LETS TAKE A RIDE TOGETHER
Here are nine corners on an imaginary road. We are riding at a brisk pace, whatever that means to you. Grip is great, camber is positive, no surprises.
The first two turns are open and flowing so we just roll the throttle shut for turn 1 and then pop a quick downshift to slow for turn 2. We haven’t used the brakes yet because we’re not going crazy fast and these first two corners are sweepers. Slowing with deceleration and a downshift is perfect, but we think to ourselves, “If I bring my R1M next weekend, I might be braking for turns 1 and 2 because I could be going faster, especially if I’m following Chris. More speed means more brakes.”
As we approach turn 3, we see the radius is tighter—or we remember it from last time. We roll off the throttle and pick up the brakes, realizing the speed we carried through turns 1 and 2 will not work in the tighter turn 3. We tip into the corner with the brakes on, giving away brake pressure as we add lean angle, but leaving the brakes on until we’re happy with our speed and direction. We aren’t “flicking” our bike into the corner; we add lean angle in a linear fashion and trail off (reduce) brake pressure in a linear fashion. Watch my “100 Points of Grip” video on YouTube for another look at tire usage.
As we stand the bike up exiting turn 3, we accelerate, gently “adding throttle points” as we give away “lean angle points.” We accelerate toward turn 4 because we plan to use the brakes. Riders who don’t plan to use the brakes don’t accelerate very much. That might be enjoyable to them but maybe not for you. If you like to accelerate then learn to love to brake. Remember, the corner won’t change for your speed; you must change your speed for the corner.
The fourth turn is slightly tighter than the third so we leave our brakes on just a bit longer so the bike turns just a bit more. A slowing bike continues to tighten its radius and that’s just what we need for turn 4.
Turn 5 is hardly a turn, and we accelerate all the way through it. Approaching turn 6, we roll off and brake, not as much as we did for turns 3 and 4 but enough to get us into the corner controlled and comfortable. We remember, “It’s hard to hurt yourself by entering a corner too slowly.” If we overbrake, we make a mental note for next time: “This turn is a little more open than I originally thought. I can go faster and still be within my comfort zone next weekend.” I define comfort zone on the street as riding with a 30 percent safety margin in braking, lean angle, and acceleration.
Turn 7, like 5, is a corner we approach slowly due to the proximity of turn 6, so we accelerate all the way through 7. We know if we accelerate too hard or too early because the bike runs wider than we want due to increasing speed increasing the radius of the corner. See last week’s column.
Turn 8, like turns 1 and 2, just needs some deceleration because it’s so open and we drive (accelerate) the bike through turn 9.
We arrive at breakfast grinning and comfortable. Our ride along the road was dictated by the question: “What speed do I need to negotiate this corner?” We don’t brake for every corner, we don’t accelerate through every corner, we simply match our bike’s speed for the corner’s radius. Sometimes that’s brakes, sometimes just a downshift, sometimes no deceleration needed. In downhill corners, we use our brakes twice as much as we do in uphill corners—at the same comfort limit.
Tight corners, like turns 3 and 4, need a lot of braking and significant trail-braking to let the bike change direction late in these tight corners. If we try to approach turns 3 and 4 like we did turns 1 and 2, we will run wide due to our lack of braking, which is front-tire-contact-patch control, speed control, and front-end-geometry control.
We don’t hope a corner matches our style; we adjust our style to match the corner. Casey Stoner felt that his adjustability to the environment is what gave him an advantage, and we street riders want this adjustability in our approach too.
If you missed last week’s column, study it hard because these are life-changing, industry-growing, mistake-saving skills. There’s a wonderful world of safety and consistency waiting for you and it revolves around brake use.
Thanks for reading,