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Safety Information

Progressive Braking (Feb 2008 newsletter)

by Ted and Joyce Strutz

I am sure progressive braking is something most all of us understand and use, but it never hurts to refresh our minds. We don't have to worry about it quite as much with our Goldwings usually since the newer ones have linked brakes and even now can be had with ABS brakes. It is still something that should be practiced in a controlled situation though, so if something happens it comes as second nature and you don't even have to think about it.

For those that have taken an ERC or ARC course you know they dwell quite a bit on controlled braking in multiple situations. They do this to help make it second nature for you. It should be practiced frequently. Probably most everyone who reads this can tell one or more stories about an animal or another vehicle causing a close call for them. If you don't know and use proper braking technique and maneuvering you will probably crash.

If you look at your bike you will notice there are two brake discs on the front and one on the back. The front brake provides about 70% of your stopping power. The idea though is to co-ordinate the front and the rear brake in a hard braking scenario. You want to do this as smoothly as possible and not lock up either wheel. On older wings it is very possible to lock up a wheel. It is even possible on a 1500. No, I haven't done it, but have seen it happen.

The main idea when braking is to keep the bike as stable as possible. When you need to apply the brakes in a situation you want to use both brakes progressively and as smoothly as possible. If you are on and off the brakes the suspension will compress and release, acting almost likes a pogo stick. That will make the bike that much harder to control. Squeeze the front brake lever (with all four fingers) and press on the rear brake pedal as the front suspension compresses.

If you grab the front brake lever and lock the front wheel it will in many cases cause it to tuck and the bike will crash. When you ask for more braking traction from the front tire there is less available for the rear tire. A skidding tire will produce longer braking distances while trying to stop. If you exceed 100% of stopping power during braking your tires will lose traction. Cornering and braking require the most traction from your tires. If you attempt progressive braking while leaned into a corner you are much more likely to skid. The trick is to straighten the bike as soon as it is safe and make sure the handlebars are square. Also always remember to keep your head up and look straight ahead. AVOID TARGET FIXATION!

Should you lock the front brake, release the lever immediately and start progressively re-applying it. If you lock the rear wheel, keep it locked until you come to a stop. A rear wheel skid is much more controllable, but you must remember to make sure the bike is fully upright and traveling in straight line.

Your best riding position is with your right wrist slightly below your knuckles. Then as your reach for the lever, you have no choice but to roll the throttle closed.

Remember that this aggressive braking is used to slow the bike quickly, usually because something is or is about to be in your path. Don't fixate on the target. Your bike will go where you are looking so keep your head and eyes up. Always look to the escape route or path that avoids the target. Please practice this so that it becomes instinct and habit and you don't have to think about it if the time comes that you need it.