Going too slow to trail brake

Forums ChampU ChampU General Discussion Going too slow to trail brake


  • This topic has 16 replies, 9 voices, and was last updated 2 months ago by Alex Hatfield.
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    Murray Cook

    I have a hard time trail braking when I ride the local twisties, usually my braking is done early and I ride slow without much lean angle. I ride the section of road in 3rd gear, and the engine braking is so strong most of the time I just roll off the throttle a bit, and it can be hard to modulate the throttle as an engine brake and a throttle in a turns. It is a narrow twisty road with no middle stripe, barely wide enough for 2 lanes, and a comfortable speed probably averages 35-40mph. It goes through the woods, so lined with trees on both sides and most turns are blind turns… the possibility of deer, oncoming traffic in my lane, and pine straw are always factors keeping my speed down.

    Is the road I’m riding a limiting factor? I feel like the potential for road hazards and the hard engine braking from being in third gear are not ideal. I like the route because it’s a beautiful ride and very low traffic. Are there any criteria, things to look for, on a good riding/practice road? For reference I’m on a Duke 390 working through the Braking section of Champ U.

    Keith Culver


    Sorry for the delay here. We’ve been traveling and finishing up the last round of schools in 2021.

    It sounds like you are avoiding taking chances when riding the twisties. Braking early and riding slowly without much lean angle is kinda safe when there are no variables thrown your way. If the road is clear and traction is good, it’s pretty hard to go wrong doing that but it also decreases the fun factor a bit when it comes to really enjoy the curves which are why most of us ride motorcycles and it is also less safe when a variable is introduced (dear, car in your lane, gravel or water, etc.).

    Think of it like this….. engine braking is not really within your control. It IS a form of braking and will put weight forward which gives us better front tire traction and steering geometry but the engine is controlling how much weight forward and thus controlling how much steering geometry and how much contact patch (front traction). You will DEFINITELY be a better and safer rider as you learn to be on control of these things by using the brake instead of relying on the engine.

    The road is not the limiting factor, you are. Thats OK, we’re here to help with that and taking ChampU is a good start.

    Let’s forget the word trail-braking for a moment. Let’s only talk about controlling your speed to match the circumstance. When you enter any/every curve or corner that requires you to be slower than the straightaway leading up to it, use your brakes until you have slowed down enough and you are pointing in the right direction. If the engine is making it difficult, run a gear higher so you have to use the brakes more. When you are slowed down enough to be happy (no longer nervous) and your bike is pointed where you want it to go, you can then release the brakes (Smoothly). At this time, if the road opens up, you can begin to accelerate to the next curve. IF the road is still turning, just maintain the safe speed you were at when you released the brakes until you see the road open up, then accelerate.

    I recommend playing with this in a low-risk environment like your neighborhood. Ride around at 25mph making left and right hand turns on side streets and practice using your brakes until you are happy with speed and direction. Feel the bike turn better with the weight forward.

    By the way, where do you live?

    Love to hear how your practice went.


    Murray Cook

    Thanks for the great advice, I think running in a higher gear would be good, until I get more comfortable going into turns faster so I need to slow more than just 3rd gear engine braking. I try to practice the exercise keeping the brake light on past the tipping point, but it seems like I let off the throttle so early before the turn, the engine braking slows me down before I get there, due to getting nervous and fear of entering the turn too fast. But I understand the only real solution is more time practicing in the seat and not pushing myself too hard on the street.

    I’m in Bessemer, AL a suburb of Birmingham. We have Barber Motorsports Park and Talladega Speedway out here with track days, but I haven’t been yet. I recorded a 5 min video of my ride today on the road mentioned above, the road gets pretty narrow half way through. At the end 4:35 I ran wide on a sharp left turn, but stayed on the front brake until good with speed and direction and kept it on the road. I used a good bit of brake, and I’m not used to counter steering with that much more weight on the front wheel, so the handlebars felt heavy and I just didn’t lean the bike enough. If a picture is worth a thousand words then a video must be worth a thousand forum posts.

    Murray Cook

    And more practice in neighborhood streets like you said, I can get good lean and braking turning around in cul-de-sacs and side roads. I also like riding in parking lots, that’s where I really get to play with lean angle and turn radius, but haven’t found a great parking lot yet.


    Murray, just a friendly advice… I think you need to start building up brake pressure before [as much as you need to on straight line] then smoothly trail off brake pressure as you tip into the corner. Do not relay on engine braking, using higher gear would be beneficial as you become more proficient in braking practice. Stay safe !

