The golden rule is to do your braking on the straight bit of road, before the corner. But we all know it doesn’t always go like that – situations develop quickly, and sometimes we need to brake mid- corner. But that’s ok, because if done correctly, it’s perfectly safe. Of course, you can’t stamp on the brakes in a corner like you can on a straight, but if you know what you’re doing, you can slow down in a controlled way.
With visions of losing control and ending up in a hedge with our bikes, we had a chat with Will Blewett from Phoenix Motorcycle Training, the UK’s largest motorcycle training provider, to get our heads around this black magic of braking mid-corner.
How to brake in a bend on a motorcycle
First, let’s see what you should NOT do if you want to brake in a corner and stay upright. The first thing is braking too harshly with the front brake, losing grip, and lowsiding the bike. You need to be very smooth with the braking action in a corner.
The second is not braking enough. If you do it right, you can actually put quite a bit of pressure on the brakes. Just remember to be very smooth with it.
It’s also not a good idea to use the rear brake if you are riding at pace. It’s very easy to lose grip and slide if you do that.
As we mentioned in the beginning, the easiest thing to do is to try brake before the corner. If you can do that, you will keep the bike much more stable through the turn. Naturally, that’s of little help if you are in a corner and suddenly need to slow down. So, what you can do is apply the front brake smoothly in the corner.
When you do this, the bike will want to ‘stand up’ and go straight, so you need to counter-steer to keep the line. However, it’s a fine balance; there’s only a finite amount of grip available, and the more you use for braking the less there is for turning. When you run out of grip, only the likes of Marc Márquez can keep the bike shiny side up.
If you have space, and it’s safe to do so, you can let the bike sit up and straighten the line under braking. This will help you stop sooner, but you will be off your intended line, so you need to be sure that it’s clear.
It’s not all about mechanics though. Looking where you want to go is important too. Target fixation is a common problem, and if you stare at something you don’t want to hit, the chances are that you will be heading exactly that way. Instead, try to scan your surroundings, find an exit route, and concentrate on that.
One final tool at your disposal, as you are entering a corner, is trail braking. This is what racers tend to do on track, but the same principle works on the roads too. It’s not easy though, and getting it wrong will end up badly. Essentially, what you do in trail braking is to brake hard as you approach the corner, then gradually release the brakes as you steer into it. The idea is to balance braking and cornering forces, getting close to the tyres’ limits without asking too much of them at any point. It’s effective, but we can’t emphasise this enough, it’s difficult, and can go wrong rather easily.
At the end of the day, the best approach is always to do your braking before the corner, but if you need to hit the brakes mid-corner, hopefully the above advice will help you. Just remember to practice somewhere safe, before you need to do it for real. Since this is a tricky skill to practice safely in public spaces, you may want to join a professional skills day, such as the streetSKILLS 101 training day where you improve your technique, and get accurate data about how you’re doing too.