Rear Brake on the Handlebar: Scooters + Professional Motorcycles

Forums ChampU ChampU General Discussion Rear Brake on the Handlebar: Scooters + Professional Motorcycles

  • This topic has 2 replies, 2 voices, and was last updated 2 months ago by RobG.
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  • #528524
    RobG

    I was stuck trying to figure out smooth deceleration procedure when I didn’t see the section on rear brake almost til the end of the course. I was 2/3rds of the way through the course and puzzled, but glad when I did finally notice the section on rear brake.

    I have two questions or comments on front brake, throttle, and rear brake.

    Part 1: The statement “Roll off the throttle to the brake lever” seems ambiguous. It can be read a few ways:
    A) Roll the throttle closed to the front brake lever
    B) Roll the throttle to a reduced “maintenance throttle” to the front brake lever.
    Note: I assume “to the brake lever” is the front brake lever for most motorcycles.
    Question: Is B acceptable, or is A always desired?

    Part 2: Rear brake on the handlebar advantages for scooters and professional motorcycles

    I use a 50cc scooter, so changes in velocity have a different type of risk with someone behind you. I love that touching the brake illuminates the light for motorists behind you. Rolling off the throttle does not inform someone behind you that you are slowing down.

    Also with radius equals mph, fine repeatable control of velocity really seems to help choose lines a lot better.

    The rear brake on the handlebar situation for scooters seems to have the following in its favor:
    1) Allows fine control of one to five points of braking with your fingers.
    2) Reduces the initial time it takes to initiate deceleration, smoothly and more predictably, than the time time it takes to roll off the throttle to the front brake. Rolling off the throttle (closed?) can vary a lot in its impact (engine braking or not) versus smooth and light modulation of rear brake pressure. I can start to modulate the rear brake pressure solely or in tandem with reducing throttle to decelerate more predictably than with throttle reduction and front brake alone. When the throttle is completely closed, and I still desire an increased rate of deceleration, I can then add front brake pressure in a controlled manner. (Reducing rear brake in proportion to how much the front tire gets loaded loaded and the rear tire unloads.)
    * Scooters typically have most their weight in the rear, although the wheelbase is shorter.
    * Yes, the bike will tend to stand up when rear brake is applied and reduce lean angle, but our change in velocity has more impact on our ability to choose direction than lean angle? (Centrifugal force is proportional to the square of velocity, so change in velocity has a squared impact in our ability to change direction?)
    * Smoothly applying controls (throttle or front brake, with optional rear brake) to help manage suspension evenly at both front and rear of the bike will permit maximum handling for bumps on the road, keeping more rubber and grip available.

    Is this a valid understanding? I know the terms used to explain situations can help immensely, as it can be really difficult to remove ambiguity when trying to illustrate concepts and ideas.

    Course & Video: https://ridelikeachampion.com/topic/rear-brake-section-1/ (4:04min mark about rear brake on the handlebar)

    PS. The course is awesome, and hands down the best info on the net.

    #528612
    Keith Culver

    Hey Rob,

    Love the thoroughness!

    For the first question, it’s A) Roll the throttle closed to the front brake lever. Maintenance throttle is telling the bike to go while the brake is telling the bike to slow. These are opposing forces so we never want to overlap throttle and front brake. Even with maintenance throttle because maintenance throttle is maintain speed while brakes are to lower speed.

    The second one is bit more complicated, and maybe too much. I ride a scooter. Have two Zuma 125s and used one as my full-time transportation for 7 years in San Diego. My absolute favorite vehicle from the Yamaha lineup. I don’t exactly put as much thought into the science of it as you do (You are apparenly much more educated than I am) but I do;
    1. Go to the brakes when I am nervous but I almost always go to both brakes at the same time.
    2. Continue to be on both brakes, modulating pressure until I have slowed enough and pointed in the right direction.

    My scooter brakes are not nearly as powerful as my motorcycle brakes so I find using both as if they were one the best way to slow the scooter.

    Not sure what you meant here; Reduces the initial time it takes to initiate deceleration, smoothly and more predictably, than the time time it takes to roll off the throttle to the front brake. I guess you are saying since you don’t need that split second to roll off the throttle before squeezing the rear brake lever you can begin braking a fraction of a second earlier? If so, that might be true but I still like to keep the habit of closing the throttle before applying the brakes (its just muscle memory at this point).