    Vũ Đức

    Cmon, its very simple.
    1. Trail brake to adjust your speed
    2. Stable the bike while cornering (keep fork work in mid range – 100mm course)

    Keith Culver


    You ran wide (or right to the double-yellow depending on camera placement) right at 21 seconds. If you listen to the video you hear you on the gas when running wide. This is 100% the wrong control at this time. Remember, one of the most important habits to remember and practice is radius and the effect on or of speed (R=MPH). An accelerating bike will always open its radius (aka run wider) so make lowering MPH your priority for turning (curves). Enter every corner for the rest of your life thinking about adjusting your speed to the situation. Entering a corner, you’re going to be slowing 99.99% of the time. Make this your priority right now and commit to it.

    I can hear that you are running in a pretty low gear. Run up a gear (but not faster) and keep saying this to yourself ut loud in your helmet when going through the corners; “Use my brakes until I am happy with my direction, use my brakes until I am happy with direction, happy with direction” and keep saying it until the bike is pointed safely in the right direction. I think the speed will come easy to you as your not going too fast so concentrate on the direction. Use your brakes until YOU are happy with where your motorcycle is pointed and then you can accelerate. Never before.

    We don’t have any ChamPStreets near you this year but if you can swing the added expense, ChamPSchool at Carolina Motorsports Park in October or Cresson, TX in April would be a game-changer for you.

    Happy New Year

    Murray Cook

    Cool, I will keep all that in mind and try repeating the mantra in corners, thanks for the analysis and watching the video. The Carolina Motorsports Park in Oct would probably work, I’ll check it out.

    Francisco Andres Ramirez España Estrada

    I’m still not through the whole course. I’ve been taking a lesson at a time and practicing mainly on the road.
    I’ve found myself in this exact situation and learned that this exposes you to new dangers as oncoming traffic from behind, this will likely make cars to try go around you on your same lane (yes, they’re nice like that). So I react by accelerating which then makes you go wide on the turn.
    So what worked for me was trying to enter the turn a little bit faster (not to much for me yet since I’m gaining confidence) but enough as to match the traffic speed, and keep my fingers on thee brake to steer, if I start feeling I’m running wide I press slowly until I’m where I want to be on the lane, trying to never go tight, which, if happens, I will fix by letting go of the brake slowly too and maybe just gently turning the throttle.
    So my learning comes down to, it’s easier to fix going a little too fast than going too slow, that really gets you into some trouble.

    Keith Culver



    This is exactly what we want. You are utilizing radius = mph everywhere, all the time. We call you “The Adjustable Rider”. The road will never change for us, we need to be always adjusting for the road. What you described is just how I ride.



    Peter Konecny

    Hey guys, I have got a question regarding trail-braking. Here’s the example:
    I am approaching a turn, starting to brake, now I feel comfy with the speed and I’m maintaning a neutral throttle with a couple of braking points but suddennly the turn tightens up so I need to slow down even more and add some breaking pressure. What do I do with a lean angle? Should I keep it the same or even take it away gradually as I am breaking more and more? What if I have to lean more to make the turn? I know that it’s all about how many grip points there are left but anyway, I found myself in that situation several times and what I did was break harder and add a lean angle – it was in a slow speed). Thanks

    Keith Culver


    Step one, always remembers to be smooth and not abrupt. Being abrupt will negate what I am about to say as an abrupt input on the brakes will make the bike stand up quickly and run wide or loose traction abruptly.

    That being said, the short answer is yes. As you add brake pressure, you typically need to take away lean angle when operating at
    or near 100 points. But, if all of this is happening well under 100% (points) of available grip, you can potentially add brake pressure without having to remove lean angle or even add some. Using body position is helpful in this situation because it will help handle the decreasing radius without adding as much risk (lean angle). It sounds like your going slow and most likely well under 100 points. The key is staying smooth so you can feel when you get close and using body position to help mitigate.

    Make sense?

    – Keith

    Peter Konecny

    Absolutely, thanks for such an extensive answer.

    Ching Lee

    “engine brake put weight forward”
    does it apply to all types of motorcycle? (weight forward/backward)

    Alex Hatfield


    Yes, but remember: engine braking is neither adjustable nor repeatable. Using our front brake is really where we start adding load to the front tire, spreading out that contact patch, and controlling our steering geometry.

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