Continued challenges for new riders
December 15, 2009 at 7:33 pm #23721
Using the front vs. rear is all a question of where the traction is. What I’m claiming is that there is more traction in your front wheel than you think during MOST wet riding. Moreover, both you and I have tiny weenie crappy rear brakes. If I were to stop using only the rear brake, it would take me about 4-5x as long. So even in the wet, I still clamp hard on the front when I’m straight-up-and-down. Yes, I use the rear brake too, but on my bikes, the rear is too weak to do much. I’d be dead without the front.
You’re right, however: there are special conditions in which the risk of losing traction in one wheel is greater and so more caution should be used. You cite off-road riding as an extreme (but good) example of this, and while it may be too different to be applicable to the road, it is a good example of how super-low traction conditions are a safer place for rear slides and much more punishing to front skids. It’s simply a question of when you choose to alter your braking bias. For me, it’s almost never. I’ll be careful using the front on a manhole cover, a sewer grate, some slick-looking paint, wet leaves, etc. but if I know that might be in my future (i.e. if I’m riding blind turns and can’t see ahead, or if I know the road hazards ahead, etc.), I will have already reduced my speed to compensate for my not being able to stop worth sh%&. If you’re going 50mph, you better be able to use the front brake, because the rear isn’t going to stop you before hell freezes over.
You’re right: riding on the street is about maximizing your margin of safety. Which is why I’m a big pussy on the street (as we’ve discussed earlier in this thread). I don’t advocate knowing how to get 99% braking potential from your brakes because I need that on a regular basis. On the contrary, maximizing your margin of safety starts with, as you said, judgement, the use of which controls the speed you are traveling such that you will be less likely to put yourself at risk. If you were not going so fast, and you were not taken by surprise by a light turning yellow, and you had practiced braking more under a wider variety of conditions and instinctively balanced your braking approach without having to think, you would not have failed to brake before the intersection.
These are all things that come with practice, both of judgement and motorcycle skills. I’m no master of this stuff, and I’ve only been riding for a few years, so I’m not going to pretend I have this down at all. But I will say this: you know riding is more dangerous than driving by far, and in the end, it is not just judgement that will save your ass, but judgement combined with reflex, optimal, and instantaneous reactions that will protect you from the unexpected things that come up in riding. No, it’s not about being able to brake from 120mph-0mph as fast as possible and regularly exercising that ability on the street. It’s about having the skills to get your bike to obey you, but using judgement to avoid having to use them until something inevitably crops up to try to kill you. And it will happen.December 15, 2009 at 10:04 pm #23723eonParticipant
I should point out David Hough was basing his statement on feedback from the MCN test riders. I think his book was cobbled together from his articles published in MCN so he probably heard firsthand from those guys. And while there is no guarantee they are expert riders, the fact they ride bikes for a living would mean they have more skills than most of us. And the ability to jump on differing bikes back to back and to a direct comparison is invaluable.December 15, 2009 at 10:10 pm #23724SantaCruzRiderParticipant
Hough is talking about frame geometry. Just as an extended swing arms allows more energy to be usefully applied to driving the rear wheel, the extended fork rake found on most cruisers theoretically allows more force to be applied to stopping the front wheel (if all other factors are equal). I don’t think he was making a comparison between what top riders might be capable of. A little research of tested stopping distances often highlights that a number of cruisers, including ones with otherwise subpar discs and calipers, turn up some really decent stops, often matching some sport bikes with “better” suspension and brakes.
I’m not smart enough to understand all the physics involved, but I have picked up a few pearls of wisdom — including: If you’re continually unintentionally locking up your rear brake, you’re either pushing too hard or too suddenly on that right foot pedal thingy. And on a sport or standard, the harder you’re stopping, the easier it is to lock the rear.
And like Elwood mentions, you can recover from a rear end skid. IMO, it’s best to stay on the lock up while shifting your weight to bring the wheels into alignment (so you are skidding straight behind the front tire), then you can release the rear brake and you’re back in control. Learning how to end a skid can be very useful as it puts you back in full control.I’ve done this before on the freeway when trying to skid to a stop would have sent me into the back of a line of stopped cars. Once the skid was over, I was able to change course and slip around the stopped cars, giving me the extra 20 feet I needed to safely stop (plus, it probably looked fairly cool to folks watching who didn’t know I was simultenously crapping my pants!).December 15, 2009 at 10:31 pm #23722
“As far as what Mr. Hough says about sportbikes being slower to stop, I think he may be referring to anecdotal evidence seen on the road, because a GOOD sportbike rider SHOULD be able to outbreak just about anything in the dry or on clean wet pavement (let’s forget paint and debris for the moment).”
eternal, have you read Total Control by Lee Parks?
