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Exclusive Interview with Keith Code on Trail Braking

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Old 03-03-2014, 01:13 PM
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Default Exclusive Interview with Keith Code on Trail Braking

Here is the scoop on Trail braking directly from Code himself

From MotoMom | Motorcycle racing, riding skills and technique, moto kids & parenting

There is a lot of misunderstanding about the technique of trail braking; specifically people seem to be either for using trail braking, or against it. Keith Code and the California Superbike School are often thought to be in the camp that is against using trail braking and that they only advise getting all your braking done before you begin to turn the motorcycle. In this exclusive interview Code answers all our questions about trail braking.


MotoMom: Letís start off first by defining trail braking. What exactly is trail braking?



KC: Itís the tapering-off of brake lever pressure for controlling the bikeís rate of deceleration. Thatís the most basic definition. Commonly, the term is used to reference the action of tapering-off brake lever pressure while leaning into a corner. Probably the easiest way to illustrate this is to get the idea of keeping the forks compressed roughly the same amount from braking through to leaning the bike into the turn. You would have to coordinate the release of brake pressure with the increase of leaning. The deceleration load on the forks diminishes while the cornering centrifugal force of the turn increases as the bike is leaned. Thatís how I originally described and photographed it back in 1983.



MM: Should new riders learn the technique of trail braking?



KC: Every brake release should have some trailing off of lever pressure. Barring something like running off the road, there is no on-road or track cornering circumstance where an abrupt release of brake pressure is optimum.



There is one important quick brake release that riders should master for maximum control in panic braking situations. In an obstacle avoidance scenario, where braking to the last instant before colliding with something and then quickly turning the bike to get by it is necessary, there aren't any options beside that technique.



MM: Is trail braking a race and track only skill or should street riders use it as well?



KC: As just mentioned, it's the correct way to release the lever for any corner entry situation. An abrupt release makes it quite difficult to accurately judge your final entry speed-if we call "entry speed" the speed that is left over right after the brake is released.



We also know that the bike will continue to slow until the gas is back on enough to accelerate it. That in itself is a very interesting subject which most people misunderstand. Most think that rolling the gas on 10 percent or so will maintain their speed but it won't, most bikes continue to slow. At race pace, the bike will be slowing an average of 8 mph per second between the brake release and throttle-on. Specifically, at Laguna Seca on a Supersport bike it requires from 12% to 43% throttle, depending on the corner, before the bike begins to slightly accelerate; up to that point it is losing speed rapidly.



MM: Do you teach trail braking at the California Superbike School?



KC: Itís a key part of our RACE school drills. It also comes up on Level 3 during a drill called Attack Angles. It can be covered at any time during Level 4 classes for which we have specific drills. Otherwise itís also covered on request at any other point. It's interesting that the very best riders who have trained with us don't ask about it; they've figured out where it applies.

Recently, trail-braking has become a topic. On-board footage of top racers clearly shows this technique in use. Riders intently study this footage trying to pick up wisdom that will make their riding better. Trail braking as a technique seems to have developed its own fan club. From some of its fans one could mistakenly get the idea that it is the "silver bullet" that will cure all your riding problems. Thinking that any one technique in our sport is senior to the others is like saying all a painter needs to be able to paint a masterpiece is to make sure the color ďredĒ is included.



Road racing is a multi-layered, multi-tasking, multi-sense oriented sport where there are no easy routes to achieving your riding goals.



MM: Are there any new braking drills?



KC: Recently, I've been researching all the aspects of braking, amongst other things. Right now my list contains 5 stages of braking control, each with its own on-track drills. There are half a dozen other important aspects to braking that we also use to train and coach our students.



MM: When you coach high-level motorcycle racers like AMA Supersport winner Joe Roberts, British Superbike Champion Leon Camier, etc. do you encourage or teach trail braking?



KC: It rarely comes up as a topic on its own. If a top level racer is having trouble with some aspect of his braking, often there is some underlying problem that when fixed, solves the whole thing. For that caliber of rider you are looking for the least time on the brakes and the earliest on with the gas. In all cases, they want to minimize the time on the brake and maximize the time on the throttle with no coasting.



