Photo by our friends @ 4thriders.com
One area of riding for many motorcyclists that becomes a pain point is that of braking, and how to properly apply the brakes for the situation. This is something that I have seen be an issue for myself both on the street and on the track. On the track the more speed I’ve picked up the more this became an issue, and a change in bikes showed just how weak of an area this was for me.
Due to this, I’ve been spending a fair bit of time trying to understand braking. Understanding what the top instructors out there teach, and how this applies to me and my riding. There were a few points that were extremely helpful to me and I look forward to implementing further in my riding. One of my favorite resources is fastersafer.com with Ken Hill and Nick Ienatsch.
One of the topics that hit home and I’ve started practicing every single time I’m reaching for the brakes is the 5% rule. It’s that first (and last) tiny initial squeeze and that last tiny release. Once that 5% is applied you can adjust brake pressure depending on the situation. This first 5%, however, is essential to allowing everything to load, shift and move, regardless of your pace. After that, you will have the control and the ability to finesse the brakes depending on traction, tires, and other conditions. If you are prone to stabbing the brakes eventually you will get yourself into trouble since your initial squeeze/stab will surpass available traction and abilities.
I’m amazed how this is hard for most of us, even when we’ve been riding for years. We constantly hear about being “smooth” and applying things “smoothly” but for me anyways, that just never translated very well. People who were significantly better on the brakes must have been doing something radically different, and simply saying that “smooth is fast” didn’t equal what I was seeing. The explanation on fastersafer.com made sense. No matter who you are, what your pace is, what your location it, that first 5% is the key. It is BETWEEN that first 5% and last 5% that things can change, but you MUST have those in place in order for the rest of that to condense safely!
The great thing about the 5% rule is that you can practice it anytime you are on a bike and every single time you reach for the brakes. There is no shortage of opportunities to practice this art, and it does not require being at a track or other high speed maneuvers. In fact, it’s a great practice for around town on your street bike, no matter what you ride.