If you have a motorcyclist friend, ask them what they’re most conscious about while riding. I can bet most of them will say, “the brakes.” There are many other things to watch out for, like other vehicles and the road itself. But, why is the brake so important?
As they say, power is nothing without control. Just like that, a motorcycle is nothing without good brakes. Most motorcycle accidents happen because of bad brakes or improper braking techniques. Your bike might have a lot of horsepowers, but if it doesn’t have good brakes, you might as well just drive off a cliff.
Brakes are important. And if you have a motorcycle, it’s important for you to know the workings of your own two-wheeler. In the article below, I’ll discuss the inner workings of different motorcycle brakes. You might learn a thing or two if you read along.
What Are The Different Types Of Brakes?
There are numerous types of breaks available today. These Brakes come in a variety of shapes and sizes. However, only a few are employed for commercial and mass industrial applications.
Motorcycles use four different types of brakes all around the world. Some of these braking methods are quite new, while others are quite old. Regardless of their age, all of these brakes are still quite useful today. The brakes are-
- Drum Brake
- Disc Brake
- Combined Brake System or CBS
- Anti-lock Brake System or ABS
So, how do these brakes function? Let’s start with the Drum Brake mechanism.
1. Drum Brakes
Drum brakes are considered to be the founding pillar of the modern braking system. It’s the predecessor to the modern disc brakes. It was first introduced in 1902 by Louis Renault and has since been used in automobiles and motorcycles. Although they’re not widely popular now, they’re still used in some older models of Honda motorcycles.
As its name suggests, drum brakes use a drum-shaped mechanism to stop the tires. A small metal drum is placed inside the wheels. The drum is directly connected to the wheels.
Inside the drum, there are two brake pads. Each of these pads is shaped like a crescent moon and is placed inside the axis of the wheel.
A small piston is placed between the brake shoe pair. When you apply the brake with your hands, brake fluid creates pressure on the piston inside the drum. The piston effectively expands the brake pads, creating friction inside the drum, essentially stopping the wheel from turning.
2. Disc Brakes
Disc brakes are one of the most efficient and popular brake systems in the world. It is used in almost all types of vehicles and motorcycles in the current world. A disc brake-enabled motorcycle can stop in a fraction of a second in case of any immediate danger.
A common problem of its predecessor, the drum brake, was heat dissipation. Due to the immense heat produced by the brake pads, the drum would expand, making the brake essentially ineffective and inefficient in the long term. Disc brakes fixed those problems and created a stable, better braking system.
Like its name, the disc brake’s key component is a metal disc. This disc is installed inside the wheel of the motorcycle. Inside the disc, you’ll notice little holes cut out. When the disc is pressured by the brake pads around it, friction creates an enormous amount of heat. The holes prevent the disc from expanding itself out of shape from this heat.
There are one or two pistons placed on one side of the disc. These pistons power one or two cylinders inside the brake, which creates pressure on the brake pads. Using the smart “Floating Caliper Mechanism,” the pistons or brake pads can put equal amounts of pressure onto the disc. When you apply pressure on the hand brake, pressurized brake fluid/oil creates pressure in the brake pads and activates them. The brake pads grab the disc from both sides and stop the wheel.
3. Combined Brake System (CBS)
The combined braking system is a slightly modified version of disc brakes. It was created to further encapsulate the safety of normal motorcycle riders.
A common tendency among amateur bike riders is that they tend to use only one brake while trying to stop their bikes. This often results in accidents, because most people don’t know when to use the front brake or the rear brake. In any kind of critical situation, the safest thing to do is to use both of the brakes. This stops the motorbike much more efficiently and smoothly.
To prevent amateur riders from making this mistake, the Combined Brake System was created. It works just like a disc brake, with one major exception. The Combined Brake System operates two disc brakes at once, with one hand brake or brake lever. The brakes on the front and rear are connected with one single pressurized brake fluid-filled cable.
Although the pressure from the brake fluid isn’t equally distributed, it manages to activate both the front and rear brake pads at once. No matter which brake you choose instinctively, your motorcycle will still stop itself in a balanced manner.
4. Anti-lock Brake System (ABS)
Anti-lock Braking System is the most advanced braking mechanism on this list. The main difference between ABS and other brake systems is manual control. For a Drum brake or a Disc Brake to work properly, you’ll need to manually handle your motorcycle’s brake. That works fine in normal conditions. However, if you’re in slippery or rough terrain, it’s very difficult to properly maneuver your brakes. This is where ABS outshine the competition.
The Anti-lock Brake System has speed sensors connected to both of the wheels. The ABS electronically collects the information of the wheels’ friction and generates a mathematically accurate brake pattern.
When the brake is pressed, it sends an electronic signal to both the front and rear brakes to generate a “stop and start” motion of braking. Instead of locking up the wheels completely, ABS intermittently allows the wheels to rotate momentarily before stopping them again. This way, a motorcycle can safely brake in any kind of condition.
How To Brake On A Motorcycle
There are several ways to safely brake while riding your motorcycle. However, your braking mechanism will largely vary on a couple of factors.
