The Do’s and Don’ts of Emergency Braking

Emergency braking is the most crucial safety skill you can learn, but also one you’ll hopefully never have to use. If you suddenly find a car turning in front of you, it’s often your only way out. Here’s some easy do’s and don’ts to keep in mind when it comes to emergency braking on a motorcycle.

Photo by Brian Gaid

Brake lever

Do: Progressively Squeeze The Lever

Starting gently and working up to max pressure will transfer the motorcycle’s weight to the front wheel and compresses the tire, expanding its contact patch and increasing its grip.

Don’t: Just Grab A Handful

Even with ABS, simply going straight to max brake pressure will overwhelm the front tire’s grip and cause it to skid. If you don’t have ABS, that will likely lead to a wipe out. If you do, you just won’t be achieving an optimal rate of deceleration.

Do: Use Both Brakes

Even on bikes that don’t come with handlebar tassels, where the weight bias is dramatically forward under braking, the rear tire may retain contact with the road and even have a little traction, so using both brakes will help slow you down.

Don’t: Rely On The Back Brake Only

Not only is the back brake less powerful than the front brake, weight is also transferred off the rear brake under deceleration which reduces the rear tire’s traction.

Do: Be Aware Of Traffic Around You

It’s no good going to maximum braking power only to be swatted by the texting SUV driver tailgating you. Ride defensively at all times and try to create a “bubble” of space around you at all times. This will give you room to take evasive maneuvers like emergency braking should you need it.

Don’t: Let Other Vehicles Dictate Your Safety

Ride in such a manner that you control your relationship with other traffic. Don’t find yourself in a situation where another motorist is able to tailgate you or restrict your vision. Move through traffic with authority and confidence.

Traffic

Photo by Thomas Hawk

Do: Plan Ahead

As you’re riding, you need to be constantly scanning your entire area — above and below and to the side and behind you — but pay particular attention to where you’re going and look as far ahead as possible. As cars pull up to intersections or other traffic movements occur, plan how you’ll deal with each one, then put that plan into action.

Don’t: Get Taken By Surprise

Surprise creates panic, panic creates accidents. Use your superior vision — move around in your lane and alter your distance from other vehicles in order to maximize it — and develop a sixth sense capable of predicting what other people are about to do. Identify potential risks before they threaten you, then avoid them before they become a problem.

Do: Practice

Motorcycles have exceptional braking abilities, but conversely, their brakes are exceptionally difficult to master. Go find a big, empty parking lot and spend half a day familiarizing yourself with your motorcycle’s abilities and working up from a walking pace until you’re able to confidently bring your bike to a commanding halt from normal road speeds.

Don’t: Rely On Something You Don’t Know How To Use

How fast can your motorcycle stop? What happens when the rear wheel starts to lift off the ground? How much back brake can you use before that wheel locks? What does it feel like to lock the front wheel? You should know the answers to all these questions by heart.

Do: Brake Hard!

You rear wheel might lift up, the ABS might kick in, you might pee your pants a little bit, but every MPH that you can lose before hitting something will incrementally reduce impact forces, thereby reducing your chances of injury or death. What might kill you at 40 mph may only send you home with bruises at 30. And that’s a mere fraction of a second of max braking apart.

Don’t: Let Go

Trust your bike and your abilities. Your best bet to avoid the accident or reduce its severity lies in braking, not in bailing.

What is your best advice for fellow writers when it comes to emergency braking?

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