May 04, 2008

Advanced Braking

Welcome to the Advanced Braking session, ladies and gentlemen! Let's say you are riding a motorbike and you want to stop your bike. What would you do? You would apply both front and rear brake and maybe shift down gears if you have enough time. Correct? Imagine you cannot use the front brake. How would you stop then? Applying rear brake alone will not even help to slow down the bike, let alone stopping it. If you don't know how, you have come to the right place :-) I will first tell you about a few braking techniques before answering this question. We will start with something called Gear Braking. This is done by shifting down the gear when the bike is on the move. Steps to follow: (i) Press and hold clutch lever, (ii) shift down, (iii) leave the clutch lever. Step (iii) is very important. If you keep the clutch pressed, the bike would go faster making things worse. If you shift down rapidly, the engine will make noise (because it runs at a higher RPM than it was before you shifted down). Don't worry about that; the bike is safe. When is it appropriate to use gear braking? When your bike is going in a moderate/high speed and you have to slow it down a little, but for some reason you can't use the brakes. The next one is very simple, and I bet you already know it. Rear brake. With your toe push the rear brake pedal down and that applies brake. Simple, huh? Next one is Pull Brake. When your bike is going at a very very low speed (say somewhere around 10kmph) you want to stop it without using the front brake. With rear brake alone, it might be hard to correctly stop the bike in the targeted place. (E.g. you want to stop the bike under the tree not near the tree.) To apply Pull Brake, you put one of your legs on the ground and pull the bike back with your hands so that it stops moving (sounds funny, huh?). You may also simultaneously apply rear brake; that will make things much simpler. Be careful when you do this; if the bike is not slow enough or you don't balance the bike properly you and/or the bike might get injured. Enough techniques. Back to our question: how do we stop a bike without applying front brake? One very important thing to keep in mind is that slowing down the bike without using front brake is a long-term plan, while stopping the bike without front brake is almost a 3-minute plan. As we already discussed, you can use gear braking to just reduce speed. To stop the bike completely, (i) Use gear brake and slow down, (ii) keep shifting down until you reach first gear, (iii) apply rear brake and reduce the speed still further, (iv) when the bike is really slow, use pull brake to bring it to complete halt. I know, I know. There are several other, maybe better ways to do this. But this is what I did when the front brake failed in my bike. So what is your favourite trick? PS: Exercise this with caution. I am no expert in biking and this is just what I did -- I have no clue how good this is to be recommended to others (i.e. I am not recommending this to anyone). PPS: Read my trip notes for more background information.

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