and take it at a steady speed, and if I didn't find out it was decreasing radius until I was well into the turn, there would be some panic braking lol. I was thinking mainly of a long open curve near my house with a mild swoopy downhill at the start then a quick climb coming out of it.
 

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I don't know how long you have been riding and I usually stay away from telling another rider how to ride. I'm not an instructor of any kind. You state control is added with some slight decel. Speed doesn't enter into the equation for control when you have decoupled the drive system. You lose control as if the engine has shut off. If you want some decel, slightly reduce the throttle. Keeping the rear wheel engaged with the engine keeps the suspension active and the tires pushed into the road surface. Some riders think in slow maneuvers that taking their feet off the pegs offers more control, but you lose balance and the control that your feet provide. Same as coasting the engine.

Saying the front brake can be unpredictable has more to do with the experience of the rider than the brake itself. My view. Going in too hot into a turn and thinking that a panic brake would be inevitable is another dangerous way to think and ride. Using the throttle and engine braking would be significantly more effective than coasting which still has momentum in the mix. Another issue with coasting while cornering is what happens when you engage the clutch and what happens at the rear wheel vs having the rear wheel under maintenance throttle or a slight increase in throttle.
 

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I agree with Felony.
Riding through a corner without the motor engaged with the drive train reduces the bikes capabilities, more so the faster you go around that corner.
Speed around that corner is probably the determining factor to the success of this method.
But if using the clutch that way works for you then each to their own.
Safe and happy riding
 

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I like pulling the clutch and coasting because using the front brake gives unpredictable performance depending on weather, built-up heat from heavy use, cheap Triumph parts, brake dive etc. I don't understand why people believe there is less control with the engine disengaged from the back wheel. It actually adds control because it puts you in a state of slight deceleration. I have found that most of the times I have lost control on my motorbike is because I was applying too much power at the wrong moment, or I was carrying too much momentum going into a manouever. De-clutching does not work in all situations. Of course it is not a useful techinique when going into an uphill turn. The decreasing radius turn would be an unlikely place too. If I saw that the turn was decreasing radius from before I initated the turn, I would likely slow down a bit and take it at a steady speed, and if I didn't find out it was decreasing radius until I was well into the turn, there would be some panic braking lol. I was thinking mainly of a long open curve near my house with a mild swoopy downhill at the start then a quick climb coming out of it.
Ok, I have to highly disagree with what is stated here. As as riding coach with the California Superbike School for the past 15 years as well as a former AMA pro Roadracer and Moto-journalist I need to comment that this is not a technique that we would endorse or allow at any of our schools, nor one that any accomplished rider would use. I also did a bit of research and found that where I live, in Vancouver Canada it is actually illegal and finable to coast downhill either in neutral or with the clutch engaged in a car or on a motorcycle. (The ICBC guide Learn to Drive Smart states in Chapter 5:"It is illegal to coast downhill in neutral or with the clutch in. You need to be in gear to safely control your vehicle."The Motor Vehicle Act says:"Coasting down grade: 197: When travelling down grade a driver must not coast with the gears of the vehicle in neutral or the clutch disengaged."

By pulling in the clutch you disengage the engine and therefore remove any engine braking which would assist in slowing down the motorcycle. Depending on the grade of the hill, coasting into a corner could actually increase your speed into it as you are free rolling with no engine braking. Free rolling into the corner could require more braking later and as you mention, possible panic braking if you suddenly find out that you are going too fast or that the corner is a decreasing radius turn. You may have difficulty getting back into gear quickly and you have zero throttle response or any way to get yourself out of danger if you need to suddenly speed up or make any kind of evasive maneuver.

If you think that using the front brakes provides "unpredictable performance" I'd suggest that you take a look at your braking method and some of your riding habits. I ride all manner of bikes on street and track and in different countries around the world and regardless of what bike I am on, utilize almost the same method of mostly front brake use and engine braking to properly set entry speed for corners. From there I practice good throttle control. Good throttle control as we teach at the California Superbike School is "once the throttle is cracked on it is rolled on smoothly, constantly and evenly throughout the reminder of the turn" (Twist of the Wrist II)

By coasting into a corner you'll not only compromise your ability to safely and effectively set entry speed into a corner but now you've made it more difficult to achieve proper throttle control because you have to re-engage the clutch as you are rolling back on the gas. Good throttle control is paramount to safe and effective motorcycle riding (it is the first and I think most important lesson that we teach at the school).
 

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Had no idea coasting was illegal in BC. I do it all the time in any vehicle with a manual transmission, even dump trucks. Generally I don't shift out of gear when I do this, I just disengage the clutch momentarily then feather it back on when the time comes. If I am anticipating some engine braking or a bit of acceleration, I may downshift one gear while the clutch is out. As you say, going right back to neutral is not a good idea because you never know if you may need some power. Does ICBC still sell insurance to people with learner's permits? I bought my first car and learned to drive in Vancouver in 1995. Blew my mind that they sold me full insurance with just a learner's permit, but damn it was expensive, $1600/yr.!
 
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