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axemanblue

Fishtailing on the Freeway

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axemanblue
It's so much fun, let me tell you.
 
This is a question about how you approach emergency braking. But I'll tell the story so someone else can also learn from my mistake yesterday.
 
For the record, there's never a good reason to split lanes at 40mph while traffic is going 0-5mph.  But when I was doing my normal speed and then let a cafe racer and a cruiser blow by me, I decided to tag along at their pace instead of my own.  I figure what the hell; they're assuming the lion's share of the risk and as the third bike in the convoy I had more time to react to an issue.
 
Well, issue arrived in the form of van that tried to come over in front of us; the driver was one of the rare breed who assumed that because he waited for one bike that was enough and there couldn't possibly be any more.  Van waited for cafe racer then started to come over without looking, so cruiser and I myself went into emergency maneuvers.  He swerves; not having room to swerve, I brake (and fishtail).  Thankfully the then van realizes we're there and stops halfway over so we make it past him unharmed.
 
I then slow the f*ck down.
 
My other bikes have been abs, so I haven't had the squirmy-ass-on-asphalt feeling pretty much ever.  I don't come from dirt so the feeling is unfamiliar--not panic inspiring, but more almost puzzling in a "what the f*ck is that?" kind of way.
 
I've since seen a few schools of thought on emergency braking on the street.  
 
One says tap the rear brake first to start collapsing the front, then release the rear brake to keep the rear from locking as you squeeze the front brake to do the lion's share of the stopping.
 
Another says use both brakes and let the rear lock if it wants to.
 
Another says pull in the clutch and use the front only; rationale is that in a real emergency the fewer things panic brain has to deal with the better it will perform overall.
 
I'm going to take my ass out this morning to practice some emergency braking, but wanted to pose this thought to the board before I went.  What's your take on emergency braking on this bike?

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yamahazaki
Wait, is the first line sarcasm? My detector is rusty.

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pattonme
the mammal known as homo sapiens isn't very good at multiple fine motor-control when under stress.
 
* Do not squeeze clutch till nearly stopped - engine load will delay a rear tire lockup
* focus nearly all your attention on the front brake - don't suddenly grab but rather squeeze and keep squeezing harder and harder and harder till you think you'll rupture a brake line or break the damn lever in half.
* If you remember to also apply rear break, extra points
 
People lock up the rear because stomping on the brake is what they practice and perfect because they drive a car 98% of the time. As a cyclist you have to 'undo' that ingrained muscle-memory reaction.
 
> Another says use both brakes and let the rear lock if it wants to.
 
this is the most correct answer but requires frequent practice.
Best answer, mitigate risk in the first place so you don't have to rely on your emergency powers.
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axemanblue
Yamahazaki--definitely sarcasm. Slipping and sliding in the company of freeway traffic is not something I'd recommend.
 
Pattonme, I'll take that. After playing around with the different braking techniques I'm not a fan of the pull in the clutch and rely on the front only tactic. Generally I use a fair anount of engine braking. But in a "stop right now context" I'm also thinking a new brake set-up wouldn't hurt. :-)

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fzob1
 
For an emergency braking drill, a rider coach once told me to grab brakes fully and said that he does not care if the rear locks up and slides a little. His words gave me the confidence to try it and I stopped in the shortest distance in the group. He was impressed and measured my stopping distance twice with an approving smile.
 
Here is how I go into panic braking usually.....Cut throttle, Squeeze front brake much more than rear while using all the engine braking I can get, downshift as much as possible and try to get into 1st gear before a complete stop if time allows, while using engine braking in each gear on the way to 1st gear. Use rear brake also as far as my confidence allows. I am using engine brakiing all the way till I am almost fully stopped. So essentially both hands and both feet are working all the time till the complete stop. Pulling clutch in and left foot going to the ground happens almost same time for me while right foot is still on rear brake. More important is to get the bike straightened and close to vertical before going crazy on brakes, if I was turning or leaning.
 

 
One says tap the rear brake first to start collapsing the front, then release the rear brake to keep the rear from locking as you squeeze the front brake to do the lion's share of the stopping.
 
Another says use both brakes and let the rear lock if it wants to.
 
Another says pull in the clutch and use the front only; rationale is that in a real emergency the fewer things panic brain has to deal with the better it will perform overall.
 

 

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rocco
I agree the bike gets a little squirrelly in a panic brake and I have ridden lots of bikes.
 
I think the light weight with the short wheelbase might do it.
 
I did lay her down 1 week after buying her when a driver pulled out of the turn lane at night in the rain. I just went sideways. Better than being crushed though!

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rocco
I've never ridden a bike with abs! I think I did once but it was turned off.
 
I'd like to see the difference. I honestly feel like once I get power pilots instead of the battleaxe I'll feel much better.