    I do get what you are saying about initiating rear brake a bit before you close the throttle and understand how it could be helpful if you wanted to get down to the nitty gritty. I coached a pro racer who was having an issue entering turn one at Pitt Race (well over 100mph downhill with a left hand turn). His rear end was all over the place on corner entry so we had him apply a little rear brake while he was closing the throttle. It slowed the rebound down just enough to settle the rear end and make the turn smoother. So like we say often; there are different degrees of application.

    While I dont ride my scooter for performance and probably will continue to close the throttle and then go to both brakes equally, I don’t disagree if you want to smoothly begin to use some rear brake as you are closing the throttle. As long as you are not trying to accelerate and brake at the same time or overlap with the front.

    * Yes, the bike will tend to stand up when the rear brake is applied and reduce lean angle, but our change in velocity has more impact on our ability to choose direction than lean angle? – Yes, and no.
    1. If the right amount of brake (front or rear) is applied, the bike won’t stand up. Too much brake (either) and the bike may stand up. This is why we encourage all riders to try to have a “one-point-hand”.
    2. Lean angle will help the bike turn in less time and distance but it just comes with more risk. The more you leaned over, the closer you are to falling over.
    (Centrifugal force is proportional to the square of velocity, so change in velocity has a squared impact in our ability to change direction?) – You are out of my league here.

    Here’s what we do know…. certain practices work better than others and there is almost a best practice. If you stick within the limits of grip and always respect speeds effect on radius to keep a margin of safety, try things to see what works best for you.

    Happy Riding,

    Keith

    • This reply was modified 2 months ago by Keith Culver.
    • This reply was modified 2 months ago by Keith Culver.
    #529744
    RobG

    Thank you very much for your reply. I wanted to spend some time to absorb and reflect on it. The clarification on rolling the throttle completely closed before sneaking on the front brake really helped. “Rolling off the throttle” can simply mean too many things. It was the answer I was looking for. 🙂

    I think the situation I faced and tried to describe is fine and smooth adjustment to lane and road conditions that scooter riders generally have more concern with on small wheels. Having the rear brake on the handlebar combined with the added engine weight on the rear lets me finely scrub speed to negotiate my line within the lane more smoothly and accurately than the throttle itself for small adjustments. The class on “Rear Brake” showed how different bikes may use the rear brake in different percentages depending on the bike itself and the conditions you ride in. My scooter has drum brakes that are the same specifications on both front and rear, so I’m about 50%/50%.

    So I’ll go through the process below to keep my speed and direction in check at all times (scooter only with the brake controls on the handlebar for smooth inputs):
    * Both hands covering front and rear brake levers
    * Throttle engaged (at whatever speed)
    * Scan the road ahead
    * Identify something that makes me adjust my speed and direction

    Then each of these steps will progressively help adjust speed from small to large:
    1) Start smoothly applying rear brake on the handlebar (regularly adjusting brake pressure in small amounts)
    2) Need to decrease more speed or in less time? Start reduction in throttle in tandem with rear brake (rear brake pressure is often more predictable and faster to achieve results than throttle reduction alone on my 50cc 4-stroke carbed engine)
    3) Keep reducing throttle until it is closed completely. Maintain or add rear brake pressure.
    4) Start smoothly applying front brake on the handlebar. No throttle.
    5) As weight transfers and loads to the front tire, ease off rear brake pressure.
    6) Adjust the pressure on your front brake as required (some rear brake can still be used).

    Smoothly reverse the procedure to increase speed when heading in the right direction. Do not add throttle until the front brake is no longer adding any brake pressure.

    I’m not driving for performance, and I generally keep lean angle to a minimum. I use a scooter merely for exploring back roads usually in early morning on weekends to avoid traffic. That doesn’t mean there isn’t enough to worry about in terms of hidden road obstacles along the way with 10 inch wheels and limited acceleration with a 50cc four-stroke engine barely managing 2 ponies. I don’t ride as much now, but I look forward to an upgrade somewhere in the 125cc Zuma class.

    Thank you again for a wonderful course. If more people realized that the rear brake on the handlebar for scooters was a feature of professional motorcycles, maybe scooters would have more respect than they currently have. 🙂

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