Cornering Problems 3 - Staying out of
trouble! Pro-active Braking or Acceleration Sense?
As mentioned in an earlier tip, the key to cornering is arriving at
the corner with the bike settled on the suspension and ready to
steer. This means that you need to be travelling at the right speed
in the right gear with the brakes released, the weight just slightly
transferred to the rear with a gentle application of throttle and
the suspension balanced.
If it's that straightforward, why do riders get themselves in a
muddle on corners? In my opinion, part of the problem lies as
suggested with inexperience, lack of practice and poor understanding
of what the brakes are capable of. Unfortunately experienced riders
are still crashing in bends. Why?
Here I take issue with the traditional belief that a good rider does
not have to brake for bends, and should use what the manual calls
"Acceleration Sense". This is the technique whereby you roll off the
throttle on the approach to corners, thus using engine braking to
control your speed.
Proponents of this technique will often explain that you should not
use your brakes on the approach to a corner because they unsettle
the bike. They frequently then claim that the fastest riders never
touch their brakes or that they are reading the corner better. This
is utter nonsense, as a moment's thought will show. If you have read
the corner correctly yourself, you'll be braking correctly and on
the right line so by the time you make a steering input, you will
have completed your braking and be back on the power gently opening
the throttle - exactly the same state of affairs as someone who has
slowed down using Acceleration Sense. The only difference is that
you will have slowed down in a fraction of the time, and thus
maintained speed for longer on the preceding straight.
Slowing down has only one aim on the approach to a bend - to get the
bike at the right speed in the right place. You can do this by using
pro-active Braking or passive Acceleration Sense on the approach to
the corner - the choice is yours, but which ever technique you
choose, this is the goal you should aim for.
This is not to say that using Acceleration Sense has no place on the
roads. Far from it, it gives a nice relaxing ride. Unfortunately get
it wrong and you tend to roll into the corner too fast on a closed
throttle or worse, still on the brakes which you have applied too
late - which is just the same error as the critics level at
On one run with an IAM observer some years ago I was criticised for
excessive use of the brakes on the approach to corners - I asked if
I had gone into any of the corners with the brakes applied, off-line
or at an inappropriate speed, and the observer had to admit that I
hadn't. So I asked if that did not show that I had read the road
correctly, and adjusted the bike's speed accordingly, and he had to
agree. I then asked what the brakes were for if not to get our speed
right for corners, to which he had no logical answer. In my opinion,
there is no reason at all for not using the brakes on the approach
to the corner, so long as you do so safely, and do not use them as
an excuse for poor observation and planning.
Pro-active use of the brakes is an important area of my courses, and
something that I work on myself when ever I feel rusty in the
twisties. I am not suggesting you go charging up to corners flat out
and banging the brakes on at the last moment, as some critics of
this technique have implied. The point is that both techniques can
be used to silly and potentially dangerous extremes - I have seen
riders using aggressive gear changing and engine braking to
substitute for use of the brakes, which is clearly not a good idea.
You don't have to use the brakes if it doesn't suit your style, but
the only answer to cornering problems is to be confident in all the
techniques that are necessary to take a turn. It's worth remembering
that if you lose it in a bend, a simple law of physics takes over -
you slide straight on! If you check the statistics from the NW of
England for accidents recorded last summer, you will see this was a
very common accident. Making the corner is always the best option.