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rhb
My MT07 has ABS, the first bike I ever owned with it. I like it. It prevents sliding most of the time, but can take longer to stop you, I have locked up the rear wheel a little in certain situations. Overall it is a great idea for guys transitioning to bigger bikes, it adds a cushion to your learning curve, I only wish in my case it was switchable.
I was always taught 60/40 front rear brake, but in all honesty in a panic it is all about muscle memory and experience. If you don't have it practiced you will never achieve optimum braking, if you have good instincts and quick reactions you can overcome your errors sometimes. I have hit the front brake so hard on another bike I ended up doing a stoppie with my GF on the back, she almost went over my head because she only weighed 70 pounds. So there is obviously a balance.

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rick
I owned a 630 lb BMW with ABS and had to modify my front brake only habits as the abs would activate at moderate speeds while hitting frost heaves. Washboard/like surfaces sent the ABS into a spasm that could result in all manner of terror. After not being able to stop at an intersection a block from my house while only going 25 mph, it became clear that when the ABS cycled, I needed to resist squeezing the lever harder ( a normal response to the bike not stopping ) and use both brakes. That bike also had a 63" wheelbase.
 
My Aprilia w/o AbS walks over those frost heaves far better, but with a short wheelbase (not as short as the FZ's) and a fairly forward weight bias (it's 100 lbs heavier) the back wheel can easily be lightened to the point that tieback brake is useless.
 
My point is simple - you need to find a safe place and practice and practice these kind of stops - every year of your riding life. And if yer getting on in age like me, reaction times will get slower so it's that much more important to know how to get to the limits of traction as fast as possible w/o skidding. As for skittering along the ground to avoid hitting something, not on my list of things to do. The tires and brakes will always slow you down faster.

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fzob1
My MT07 has ABS, the first bike I ever owned with it. I like it. It prevents sliding most of the time, but can take longer to stop you, I have locked up the rear wheel a little in certain situations. Overall it is a great idea for guys transitioning to bigger bikes, it adds a cushion to your learning curve, I only wish in my case it was switchable.  
Maybe you could be the first to add a on \\ off ABS switch to the MT07.  :) Riders have been doing that on other motorcycles. Link
 

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Beemer
Edited: When a bike's stopping distance is officially tested they do use the rear brake for a good reason, it helps to stop faster. Any school of thought that says to not use the rear brake or let off of it to stop faster is just dumb. Good decision to go out and practice emergency braking, more people should, especially if they freak out when the rear tire does the lock & fishtail. Just keep pointed in the direction you want to go and don't let off the rear brake when the rear is kicked way out to the side.
 
rhb - 70 lbs?!!! :o  
 

Beemer

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rhb
 
rhb - 70 lbs?!!! :o  

She was a Filipina, they are generally small people. 5' tall 70lbs. great as a back rider, you don't notice at all. 
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axemanblue
70lbs--she was tiny! That does sound like an ideal passenger.
 
I rode my bigger bike yesterday in the canyons and now I'm back to the weekday warrior the FZ, and the difference in braking characteristics is marked. To anyone who rides more then one bike or who gets a new bike, I definitely recommend practicing braking. Doing what I was yesterday would not work today, and vice versa.
 
Thanks for all the responses, and I think it's good that the subject of panic braking gets discussed as many riders (myself included for a time) don't think about it, much less practice it. For the FZ I am wondering how much, if any, difference changing pads would make. My experience is similar with what rocco mentioned about this particular bike being squirmy under duress in ways others I've owned are not. But I wonder how much of that is the stock set-up too.

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Beemer
rhb - 70 lbs?!!! :o  
She was a Filipina, they are generally small people. 5' tall 70lbs. great as a back rider, you don't notice at all.
That's what I figured since you're over there but even though I understand the reason for it the thought of having a 70 lb. gf just blows me away. If I were over there I think I would have two or three gf's vying for my attention. That's just me. (and maybe you already do ;)  )

Beemer

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pattonme
Some of us pack our own GF equivalent and aren't nearly as handsome to have multiple vying for our attention, @beemer, you incensitive clod. :)
 
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Beemer
Some of us pack our own GF equivalent and aren't nearly as handsome to have multiple vying for our attention, @beemer , you incensitive clod. :)
Thanks for the laugh. It has absolutely nothing to do with looks and I meant nothing by it. On a side note, you should check the forum rules about name calling and let people respond (maybe he understood what I meant) to avoid any embarrassment. Thank you!

Beemer

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rick
I rode my bigger bike yesterday in the canyons and now I'm back to the weekday warrior the FZ, and the difference in braking characteristics is marked. To anyone who rides more then one bike or who gets a new bike, I definitely recommend practicing braking. Doing what I was yesterday would not work today, and vice versa.
 
