Saturday, September 08, 2007

The front; the rear

Two questions arise when we brake for a corner (on a two-wheeler). The first question is how many of the two available brakes we apply. If the answer for that question is two, then comes the second question which we’ll see in a bit. First question first, it’s true that we’ve to apply both the brakes. Many riders believe that only the rear brakes need to applied to slow their two-wheeler (the “bike”) down. When you ask them their reasoning, they say that, applying the front brakes first will topple you over. In a way it’s true. You might have seen somewhere, experienced riders doing what’s called as stoppies. It’s the art of balancing the bike on it’s front wheel alone. They do stoppies by gripping the front brake lever as hard as they can. The rear wheels then lift off the ground leaving only the front wheels to keep the bike on tarmac.
But, I insist that stoppies happen only when you grip the brake lever as hard as you can. I also would like to insist that, the brake should be depressed only as hard as the front tyres allow. By this I mean that we should take care that the front tyres don’t lock up (I am assuming here that the explanation for lock up is not needed). Why take this much trouble to use the front brakes in a controlled way when you can happily use just the rears alone? Of course we could; but for one fact. The fact is that, the front brakes contribute to about 60 % of the braking force. This tells us that we have to use the front brakes no matter what if we’ve any intention of braking in the shortest possible distance and in the shortest possible time.
Saying this, a question might pop up in your mind. If I insist that the front brakes need to be used for effective braking, how come people who use only the rear brakes – and there are many of them - manage to successfully stop their bikes? Isn’t their technique working? The answer is, yes, their technique works and will work. But, it won’t work unconditionally. The technique works well up to a certain level. We need to define what the level is. Here’s how it can be defined:
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1. The rider rides extremely cautiously and keeps keen eye on what might happen the next second.

2. He starts braking super early and keeps the bike’s speed thro’ the corner well below what can be defined as slow.

3. He doesn’t care about his travel time and the only thing in his mind is his reaching the destination without meeting up with the tarmac on the way.
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Take point number one (The rider rides extremely cautiously and keeps keen eye on what might happen the next second). You might be wondering, hey I thought I am supposed to ride exactly like that! Yes, you’ve to ride like that. No question about it. But, in case you don’t drive like that…

Take the second point (He starts braking super early and keeps the bike’s speed thro’ the corner well below what can be defined as slow). This is the most advisable way to ride a bike, of course. But, in case you don’t ride like that…

Take the third point (He doesn’t care about his travel time and the only thing in his mind is his reaching the destination without meeting up with the tarmac on the way). Again, this is the safest way. Er, in case you don’t follow this…

The answer for all the above “in cases” is, use both the brakes. Using both the brakes can – no, make that “will” – help you in case you ever find yourself in the above “in cases”. With a proviso that you alter the braking pressure continuously from the start of braking to end (this is the second question which we mentioned, BTW). How this can be done, well, to know that we’ve to wait for this article’s second instalment. Till then, ride safely.

9 comments:

Srivaths said...

Very nice input for riders. What about the air pressure? Will you be addressing it in the second part?

S R I R A M said...

No.

Anonymous said...

Got to know new ideas about brakes... give a pause to bikes & write bout cars pls !!!

Chandrasekharan,K

Anonymous said...

your post cleared the (mis)conceptions i had about brakes...

Chandrasekharan,K

S R I R A M said...

Cars are what coming next. The topic is going to be: "Should we/shouldn't we press the clutch and bring to neutral a car, when braking."

Rajesh said...

Very good da.Keep writing... I expect more articles from u...

S R I R A M said...

Hi Rajesh. It's nice that you've visited my blog. Hope you'll be a regular visitor.

Dr.Katte said...

Nice to see you blogging!

S R I R A M said...

Dear Sir,

I am honoured by your presence here in my blog. I am delighted Sir, thankyou!