On the track there are cornering situations that demand some extended trailing of the brakes, mainly places where you can't get the bike turned quickly to your knee. For example, nearly all decreasing radius turns require a longer tapering off of the brake because the steering into them is more gradual. In some double apex turns we will see riders trailing the brakes well past the first apex. Where it applies; it applies.

Read the complete interview here: http://www.motomom.ca/keith-code-on-...ive-interview/
 
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Old 03-05-2014, 12:45 PM
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Thanks, enjoyed reading that. I thought this quote from KC was interesting...


"when you look at the list of critical judgments and coordination needed by a rider to skillfully execute quick and accurate straight-up braking entries, Iím not convinced trailing is more advanced. In terms of judgment and skills, it may be the other way round."


I always felt like trail braking was easier because it allowed me more time to control my entry speed into the corner and I can release the brakes over a longer period making it smoother. According to Keith it's just that my judgement and skills aren't very advanced.
 
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Old 03-10-2014, 12:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Optimus_Prime View Post
Thanks, enjoyed reading that. I thought this quote from KC was interesting...


"when you look at the list of critical judgments and coordination needed by a rider to skillfully execute quick and accurate straight-up braking entries, Iím not convinced trailing is more advanced. In terms of judgment and skills, it may be the other way round."


I always felt like trail braking was easier because it allowed me more time to control my entry speed into the corner and I can release the brakes over a longer period making it smoother. According to Keith it's just that my judgement and skills aren't very advanced.
Hahahah, no I don't think he means that at all It is an interesting quote. What do you think are the critical judgements and coordination he is talking about when he refers to straight-up braking entries? What are the main differences between getting your braking done while upright vs trailing them into the turn?
 
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Old 03-24-2014, 12:41 PM
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One of my favourite parts in this interview is where Keith says that "where it applies, it applies." Meaning that where the use of trail braking applies, then it is a worthwhile technique to use.

So how do you decide what corners warrant trailing the brakes and what ones are better handled differently? Is there a hard fast rule?
 
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Old 03-25-2014, 01:14 AM
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Originally Posted by Misti View Post
What do you think are the critical judgements and coordination he is talking about when he refers to straight-up braking entries? What are the main differences between getting your braking done while upright vs trailing them into the turn?

My thoughts are that you need to be good at picking your line and your entry speed for straight up braking because you're stuck with what you've got once you're off the brakes.


Originally Posted by Misti View Post
So how do you decide what corners warrant trailing the brakes and what ones are better handled differently? Is there a hard fast rule?

To me it seems natural that you would trail brake into bigger radius turns where you can trail the brakes longer. Those tight turns with a quick lean in don't seem suited to trailing. I like to keep my riding simple and that would make those turns just too busy for my liking. One of the first times I was at the track all I focused on was being smooth on the throttle and smooth on the brakes. I was making sure I released the brakes smoothly as I got ready to turn into a corner and I just started releasing them slower and slower until it became trail braking. On the corners that it applies to it's a fun way to ride.
 
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Old 03-28-2014, 12:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Optimus_Prime View Post
My thoughts are that you need to be good at picking your line and your entry speed for straight up braking because you're stuck with what you've got once you're off the brakes.

To me it seems natural that you would trail brake into bigger radius turns where you can trail the brakes longer. Those tight turns with a quick lean in don't seem suited to trailing. I like to keep my riding simple and that would make those turns just too busy for my liking. One of the first times I was at the track all I focused on was being smooth on the throttle and smooth on the brakes. I was making sure I released the brakes smoothly as I got ready to turn into a corner and I just started releasing them slower and slower until it became trail braking. On the corners that it applies to it's a fun way to ride.
Good points about being good at picking your line and setting your entry speed. One thing we see at CSS is that a lot of riders use trail braking as a crutch for poor lines and poor entry speed (usually in too fast) so they trailbrake longer than necessary and end up charging most turns where they could carry way more speed through. Once they get better at choosing turning points and reference points they are able to get off the brakes and back onto the gas sooner.

Whether you get the braking done straight up and down and then flick the bike into the turn or you trail the brakes into the corner it often pays to have an "end of braking" reference point to let you know where you should be releasing the brakes. This really helped me in my own racing. Have any of you experimented with end of braking RP's? How would you go about choosing one?
 
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