Performing an emergency stop

Published: 23 July 2010

An emergency stop can so easily become a panic response and end in tears with one or both wheels locking up and you either hitting the floor or the obstacle you were trying to avoid in the first place, so it’s important that you practice this safely.

So, find an empty car park and set off up to about 15mph, before pulling in the clutch and braking hard with both front and rear brakes. Do that as many times as you need to feel comfortable.

Analyse how much the front-end dives, did the rear wheel start to skid? Did you pull the clutch in? That’s really important, as you haven’t got time to worry about the power when you are trying to shed speed.

Every biker knows that the surest way to fall off is with a front wheel skid from too much front brake, but 70 per cent plus of the effective braking is done by the front brakes as the bike’s weight pivots forward, so they are the ones that are going to keep you out of trouble, so get to know them.

he pressure needed through the brake lever to break traction on the front wheel on the same bit of tarmac is identical whether you are doing 20mph or 70mph, it’s just that the skid will be longer.

And if you are totally focussed on that front end during your practice sessions, you will eventually find the limit and be able to release the brakes to get that tyre to grip again.

While you are applying heavier pressure to the front brakes, don’t forget the rear.

It won’t take so much force as the tyre is starting to unload with that weight transfer, but steady pressure will keep it in check without a skid developing.

Now that you are confident you can stop as quickly as possible, mark an imaginary obstacle, like that dopey car driver who will pull out on you one day, in the car park, with either a can or a parking space line for Mr Myopia.

Now accelerate up to 20-25mph and start braking so that you wouldn’t collide with your imaginary obstacle.

Learn how much space you’ll need to stop and consider how much more room you’ll need on a wet day. In fact, go back to that car park on a wet day and practice all over again. The principles are exactly the same; it’s just that the braking limits aren’t so high.

You may go years without needing to make an emergency stop, but if you practice regularly and especially when you change bikes, you should be prepared for that day. 

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