Jeff Allen

Trail-Braking On The Street

Proper technique is the same on the street or track

While shooting this video, Coop DeVille and I sat 50 feet from the freeway on-ramp and watched 100 percent of the four-wheeled vehicles entering the on-ramp trail their brakes into the corner, the brake lights staying on past the turn-in. Grandma in her minivan, the plumber in his work truck, and everyone in between—100 percent. Were they all trained at a racetrack, or were they simply slowing their vehicles until they were happy with their speed and direction with trail-braking?

Certainly the latter, yet many motorcyclists have been told, “Get all your braking done in a straight line, be off the brakes when you turn,” and “Don’t use the brakes at lean angle.” This advice, while simple for the instructor to teach and judge, is completely incorrect. It’s dangerous. Your bike, designed by an expert rider, will be safer, more stable, and more controllable if you leave your brake on past the turn-in in any corner you brake for, anywhere you ride. You trail-brake with the front or rear brake, though the front brake has a more-direct effect on your steering geometry adjustment.

My gang at the Yamaha Champions Riding School teaches trail-braking, or brake-assisted steering, in every program we do; these programs are often on a racetrack, leading riders to think brake-assisted steering is a track-only technique—wrong. Please see my Cycle World article The Brake Light Initiative and notice that it revolves around street riding because that's where riders are dying and good training is lacking.

Coop and I shot a lot of fun stuff, but limited this first vid to only seven minutes (if you like it we’ll do more). This vid comes on the heels of YCRS’s “100 Points of Grip” and “Radius = MPH” videos; they go hand in hand and will help you see the overall picture of how trail-braking vastly increases your safety at whatever speed you choose. Unlike straight-line braking only, trail-braking gets better as you go faster, and that is the measurement I use when discussing riding techniques. Nothing matters when you’re going slow but it all counts when the pace comes up or the traction goes down. When you’re into that blind unknown corner a bit too fast, trail-braking is the skill that will continue to slow and turn your motorcycle—even stop it midcorner if necessary.

Let’s go to Pueblo, Colorado, and ride our streetbikes the way they were designed to be ridden by the experts who designed them.

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