When it comes to our survival, as I have mentioned many times before – education, practice and skills are a very important components to minimizing risks. This is especially true when emergency maneuvers are required such as quick stop braking and swerving. Although we want to do whatever we can to avoid putting ourselves in situations where actions like these are needed, there can always be a time when things happen that we have no control over.
When it comes to proficient quick stop braking, the key is to apply both brakes to their fullest potential without locking up the tires. If you’re skidding you’re not stopping, but sliding - not good. Today many models of motorcycles are equipped with ABS (Anti-Lock Braking System) which is extremely useful to avoid human error of applying too much pressure to either brake that may result in skidding. Yet there are still plenty of bikes out there with conventional braking systems and riders should be well versed and skilled to stop properly; especially if a quick stop is needed.
It is important to use both brakes with knowing the front brakes offer nearly 70% of our braking capacity. Locking up a tire to the point where it skids can have serious effects to our outcome. Locking up the front brake usually results in pulling the front end of the motorcycle downwards to the road surface. This is called a low side crash. In the event you use too much brake pressure with the front tire brake (possibly out of a panic response), it is recommended to release to brake and reapply pressure for control. This can be challenging and hard to achieve since you can be talking about micro seconds to adjust. Using you SEE (Search Evaluate Execute) strategy should also help you recognize road conditions that can also affect braking. Settings that include wet or oily conditions even sandy or loose gravel can really make a definite difference to the amount of pressure you need to use.
Locking up the rear tire can result in loss of turning/control ability and if you release the rear brake while skidding you could possibly lose control to the point where the rear of the motorcycle snaps with force and could throw you off of it. This is considered a high side crash. In the event a rear lock up happens, it is suggested to hold the brake pressure yet still apply proper pressure to the front to stop the motorcycle. Either noted type of crash resulting from improper braking can have devastating effects, this is why learning how to approach the skill correctly through education can be extremely beneficial.
Now there may be times when braking is not a viable option, but you still need to remove yourself from a state of possible conflict. Swerving may be an option to help avoid such a risk and still keep you safe. A swerve is basically two quick counter steers; one turn to change your direction of travel to avoid the condition and one to return to your path. Keep in mind that counter steering is turning and the application of brakes during the process, especially the front, can severely affect the handling of the motorcycle. You can brake then swerve or swerve then brake, but keep the two actions separated to avoid unwanted complications. Again, road conditions can play a major role in the managing of your control. Always be aware of the conditions you are dealing with so you can accommodate the skills you’re employing. Once you learn and develop the skills of quick stopping and swerving; practice practice practice. You want these proficiencies to become second nature to help minimize the reaction time as well as reduce the chances of incorrectly executing them. When you do practice your quick braking; once you are confident, slowly increase your speed to practice at different speeds. The way the motorcycle and even your body feels when stopping quickly at 15-20mph feels a lot different than when you are going 40mph or more. The bike will have a different feel from G forces and may make different sounds just as the inertia of your body will feel different and possible your body making different sounds that can surprise you ;)
Some crash investigations show that a rider was doing things correctly during a quick stop but suddenly did something wrong because of the panic developed from feeling a sensation they never felt before. This is why constant practice and slow and steady improvement with various speeds will help you become a more skillful rider.
As we started out saying, there is always a chance that a situation arises that is sudden an unexpected, no matter how well we search for developing situations. Although we can never remove all the risks associated with motorcycle riding; the more we educate and prepare ourselves along with skill and situational awareness improvement, the better chance we have to minimize those risks.
Ride Safe, Ride Often, Ride Educated!
Empire State Motorcycle Safety Education Program, Inc (ESMSEP) is a not for profit, 501(c)3 outreach education organization group of like-minded motorcycle safety enthusiasts working towards the goal of promoting motorcycle awareness and the benefits of rider education through FREE informational seminars at libraries, adult continuing ed programs, dealerships, club/group meetings, rallies, etc. Our primary goal is to present the information to licensed motorcycle operators as to the importance of continuing rider education, but our information can also be extremely useful for newer riders as well. To date, there is no one in NYS that presently addresses what we do.