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I've been trying to learn more about trail braking. I think I know the theory (correct me if I'm wrong) but would like to know how and when to put it to use.

A YouTube video says that more front brake: compresses the forks, shortens the wheelbase, and allows a tighter turn without requiring more lean. OK, I'll buy that. I'd like to know how the trail braking approach to a corner differs from the standard: brake early, hit the apex and roll on the throttle ASAP approach. Are we talking about a willingness to brake later... or longer...or harder, or what? Talk me through a corner please.

Thanks
 

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The idea behind it is to increase the patch of tire on the pavement.If you just roll through a corner the tire patch is say 2"x 2" just for an example. When you trail brake you increase that tire patch or footprint to 3" x 3" or more which equals more traction. It doesn't take much brake just enough to where you feel the pads touch the rotors.
 

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Also, don't forget your rear brake when blasting though the twisties. A small amount of rear brake can settle the chassis and make navigating the corner more stable.
 

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On the street trail braking shouldn't be about going faster but riding safer.

Come into a corner too hot you can scrub off speed while leaning into the turn. Gives you confidence that you won't get surprised.

Trail braking requires smooth input though and coordination with the throttle. You gradually apply the front brake as your ease off the throttle to settle the bike. You get back on the throttle as you ease off the brake lever. No abrupt inputs!

It's a good technique to learn but it isn't instinctive well to me anyway. Especially with my DL 1000 that has a lot of engine braking. It's easy to just ease off the throttle and let the motor slow the bike while leaned in.

I practice trail braking just in case I might blow a corner entry someday, hey could happen! :grin2:
 
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You do brake later, as you're relying on momentum to carry you through the first half of the turn. When you're first learning this enter the turn at your normal speed and brake very lightly, to get a feel as to how it affects your handling. You can play with speed and brake force as you get used to it.

I've been trailbraking for a few months, it's saved my ass twice. Once was coming around a blind curve, there was an oncoming truck taking half my lane. As I was already on the front brake, i just added a little pressure and the bike tucked tighter into the corner, nice and smooth. The other time I was passing a truck just before the road started a long, straight descent into a valley. Except it wasn't straight, after I got past the truck I saw there was a hard left and if I missed it I'd go off a cliff, and having just passed I was coming in way too hot. I was able to get on the brake pretty hard and get through the corner, no way I'd have been able to do that if I hadn't been practicing.

I don't use the rear brake when cornering, too easy to lock it up, and you do not want that in a corner.
 
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I'm always practicing. Maybe one day I'll get good at it. To me it's about controlling the release of the brake as much as applying the brake. Easy on, easy off, never like a light switch. I always ride with my index finger on the brake lever. I also have a cramp-buster or throttle-rocker on the throttle. Trail braking makes a noticeable stabilizing effect on the bike. With the heel of my hand on the throttle-rocker and my finger on the brake, I can enter a turn and control the application of both the brake and the throttle. I don't have to completely release the throttle to apply brake and I can accelerate or decelerate while braking and while releasing the brake. I carry the brake further through the turn than I used to before I adopted trail-braking. It adds confidence and more control in all turns from slow to spirited. I'm know to add a light foot to the rear brake as well but I'm careful there. It's easy to find the anti-lock feature with the rear brake pedal. In my humble and amateur opinion, it's a worthwhile skill to pursue.
 

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As an aid

As a teaching aid (but not in fact a reality) instructors use a model called a traction circle. Your tires can generate traction up to a certain amount in any direction. If you exceed that, the tires slides and you likely crash. Going straight, all of this traction can be used for braking. As you start cornering, some of the traction, perhaps most of it, is being used to turn the bike. Relatively little is left for either braking or acceleration.

Trail braking consists of braking hard while upright, and progressively letting off the brake as the lean angle (turn) increases, as more traction is needed for cornering and less is available for braking. It is not restricted to the rear brake, which in most cases provides very little braking force.

As a secondary effect, hard braking transfers weight (force) to the front tire, temporarily increasing the amount of traction generated by the front wheel, which allows both harder braking and harder turning. Conversely the rear wheel loses the same amount of weight (force) so braking action at the rear is limited. Under braking the bike 'turns in' to the corner better.

Beginners are best served by keeping the functions separate. Brake first, then execute the turn. Managing lean angle as speed decreases can be a little tricky for beginners.

Racers are using all of the traction, all of the time. They wait to brake until the last possible instant, brake hard while upright, then transition to decreasing braking as the lean angle increases.

Generally handy to use the rear, rather than front, brake mid-corner, especially if cornering hard, because exceeding the traction on the rear wheel will produce a slide, which can usually be managed, while a front-wheel slide is usually the first act in a crash. As mentioned above, a touch of the brake will provide a little weight transfer to the front, giving a firmer steering feel.

The effect is very evident in cars. A properly balanced car, if coasted into a turn (no braking or acceleration) will feel a little vague in the front as it turns in to the corner, and the back end may feel a little loose coming out of the corner. Trail-braking will transfer enough weight to the front that the steering is 'sharp', turning in well, and starting acceleration mid-corner (at the apex, more or less) transfers enough weight to the rear that it sticks better coming out of the corner. Early Porsche 911's with a large rear weight bias demanded the technique. Timid drivers that backed off the throttle coming out of a corner invariably spun the car.
 

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ps

Happened to be watching the MotoGP race today. At some points they showed a graphic for braking and throttle. The riders braked fully when upright, progressively easing up as the lean angle increased. Then at the apex they'd start feeding in throttle, and be at full throttle even before the bike was upright.

The interesting thing to me was the minimal, almost non-existent gap between letting off the brakes and feeding in throttle. Not much coasting.

Were a couple of instances too of riders 'washing out' the front tires going into corners, as they tried for too much traction braking while leaned over.

Trail-braking is great for going fast, and a useful skill if surprised when going through a corner. The true skill is to anticipate possible problems, and avoid the surprises. Be aware of lines of vision, place yourself within the lane to maximize them, and avoid going so fast that you can't stop when something unexpected comes into your sight.

Had a local fatal crash early this summer when a rider was going WAY too fast on a city street, came over the brow of a hill, to find a red light and vehicles stopped at it. Tail-ended the stopped vehicles and died. Investigators suggest he may have been going 90 or so in a 35 zone. The surviving mother, of course, complained about the 'dangerous intersection'.
 
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