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Turned over 2K miles, and confirmed some of the MSF teachings…

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    Went for a long-ish ride tonight (just barely under 100 miles). I’d wanted to wait until the warmer part of the day so I could use my mesh jacket… Alas, it didn’t get that warm, so I stayed with the standard textile (with the arm vents open). And by the time I got home, I’d turned over my 2000th mile on the SVs.

    Anyway, early on in the ride (maybe 3 miles in), I had an opportunity to do what could best be describes as my first “surprise stop” in traffic. Not a panic stop, as it never got that close, but it took me a little by surprise. A downhill left semi-sweeper turn, I have a PT cruiser in front of me. I’m leaned in, but then notice the PT has its brakes on. That’s when I see the deer crossing the road in front of it. So I straighten the bike up and hit the brakes. The car gets going again long before I get anywhere close, but I’ve still got plenty of space to stop if needed. But it just confirmed a couple things taught in the MSF class:

    * Take your sweepers to the inside of the turn, so you have room to straighten the bike upright and brake.
    * Look ahead of the car in front of you. 12 second bubble scan. [something I failed to do at the time]
    * Squeeze the brakes, don’t grab a handful.

    The rest of the ride was uneventful, and I found a couple nice twisty roads that I’d forgotten (and hadn’t been on in years).


    You’re absolutely right about everything you said, but I have one thing to add. The MSF course is very stringent about not braking while leaned, but learning to trail brake can save you in a difficult situation.

    Braking while cornering isn’t impossible; far from it. People use it all the time on the street, and especially on the race track. Here’s proof. Valentino (#46 in blue) is trying to out-brake Pedrosa (#3, Repsol Honda) into a turn. Both are still on the brakes while leaned over:

    Chances are that every single one of you that rides a bicycle is perfectly happy to trail brake, whether you realize it or not. The trick with trail braking is tact. You can’t brake as hard as you would in a straight line or you’ll lowside, having asked more from your tires than they can deliver. You also can’t just brake, as the act of braking tends to right the bike.

    Here’s how it’s done. You’re leaned over, coming around a blind turn. You see a row of stopped cars way sooner than you’d anticipated they would appear, and you need to slow down. You GRADUALLY squeeze the brakes, causing the bike to want to straighten up, but the metal guardrail at the edge of this shoulderless road won’t be having that. To counteract that tendency you countersteer back into the turn, but gently. This allows you to apply the brakes while continuing to follow the direction of the road.

    Being able to braking while turning, even for 10 feet, will allow you to slow down substantially, which in turn will allow you to straighten up more, which will in turn allow you to brake harder.

    Do not try this cold in your next emergency situation. Include it in your PLP the next time you go. Start by simply getting into a nice gentle turn at, say, 20-25mph, and ever-so-gently touch the brakes. You should feel the bike pull upright slightly. Now try gently pushing the bars back into the turn to compensate, so that you can continue on your way at the same radius while braking. Eventually, increase the strength with which you brake, your speed, and your lean angle.

    It’s really not hard, and like I said, if you do it by instinct, it can save your life. It’s worth a try!

    Clay Dowling

    That’s the description I wanted for it. I never knew what it was called, but I know I want to learn how to do it. My daily ride has an excess of straightness, but there are a couple of nice curves near my house where braking in a curve can be life-savers.


    Trailbraking the way racers do, isn’t just only braking while leaned over. There’s a second part of when releasing the brakes and that’s rolling on the throttle while you’re releasing the brake lever.

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