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 pro-active Braking.

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.