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Always the Same

It's a beautiful spring Saturday and the overnight rains have cleaned the roads removing even more of the winter's sand from their surfaces. Long shafts of early morning sunlight are piercing through the breaking clouds overhead. Like a freshly washed and starched white shirt hung outside to dry, the air is clean and pure as its crispness reddens the cheeks and chills the nose.

Stealing the opportunity to enjoy yet another early season ride,you guide your bike across town seeking the panoramic beauty of the surrounding countryside. You're filled with the excitement of riding one of your favorite backwoods roads for the very first time this year. As you approach one of the last intersections before shedding city traffic, a car leaving the family restaurant suddenly pulls out in front of you blocking your entire lane while oncoming traffic fills the other. What do you do?'

Your obvious answer is certainly to stop as fast as you can. Most likely you will do what you normally do, but will that do the job for you? There just isn't time in this situation to think about and remember to use a different technique. Will the method you normally use get you stopped before you make contact with the vehicle stealing your right of way?

To stop quickly you must apply both brakes fully without locking either wheel while squeezing the clutch to keep the engine running. Many riders under utilize the power of their front brake even though it's the front wheel that provides over 70% of their stopping force.

This is due to the weight that transfers as the bike begins to slow. Momentum causes you and your bike to keep moving forward placing more weight on the front tire and resulting in more available traction on the front wheel. At the same time, weight is reduced on your rear wheel removing some of its available traction.

Often riders are reluctant to use the front brake fully for fear of locking the front wheel and losing control. To use your front brake fully without over applying it, it is important to use a firm progressive squeeze on the lever. Using all four fingers to apply your front brake will help you control its application.

Check your mirrors as your foot comes down to be certain the vehicle behind you is stopping. This is the situation when the driver behind you has the least amount of time to see your oversized brake light and realize what you are doing. If the car behind you is not stopping, you'll want to take off quickly to avoid getting run over. That's why it is critical to get the bike into first gear before putting your foot down to ensure you are ready to take off if necessary.

You must purposefully practice you braking skills so they will be ready when needed. But more than that, you must use the same process every time you stop. Always using four fingers on the front brake as you use both brakes together and downshifting to first whenever you stop will increase the likelihood of you using the proper procedure when it's really important.

Always using the same process, whether it's an emergency or not, will build your muscle memory and that's what takes over when you're in a tight spot. Always the same means those muscles will react as you need them to when it counts. Always the same will help ensure your skills are there when you need to stop quickly.

Ride Smart! Ride Safe!