Thanks for all the responses, and I think it's good that the subject of panic braking gets discussed as many riders (myself included for a time) don't think about it, much less practice it. For the FZ I am wondering how much, if any, difference changing pads would make. My experience is similar with what rocco mentioned about this particular bike being squirmy under duress in ways others I've owned are not. But I wonder how much of that is the stock set-up too.
I'm thinking that's more suspension issues than pads.  
With the front properly bled of air, I have no issue with the OE brakes. But considering with such anemic damping and the quick nose dive combined with the pogo effect in back, I'm gonna say my bike with the Andreani cartridge in front and basic Ohlins will behave much better with the binders ramped up in a hurry. Cant really feel the back end get light at all - and I sit pretty far forward. 
 
I have HH rated pads on my Futura. They have a much better bite than std. organic pads. But they sorta suck in traffic as they bind and get grabby ( so much grab/release that it feels and sounds like something is wrong sometimes) when the going gets slow. They are also a bit hard on rotors. Something has to give with the added friction. The Fut weighs 130 lbs more so it does need the help when it counts. Before I swapped to these pads, with a passenger (she's a massive 120 lbs, lol) I got way too close to some deer that just had to jump in front of us. Had all 4 fingers on the lever (ok, 3.5 as one of my fingers has some, erm, damage) and was looking for more stopping power. The HH pads supply that and more.
 
The FZ is so light, not sure it would need. But it's an easy swap and not all that expensive. Just mark the pads so you can put them back to where they were if'n you don't like the new pads. 
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liami
I never don't use both brakes. Rephrase: I always use both brakes until fully stopped, never only one of them. In emergencies, it helps my muscle memory to go straight to both brakes instead of flipping myself over the front wheel or not getting enough brake power from only the rear brake. I also got used to only pulling the clutch in when my revs are getting to around 2000-2500rpm. That also helps in emergencies to simply use what you're used to (so you don't have to spend an extra second or two to think about changing up your positioning and braking technique) to stop yourself and avoid danger in the most efficient way possible

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patrolus
I wouldnt worry about the back at all, learn to use the front brake to its max capacity instead. when i did my license we had to break hard till the front locks -and then overcome the reflex of gripping harder and let go again of the break.... My instructor was pretty much set on 'every idiot can accelerate from 0-100kmh in 3 sec , no skill in that...but watch the monkey brake!' 
braking should get trained on a regular basis, so emergency braking becomes an automated process in your brain and doesn't stay in your consciousness, just like changing gears etc.....
easy way to start is to drive at a slow speed, concentrate on front brake only, don't start braking too hard and keep squeezing the brake harder and harder towards the end...after a few attempts you will get a feeling for it and in 99% of cases you will end up doing tiny stoppies just before you come to a still stand ---in no time. 
overbraking the front at about 60 kmh and then releasing it again is very scary at the beginning, but anyone that ever overbraked their front and lost it -in a 'reflex situation' -will agree that it is a pretty good skill to train!
 
 

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KamelReds
All I have to add is if the rear locks up, stay on it. The worst thing you can do, especially if it starts to slide out on you, is let go of the rear brake -- once that tire gains traction, it will high side and throw you off.
 
If you are trying to stop fast(i.e. panic stop), it's best to hit the rear progressively then hit the front brake progressively and slowly let off the rear at the same time. The thought behind this is that eventually the front tire will have all of the traction and allow "100%" braking force. But if that rear locks up, it's better to just let it stay locked up and start using all of the front brake.
 
I'd rather a lowside than a highside any day.

It's all about keeping that rubber side down.

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thomascrown
Front brake only for me. If you are hard on the brakes, even with all your weight focused on the rear of the seat, the rear tire will have very little load, making it very easy to lock. This is even more true on the stock marshmallow forks.

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thomascrown
As the load increases on the front tire, you can apply more front brake. As the load decreases on the rear tire, have to apply less brake. So imagine having different braking maps for your right hand and right foot. And orchestrating both while attempting to avoid impending doom. This is not practical or wise.

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bugeyes
Both brakes, rear a tad before the front to plant it is ideal. Also important to catch your own weight with the knees against the tank and abdominal strenght rather than brace against the handlebar.
In a straight line you can but should not lock up both wheels without ill effects as long as you don't brace yourself against the handlebar.
Over here in Sweden we have quite extensive tests to get a riders license and need to master close to maximum braking to get it. Must use both brakes and stop within a certain distance, also need to show that the arms relaxed when we do it. ABS or not the procedure is the same and ABS activation counts as wheel lockup during the test.

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KamelReds
As the load increases on the front tire, you can apply more front brake. As the load decreases on the rear tire, have to apply less brake. So imagine having different braking maps for your right hand and right foot. And orchestrating both while attempting to avoid impending doom. This is not practical or wise.
I have no problem doing it.  The more pressure I apply on the front brake, the less I apply on the rear.  It's really not that difficult of a task.
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It's all about keeping that rubber side down.

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