In Chapter 11 on Braking, Lee Parks states in item 6):
“Modern sport and race bikes are all limited by their wheelbase or center of gravity. Improving items like the calipers, pads, and tires will not affect the bike’s minimum distance potential.”
“In fact, if cruisers had stickier tires, they would crush sportbikes on the brakes. Right now, the best cruisers stop just as well, and more consistently, than sportbikes.” (Cruisers tend to have less sticky, longer lasting tires by choice for long distance cruising.)
Motorcycle Consumer News did a 60-0 braking comparison test on various types of bikes, including sportbikes. Most of the top-10 performers were cruisers. I think the test was done in 2006. Most of bikes listed in the test seemed to be older models, but the test results illustrated the same idea stated in books from Lee Parks and David Hough, etc.December 15, 2009 at 11:19 pm #23725
Sorry. I over-spoke earlier as a result of non-representative experiences I’ve had. I spoke so assertively earlier because I’ve seen sportbikes go up against more relaxed tourers and cruisers at the track, and I’ve even seen the lead instructor for my local track’s performance riding school race around the track on his Harley just to show what can be done with any bike. In these situations, anecdotally, the sportbike “wins” on the brakes. I don’t know why, and it was silly of me to accuse Hough of “anectodal evidence” when that’s all I have to work with.
But now I have a question with respect to this quote:
“Improving items like the calipers, pads, and tires will not affect the bike’s minimum distance potential.”
Why then do MotoGP teams spend oodles of money on carbon rotors and fancy brake pads? If braking potential was already limited by inherent characteristics of frame geometry (something they’d know with all their research and data acquisition), why spend thousands of dollars per bike to make it brake harder? It makes sense to me that cruisers, especially with stickier tires, would be able to brake harder…but this doesn’t make sense to me.December 16, 2009 at 3:32 am #23726
The high-dollar braking systems (like those carbon ceramic brakes and huge brake discs on exotic and race cars/bikes) buy you the ability for “extended and heavy” braking, such as under racing conditoins, when the repeated and heavy braking would cause a lesser braking system to overheat and “fade”. It’s not about increasing the stopping power (shorter stopping distance), but about better efficiency (less lever pressure), better modulation, and the ability to handle extended high temp operation through out a race.
In other words, a cruiser may be able to brake just as hard as a sportbike for normal street riding where the brakes get a chance to cool down between applications, but put it in a racing situation with repeated hard braking, in a couple of laps its brakes may overheat and fade to the point of being useless. The flip side of that is most sportbikes with race-ready hardware are totally overkill for normal street use.December 16, 2009 at 3:46 am #23729
“Hough is talking about frame geometry. Just as an extended swing arms allows more energy to be usefully applied to driving the rear wheel, the extended fork rake found on most cruisers theoretically allows more force to be applied to stopping the front wheel (if all other factors are equal). I don’t think he was making a comparison between what top riders might be capable of. A little research of tested stopping distances often highlights that a number of cruisers, including ones with otherwise subpar discs and calipers, turn up some really decent stops, often matching some sport bikes with “better” suspension and brakes.”
As a new rider I know only what I read and much less from experiance. On the other hand several years of yeomans work in dynamics/physics (but not geometry specifically) was screaming at me and you totally nailed it.
All else being equal- brakes/riders/conditions a touring/cruiser will be able to maximize MORE of its front brake than its sportbike competitor with a shorter wheel base simply because when you apply a force like that and it shifts the weight you get a lever that lifts up to the air- if there is a vertical force in the negative direction (i.e. saddle bags) its going to only help that coefficient of friction that is present on that contact patch. If the only weight a sport bike has is joblow 160 bls on a 425 lb bike and the weight is shifting forward and me joblow alreaady leaned forward you have much less of a negative force trying to keep that coefficient of friction engaged and its WAAAAAY more likely to pop up.
