Be Afraid of This Motorcycle Technique

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In our video How to Defeat Fear, I spend a lot of time discussing where fear comes from and then some strategies on how we manage those fears to put ourselves into the best position for learning, but there actually is one motorcycle riding technique that we need to be afraid of.

You see, a lot of programs tend to invent less than perfect riding advice to circumvent this super scary technique. You’re aware of them. The most common and arguably the worst one is “Never brake in a corner”

should a motorcycle brake in a corner?

The truth of the matter is that braking in a corner, while often dismissed as a “race-only” technique intended solely for fast lap times, is an extremely important skill for us street riders to master. How often have you come across something unexpected in the middle of a corner? Be it wildlife, debris, oncoming traffic or even just the corner getting tighter than we anticipated?

Car in the oncoming lane in a blind corner

So why were we taught to never touch the front brake in a corner? The problem is a lot of programs tend to worry so much about teaching new riders how to be new riders that the critical components of becoming good riders is sometimes overlooked. A basic rider course really only qualifies us to ride around in a parking lot in second gear. It’s an excellent first step in the learning process, but it’s only the first baby step.

Motorcycle riding a corner in a canyon

Alright, so let’s circle back to that one thing in our riding that we need to be afraid of? It’s not being afraid of our controls. We shouldn’t be afraid of our front brake. We shouldn’t be afraid of applying the front brake while we’re leaned over. We need to be confident that we can go to the brakes when were nervous.

That means we need to be afraid of “abruptness.” We need to be afraid to do anything unexpected or sudden! Abruptness is one of our greatest enemies as riders. The good news is that’s on us.

Define abrupt

I know there are a lot of programs teach us never to brake in a corner. The do this because they don’t want riders to grab the brakes. Well, how about instead of not teaching a lifesaving skill because it might be performed incorrectly, we teach the importance of smooth linear inputs?

motorcycle riding course

This is a brilliant demonstration that Yamaha Champ School does to illustrate this point. If I’m straight up and down and I have good grip, nothing matters. But what does abruptness do as we increase lean or when grip goes down? Whereas, if I’m smooth and linear as I use a control, the tire will take an incredible amount of load. Just not an abrupt load. The exact same thing goes for how we roll on the throttle. Sneaking on the throttle isn’t the problem. Abruptly grabbing a fistful of gas is the problem.

I’m going back to the wisdom of a six-year-old here “You really shouldn’t surprise the motorcycle like that”

[you] really shouldn’t surprise the motorcycle like that

David, six-years-old

Oh, and that six year old has evolved into a very talented 13-year old racer in his own right, by the way.

david 13-year-old motorcycle racer

We also don’t want rider aids to lull us into being lazy. ABS doesn’t mean we should stab the brakes. There are lots of situations where ABS can be overwhelmed. Same thing with traction control. Yes, Traction Control and Anti-Lock Brake Systems are awesome things, joys of science and technology and all that, but they are not infallible. They cannot anticipate. We want to ride in such a way that our rider aids to, at most, just barely activate.

Try to think of these rider aids as the engineers looking out for us, not something that invites us to develop bad techniques. Because what would happen if we never learned how to sneak the brake on or we never perfected smoothly rolling on the throttle and then something clips our ABS or Traction Control lead wire?

motorcycle abs lead wire

Don’t be afraid of your controls. Don’t be afraid of your front brake. Don’t be afraid to go to the brakes when your nervous; when the corner starts to tighten up on you. It’s not the front brake, it’s the abruptness.

We need to get away from being emotional riders and become technical riders. So if you want to take this to the next level, we don’t even want fear to enter into it. Honestly, better than being scared, be analytical. Or as Rossi, the Doctor himself might say, be clinical. Instead of riding with hope, hoping you make the corner, stay focused as you ride. Be ice, man.

motorcycle braking in a corner

Be analytical and critique your riding. Better than being afraid of abruptness, be critical of abruptness.

Remember this. Braking in a corner does not make the bike stand up and run wide. Abruptly grabbing the front brake in the middle of the corner can make the bike stand up. It’s not the control that’s bad. It’s the abrupt application of that control that’s bad.


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