The Point of Transition – The Fine Art of Trail Braking

The Roadrunner aka Chadattack decided to let us in on the finesse required to trail brake properly on a motorcycle. We were psyched and you should be too.

Motorcycle riding is almost reminiscent of art. It is no different as the common point between the two is transition. The transition of a curve more specifically. ooh

While braking, we are forever taught not to brake mid corner but the concept of trail braking changed all of that. There definitely is a fine line between panic braking and braking in to a corner, for you do not jam your brakes but progressively trail the brakes away as the name suggests. The progression begins beyond the entrance of the corner and gradually fades away by the time you’ve hit the apex. This gives the rider a greater amount of confidence exiting a corner as, if done right, he has had enough time to adjust his speed. Adversely, he has hit all the right notes and exits the corner at the highest speed possible.

The point of trail braking is simply to generate more confidence and control over the motorcycle exiting a corner as all the power is then restricted to how you want to exit the corner. It also reduces the turning radius, which in turn reduces the track distance covered making one faster on an overall lap time.

This riding technique is also apt for street riding as it helps maintain stability. The front and rear bias of weight on the chassis is built as the respective brakes are applied. This makes the front shocks follow a motion of compression when the brakes are applied and rebound when the brakes are released. This rather abrupt change of motion is altered as the rider has a smooth transition of getting off the breaks mid corner while he rolls the throttle on.

However, there is tad bit of controversy surrounding this technique as guides like the Motorcycle Safety Foundation speculate that the steep learning curve this technique demands, makes it more apt only for race tracks and not for street riders. The risk with trail braking is that since both, the steering and front brake pressure are applied together, the friction generated upon the road results in loss of grip. The steep learning curve is mentioned as the smooth transition demands a motorcyclist to not only understand his motorcycle and its bite points but also apply it with finesse.

In driving cars, the technique of trail braking follows the similar pattern of braking beyond the entrance of a corner to reduce understeer, mostly in light vehicles that have bias to the front wheels, by shifting the weight and increasing traction. The application of brakes in cars during this process requires far more attention to detail and excessive braking can cause heavy understeer or even spinning out.

All in all, the perfect way to master the technique or least begin to learn it is to overlap the throttle and brake. Here the overlap can be understood as a brottle or thrake where a neutral point is either non-existent or marginal in nature. It does take a lot of practice but the result is extremely rewarding.

Trail braking then, Is all about being gentle.

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