Dec 6, 2006

RE: Braking...

Warning: This is a long, long post... despite being edited for brevity

SOS ! I really don't understand what is going wrong. Third crash in two months and all the time fortunately there has been no traffic involved. I will piece together the details for you the best I can. I think its the disc brake being sharp at low speeds. How can I avoid this?

  1. It has rained and the roads are wet. I am coming down a flyover at 50 kph. Notice the traffic bottlenecked at the bottom. Reach the bottom and reduce speed to 35 kph on 4th gear. Notice a comfortable opening up front on the left between an auto and the pavement. Approach normally slowing all the time. Then suddenly I am falling.

  2. Small girl at a distance of about 15 metres suddenly decides to take chances. She starts to run. I clench my teeth. And the result is the same. Interestingly I fall over on the wrong side or I was attempting something seriously wrong. The girl ran across from my right to the left. I should have tried to maneuver the bike to go to the right behind her. But I had fallen over on the left. The girl was OK.

  3. Today's crash was the icing on the cake. It was the stupidest. I entered my office and cut the engine (handy EKS). Needed to take a right turn and would end up directly into the intended parking spot. There is a lot of loose sand in the place due to the construction work. I was not at more than 15 kph for sure when I turned. Again. I don't know what went wrong but I think I did over steer a bit. But this was the stupidest one because the low speed I was at I think I voluntarily gave up the control of the bike though I think now the crash could be controlled. What makes me wonder how stupid it was is that for some reason the bike crashed on the right (ensuring that the scratches got even on both side really) but I landed on all fours and my bag which I had pulled over my head and right shoulder had managed to get away. So the three of us the bike, bag and me formed a triangle with distance between me and the bike being about 5 feet and the same for the bag and me. It really made me wonder what happened?

Luckily none of my accidents have happened in traffic though I have been in the ugliest of traffic situations caught up at the busiest roads in the city. Also I have been through some tight spots while overtaking but have managed to pull through. I have had occasions where I have braked hard in traffic one particularly being where a taxi in front came to a standstill and I was behind it and still managed to stop comfortably in time. What I am not able to do as you may have noticed is slow down and pull up out of unexpected sudden situations which are easily maneuverable. Those situations that do not necessarily require a stop but can be passed after slowing down. I am clear about this because I have had 2 minor falls while taking U turns in a narrow empty street too. I was literally just in first gear and taking a U turn and at the peak of it the bike simply fell over. Please tell me what you think is going wrong and how can I remedy this. Also please tell me what exactly a locked rear wheel is and whether that is the possible cause of my trouble. - BATFAN

From whatever I can tell you are new to motorcycles. Simplest problems first, the U-turn falls mean that you need to practise slow speed control of your motorcycle, in particular sharp turns. Try this. On an empty road, try going as slowly as possible. Ideally, drag a friend along and have a 'slow race.' Draw two lines and whoever takes longer to reach the second line, without putting their feet down wins. You will find that the ideal way to go slowest (I'm talking under 2 kph) is to hold the throttle constant and use the clutch and rear brake to control speed. While this is hardly the most mechanically sensitive way to go ultra-slow, it works and will give you a feel for how the bike feels at these speeds, and how best to control it.

Mistakes: Never switch off the engine if you still have a direction change to make. The throttle, as you should know, helps stabilise the motorcycle when changing direction and should the motorcycle start to fall in, the throttle can help 'pick up' the bike. That's why you fell in the parking lot, and in the U-turns. In the parking lot, when you needed just a whiff of the throttle to keep it upright, you had a dead engine. In the U-turn, you needed to modulate the throttle so you could pull the turn at a steady throttle (using the rear brake and clutch - in that order - to control the speed).

The ECR fall says you simply don't have the braking skills for the speeds you are riding at. This means that while you've figured out how to pick up speed, you don't know how to shed it yet. There's only thing to do, practice braking. And then remember to ride so that you can stop. If you can't stop when a cab comes to a sudden halt, it's your fault. You were too close to it. too fast for the situation, or both. As soon as you start thinking about how you can avoid a repeat, the solution will pop up - in this case, either slow down, or give yourself more space.

The first crash is much harder to call, but based on what I've said, it's likely that you grabbed the front brake to quickly, a condition that would have caused nothing more than a sudden fork dive in the dry. But it was wet that day. Again, this means braking practice, nothing more.

In traffic, until you can start braking hard enough (I practice one emergency stop daily on my way to work), don't ride that fast. And keep lots of space in hand. And don't worry about the crashes, it happens to all motorcyclists...


The BATFAN said...

Thanks once again. This was really helpful. And as you mentioned one method to go dead slow maintaining balance you also said it was not a memechanically sensible way to do it. Please tell me what you mean by the mechnaical sensibility here and what would be a more mechanically sensible way to drive slowly?

rearset said...

Mechanically sensible would be the least stressful (for the motor) way to do this. I, for instance, no boasting, find that I am able to balance the motorcycle in first or second gear with minimal clutch or brake use at walking pace. Obviously, this would probably be the best way to do this, since all it does it rev the engine really slow. But until you can, you have to use the clutch and the brake...

The BATFAN said...

Hmm. I have been noticing something odd with my bike and after the last fall which happened nearly a month back in which there was quite a skid I have not got bacck the same confidence. The question is whom I doubt. Myself or the bike. Quite particularly while going straights I am good and fast too and am able to control things tight. But I am finding my corners coming really slow sometimes to the pestering of loud honks from the back. The problem is I find the bike a bit shaky and I the front wheel seems to be wobbling on tight corners. If you ask me the last fall was the worst and I think somethings gone squeaky with the bike. I didnt ride for one week after the fall due to a cut palm and bruised elbow. Then went for a long drive of 300 KM round trip to get back some confidence. Found the bike same enough. Except for the fact that when I pull the bike backwards real slow applying the brakes with the handled turned right (the same side as the disk) there is a strange deep pitched squeak from the forks. Has something gone awry. To tell you the truth while going in corners it seems as the bike is ready to fall. Not once. Not twice but I feel this all the time after the fall. Is is just my mind or it maybe something. The fall actually was towards the right and quite hard because the bike took some time stopping. Must have been at 40 KM/Hr on touchdown. And the best part is I dont remember a thing because it was really fast. To finish it I will say every time I corner now I feel as if the bike is ready to let the front take off.