The front brake on a motorcycle is the most effective, giving between 60 & 80% of the bike’s stopping power in hard stops, depending upon surface conditions. This is because most of the weight of the bike and rider transfers forward onto the front wheel when the brakes are applied. A common example of weight transfer is when you trip on a gutter – your feet stop but momentum keeps the top of you going and you fall flat on your face. The weight transfer that takes place under braking on a motorcycle pushes the front wheel onto the ground and makes it grip very well.
With most of the weight being on the front wheel of the motorcycle, the rear wheel tends to be light under braking and will therefore lock up and skid very easily.
No. The front wheel of the motorcycle is likely to skid uncontrollably and bring you down only if you jam the front brake on hard. If you apply the front brake in a staged (progressive) process, the front wheel may skid but that skid is normally quite controllable.
Control of a rear wheel skid is easy. Just keep your eyes up to the horizon and look where you want to go (not necessarily where you are actually going) and the bike will skid in a controllable manner with a minimum of fishtailing. Basic and advanced braking techniques are best learnt under controlled conditions rather than when a truck pulls out on you! Your local motorcycle school will run a fun braking exercise session for you and some mates if you care to call the school and arrange it.
Braking, as with any riding skill, is a learned skill, not a natural one. This means you must practice the correct motorcycle braking skills enough to make them an instinctive reaction before you can be sure that you will do the right things in an emergency. Overseas research has shown that, because of panic overpowering the rider’s conscious reactions, nearly a third of all riders do absolutely nothing in an accident situation: they don’t even apply the brakes!
If, however, your high level braking skills are so well learnt that they are instinctive, you will do it right, no matter what the situation. However, this requires you to do a lot of high level braking skill practice, the skills will not come with normal everyday riding.
Yes. The process is called stage braking and it involves the rider applying the motorcycle’s brakes in a staged process. This gives the rider predictable, progressive braking.
Research has shown that the average rider can only properly concentrate on the use of one brake in an emergency so, unless you think you’re road motorcycling’s equivalent of a top motorcycle racer, we would suggest that you concentrate on getting the best out of one brake. Of the front and rear brake on a motorcycle, the one to concentrate on in an emergency is the front brake because if you get that one wrong, lock it up and don’t correct that problem then you’re going to crash. According to the American Motorcycle Safety Foundation, if you try to get the best out of both brakes in an emergency, you will get the best out of neither. The MSF says you can’t concentrate fully on both brakes at one time.
A treadless tire will quite adequately handle braking stresses on a perfect road surface. The trouble is that perfect road surfaces are more than rare – they’re virtually extinct. Tire tread acts like a broom, sweeping debris, dirt, gravel and water etc off the road surface in order that the tire can grip the road.