At the present time, there is a new study being conducted on motorcycle crashes and their causes. The last time such a study was conducted was back in the late 70s and early 80s and is known as the Hurt Study; named after the recently departed Dr. Hurt. (Do a Google search on the Hurt Study; it’s a very interesting Read.) While the new study has not been completed some of its findings have been released. I recently read the section on ABS brakes. Just as I suspected, ABS is a lifesaver. Since so many crashes occur due to improper braking, i.e. the rider puts too much pressure on the rear brake and too little or none at all on the front brake, this finding is not a surprise to me.
Luckily, more and more manufacturers are offering ABS as an option, even on cruisers. Harley’s entire line of touring bikes has the ABS option. Honda also offers ABS on their new Fury chopper and four of their 2010 cruiser models as well as just about all of their sport and sport touring motorcycles. BMW was the first to have ABS on a motorcycle and has the option on its entire lineup.
Why is ABS so important? That’s simple. Anti-lock braking systems keep the tires from locking up. Since you only have two small contact patches and two wheels, if you lock them you’re going down. Since most motorcycle riders spend a lot more time driving their four-wheeled vehicles and they’re used to slamming on the brake pedal in a panic stop they tend to do the same thing on their bikes.
On the bike, when you slam on the brake pedal you’re braking only the rear tire—consequently, the rear tire locks and the rider slides onto the ground. Even if the rear tire doesn’t lock the rear brake only gives you 20% of your stopping force. That’s why you should use both brakes. Sounds simple right? Unfortunately, most riders rely on their instincts, which by the way are completely wrong when it comes to motorcycles in a panic – they lock the rear brake every single time.
By now you must be saying, “What am I supposed to do if I can’t afford to buy a new bike with ABS?” “What am I supposed to do, quit riding?” Ok, simmer down now. Here’s what you can do and it won’t cost you a cent. PRACTICE stopping and DO IT NOW! Find an empty parking lot or a deserted road and practice stopping quickly from various speeds. Start at 20 mph and work your speed up in 5 mph increments. The idea is to be able to stop quickly without locking the tires. In 15 or 20 minutes you can improve your braking ability tremendously.
Now that you’ve got your straight line braking down pat let’s try swerving and then braking. Remember you can’t do both at the same time. All you need to do is get up to 20 or 30 mph and start weaving back and forth. At some point straighten up the bike and apply both brakes. You must straighten up the bike before applying the brakes and don’t forget to downshift. Last but not least let’s try braking in a curve. Again get up to 20 mph and start turning a big circle at least 100’ in diameter—then straighten up the bike and stop quickly. This skill will come in very handy on a winding road when you come around a turn and suddenly find an obstacle blocking your way.
If your bike does have ABS you still need to at least practice swerving and braking; also practice braking in a curve since ABS can only be activated with the bike straight up. That’s because you can’t press hard enough on the brakes to activate ABS when the bike is in a lean. Maximum braking can only be performed with the bike straight up, with or without ABS. Everything I just described can be done in 45 minutes to 1-hour of practice. If you practice just 1-hour a month your chances of avoiding a crash will greatly improve.
Now for those of you in the frozen part of the Country whose riding season is still a couple of months away—how about getting that bike completely detailed and looking better than new? Here’s a product I recently tried. It’s called Chrome-It Super Polish. Chrome-It is a liquid that works on chrome, aluminum, brass, stainless steel and even plastic headlight covers. It works in half the time and with half the effort of anything else I’ve ever tried. An 8oz. bottle will set you back $15.00 or $25.00 for a 16oz. bottle. To get yourself a bottle, call Wes at 352-279-9556 or http://www.chromeit.us/. Tell them Motorman sent ya.
For more tips log onto my website, www.ridelikeapro.com. You can also order my brand-new Ride Like a Pro, The Book as well as all my Ride Like a Pro DVDs right from my website or you can call toll-free, 866-868-7433. I also have all my YouTube video clips of my safety tips of the week and much, much more. Until next month, get out there and PRACTICE.
Copyright 2010 Jerry Motorman Palladino