Discover more from Ken Hill - Motorsports Coaching
[Fundamentals] Should your braking be lighter/longer or harder/shorter?
How to identify which technique is right for different corners.
I struggle with “Catch Phrase” coaching. Every sport has it to some degree and it’s frustrating because there can be merit to some aspects of it. For instance, cyclists talk about “The hour of power,” where you ride around for an hour in your hardest gearing to develop leg strength. Does it work? It can, and that’s the catch. It can be easy to be influenced into thinking this is all you need, but it’s really just part of the overall picture not the entire picture. This is similar to braking in the motorsports world: aspects of both “lighter and longer” and “harder and shorter” make up proper braking technique but neither is all of it. Note: we’re talking in this post about use of the front brake on a motorcycle, we will cover the rear brake later.
Brakes are used for two reasons:
It will help get you started on your personal braking journey to understand that we use the brake for two different reasons:
Slowing down. Motorsports are all about acceleration and brakes are the most efficient way to slow down for a corner. Just think how uncomfortable accelerating would be if you weren’t planning on braking!
Steering. Once you have turned into a corner, deceleration will tighten your radius (to help fine tune direction). Once again, brakes are the most efficient way to do that, and result in steering (tightening your radius) in less time and distance than just engine braking.
Ok, so what type of braking should I use? In the motorsports world, technique is often taught for 90-degree corners. But, while most tracks have a 90-degree corner, most corners aren’t, and our goal is to be able to use the brakes appropriately for what any/every corner offers. Which means the answer to which braking style to use is … BOTH! Here’s why:
What if you only brake harder and shorter? Shorter harder braking works for corners that typically have a longer exit (exit corners) or where a direction change needs to happen quickly. Trying to use this type of braking for an entry corner, though, will typically result in overslowing and releasing the brake much too early.
What if you only brake longer and lighter? Longer and lighter braking is a fairly new phenomenon to the motorsport world. It was created mainly to get people to not hammer the brakes and, instead, understand that being able to control braking to the slowest point of the corner means having brakes left over to get there. Longer lighter braking is more of a drill than a technique; when you’re hauling ass, there really isn’t longer and lighter, but more a deliberate and controlled brake release to match the entry speed you want. Longer lighter is part of understanding that how you go to the brake and how you release the brake should match the corner radius (brake timing). If you adopt longer lighter for all corners, you will never be able to add speed (reduce lap time) as at some point you also need to add brake force. You may have good pace on entry corners, but then get passed on the entry to corners that require real brake force or quick direction changes.
How can you figure it out for any/every corner?
Yeah…the how to do it part. It really starts with figuring out, for a given corner, not only what type of corner it is, but, importantly, the optimum brake release point for that corner. Once you establish that, you can determine the best mix of harder/shorter and longer/lighter for that corner.
OK, armed with all this information, take a listen to these podcasts and I think you’ll hear them in a different light:
Podcast # 9 – Braking Fundamentals
Podcast #28 – Is it Brake Pressure or Brake Timing?
Podcast #92 – Should Your Braking Be Lighter/Longer or Harder/Shorter?