Always Be Ready: Motorcycle Emergency Avoidance Skills Practice harder than you play.

Emergency Avoidance Skills illustration Buried way down on the spec chart for many cars—sometimes even that little econo-box your neighbor drives—is a feature called Brake Assist. Its purpose is simple. When Brake Assist senses a sudden brake-pedal application, the system applies the brakes harder than your actions call for. But why, when most cars already have ABS and electronic brake-force distribution? Big surprise: Sudden stops frighten people! Although bikes don’t have Brake Assist, motorcyclists can be similarly timid. That is understandable because, for many the specter of savage braking, extreme lean angles, unexpected tire slip, or grinding floorboards through a turn can be down­right scary. Ironically though, this fear can keep us from performing the very actions necessary to save our bacon in a critical moment. So, to borrow an old coaching strategy, I say practice harder than you play—either in formal training via the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, trackday programs, with the help of a friend who is a better rider, or just by yourself in a safe place. Test your bike’s emergency avoidance skills while simultaneously improving your own. This includes threshold or ABS braking on wet and dry pavement, quick turns, and even rapid-fire gear downshifts. Unquestionably, there are emergencies during which these techniques can help protect you—but that’s no time to learn ’em. 1) Befriend Your Brakes In an empty parking lot, practice stopping quickly from 30 mph, first using only the rear brake. Then repeat using only the front brake and finally using both brakes. This will help you understand the front brake’s superior stopping power compared to the rear. 2) Shorter Stops Work incrementally to shorten your stops from 30 mph. Applying the rear brake an instant before the front can settle the chassis and add confidence. Use the same starting point and mark your end point with chalk. 3) Quick Cornering Set up a multi-turn slalom course in an empty parking lot with orange cones or even chalk—away from poles, fences, cars, and buildings—and practice quick, smooth laps to get a feeling for cornering. Be careful, though. Parking lots aren’t always grippy. 4) Whip It Good We probably shouldn’t recommend caning your motorcycle through the gears on public roads. So, instead, hit the run-what-ya-brung night at your local dragstrip. There, you can master the jackrabbit start that might just someday deliver you from evil—an evil bumper bearing down on you from behind, that is.

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