Basically its an algebra + dynamic forces equallity problem and you get a greater than less than situation The road pushes back on the bike equally- and that contact patch which we are all familar with- needs to have a certain amount of force on it- as soon as the numbers go this direction gravity + you plus bike and things < force pushing UP from the road/coefficient of friction your wheel goes up but if you keep the g + all your shit > ground your bike stays down. The shorter the bike the more weight goes forward the less downward force you have to help keep the little packman symbol in your favor.
If that made ANY sense at all- great… if not I’ll just go play nerd in my corner with my calculator now.
by the way I totally love reading all of these threads- soooo helpful and intersting! esp for locations and how people handle different things!December 16, 2009 at 4:01 am #23728
“running wide in a right means you MIGHT wreck, running wide in a left means you WILL wreck.”
I used to think like that (that I could always drift to the opposite lane when running wide on a right turn), until I read and realized that running wide on right and cross the centerline can get you KILLED from a head on collision. That seems worse than running off the road from going wide on a left.
What am I saying? Either one is BAD!December 16, 2009 at 5:53 am #23719owlieParticipant
Turning into my neighborhood is basically a blind right turn. I worked hard to get to where I could make it each time without going wide because I never know until I’m committed to a turning line whether there is oncoming traffic.
The funny thing was that once I was proficient at making the turn, I applied the same techniques to driving my cage and I don’t have nearly as many problems with it anymore in car or on bike.December 16, 2009 at 11:04 am #23733
Thanks for that…’twas rad. Not sure I got it 100%, but fun read all the sameDecember 16, 2009 at 11:06 am #23734
Good call on the brake fade issue. I’d totally forgotten about that, which is sad, because my brake system modification was largely to combat that issue. Brake feel and ease of use (i.e. less force required on lever) is a no-brainer. Thanks!December 16, 2009 at 11:36 am #23735XRayHoundParticipant
That’s exactly my point, there’s a chance there’s a car in the opposite lane but there’s a chance there’s not… the ditch will always be there. It’s a mental block for me, not a justification for crossing the center line. While I take Nick Ienatsch’s advice to consider each trip over the yellow line a failure, I know there’s more pavement on the other side of it, and, to quote Morpheus, it “frees my mind”!
To state it another way that just occurred to me, the oncoming lane offers a margin of error… admittedly, a margin of error than can be taken away at any given instant. Think of it as binary code. The oncoming lane is a series of ones, with every car, and a given space (the amount you need to maneuver clear) ahead of it as zeroes. The edge of the road is an unbroken line of zeroes.
Then there’s the inconsiderate cagers who cross the double yellow and put the zeroes in your lane…December 16, 2009 at 7:40 pm #23737
On a blind right turn, especially when the road is narrower, consider hugging the right shoulder throughout the turn, because oncoming cars have a tendency to get “lazy” with the turn and cut into your lane, so you’d want to stay as far right as possible throughout the turn. I know – this is not the “racing line” nor the “performance riding line”. I read about this strategy in a motorcycle forum and, of course, there were different opinions. First I argued against it – there’s more likely to be debris on the right shoulder, there is less sight distance when you hug the right shoulder, blah blah blah. Then, when I went into the hills on a twisty and narrow road with many blind corners (at speed down to 10-15 mph or so), I found myself hugging the right shoulders in those blind turns to avoid unexpected oncoming cars. Call this the “blind corner survival line”.December 16, 2009 at 9:25 pm #23744
well I’m sure there are way better ways to describe it or simplier ways and a diagram WOULD have helped and not being 10something at night but its an interesting subject that my education really has helped me understand more of in ways I would have been handicapped as far as understanding is concerned. so i get kind of excited that the fact the “when are we every going to use this” factor came into play.
yeah I know.December 16, 2009 at 9:30 pm #23745
the majority of people have a hard time with right turns are RIGHT handed…. so it makes sense that if you are left handed- you would have a harder time with left turns and an easier time with rights.
The why mechanics behind that- not sure but it makes sense knowing that most people suck at rights and are right thanded… that you would be better at rights being left handed.
And whoever said that stuff about binary 1 and 0 regarding riding into the other land or off the road a little bit- I don’t like binary never have never will- but that was a suprisingly good definition of that. totally cool. thanks!
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