An important factor is what situation you’re breaking in. If you’re in a critical situation or panic braking, then you should follow one or two rules while you handle your brakes. For regular braking, you should follow a more rounded and balanced routine.
How to Panic Brake:
If your motorcycle is in a tight turn, or there are obstacles/other vehicles in front of you, the first thing to remember is – to keep your steering straight. If your steering is turned left or right, and you brake, your front tire can lose traction.
The 2nd thing you should remember is, don’t use your clutch. Instead, if you’re in a higher gear, use downshift to lower your gear into the 2nd. Then gently use the front brake to reduce speed. Don’t tilt or steer your bike.
How to Brake Normally:
If you’re in a normal situation, the first thing to remember is – never brake with your rear brake. Always use the front brake to lower the speed of your motorcycle. When the motorcycle has almost stopped, use the rear brake to shift the weight of the motorcycle from the front to the back. Try to use this method as much as possible to create muscle memory.
In essence, never use only one brake to stop your motorcycle. Rather, use the front brake to lower your speed, and then use the rear brake to stabilize the landing.
Abs Or Non-Abs
Anti-lock Brake System or ABS is better than Non-ABS braking systems in almost every category. I’ll give you a short comparison between ABS and Non-ABS below.
Stability: Non-ABS mechanisms, such as Disc/Drum brakes, use a locking mechanism to stop the wheels. Usually, when a brake is pressed, it locks the wheel, making It motionless. Because the tire creates friction with the road, it can stop the bike. However, if your motorcycle is in a slippery or rough condition and has no solid surface to generate friction from, it will start to slip. ABS doesn’t lock the wheels. Instead, it uses intermittent stopping and starting intervals to stop the bike. This results in a more stable braking experience.
Faster Response Time: ABS-enabled motorcycles stop much faster than their Disc/Drum brake enabled counterparts. They have a much faster response time, both in rough/slippery conditions, and normal conditions. ABS has a faster response time and reduced stopping distance.
Better Turning: Turning your motorcycle with ABS is easier as well. It’s very common to lose control of your motorcycle while turning because of friction loss. ABS reduces the chance of falling or losing control of your motorcycle significantly.
How Do Front Brakes Work On A Motorcycle?
Front brakes are usually bigger and stronger than the rear brakes on a motorcycle. That’s because the front brakes are used primarily to stop the motorcycles.
When a motorcycle runs at high speed, the momentum of the motorcycle is going in the forward direction. To completely stop the motorcycle, you need to remove all the kinetic force from it.
Since the motorcycle goes forward, the rear brake is not capable enough to drag the motorcycle to zero kinetic force. Structurally the front brake can consume the kinetic force with the fork and therefore stop the motorcycle efficiently.
Can You Brake While Turning On A Motorcycle?
Yes, you can brake while turning on a motorcycle. However, while breaking in a turn, you should take a couple of things into consideration.
First of all, check how fast you are going. If you’re going very fast, and the turn is a sudden U-shaped one, it’s better to take your time. If you’re not an expert rider, try to stop the motorcycle first, then turn instead.
Secondly, if you’re going to brake while turning, don’t hit the brakes too hard too fast. Give the tires time to grip the road while turning. Brake as slowly as you can. If you press the brakes too fast, it could very easily turn into a horrible accident.
If you want something visual, you can check this video of some tips on braking while turning.
Do Motorcycles Use Front Or Rear Brakes?
Motorcycles use both the front and rear brakes. They can be used separately or together. However, the front brakes are the primary brakes and are used to stop the motorcycle. Rear brakes are primarily used to maintain balance on the motorcycle. The front brakes use a hand brake to directly stop the front wheels from turning. In an ABS-enabled motorcycle, both the front and rear brakes work simultaneously.
Should You Use Both Brakes On A Motorcycle?
For beginners or amateurs who are just starting to learn how to ride a motorcycle, it can be a very good practice to use both brakes on a motorcycle. It drastically reduces the chance of an accident. Plus, if you learn to properly use both brakes at the same time, it’ll create muscle memory which will be helpful at critical moments.
However, there are a couple of situations where using just one brake is better than using both breaks. For example, if you need to take a hard brake, use the front brake. For balancing the pressure on the front wheel, use the rear brake to take off some pressure.
There is a lot more you can learn about motorcycle braking. However, make sure that you understand everything and try to be as safe as possible.
Do You Pull The Clutch When Braking On A Motorcycle?
It depends on what speed you’re riding your motorcycle.
If you’re riding your motorcycle at a slow speed, and you’re about to brake, pull the clutch before you brake. If you’re riding at high speed, and you need to hard brake, brake first, then pull the clutch. And if you’re in an absolute emergency, try to pull the clutch and the brakes at the same time.
A little bit of brake technique goes a long way. Using safer and modern brakes on your motorcycle can give your motorcycle that safety and edge over other motorcycles in any condition.
And most importantly, if you’re going to ride, ride safely. I hope this was helpful. Thanks for reading.