Mentally, you probably prepare for situations that require your immediate response. If you don’t, you should. A key to being safe on the bike is constant awareness and a mind for getting out of potential situations. But sometimes you may not have an escape route and just have to slam on the brakes. Are you ready for that?
There are so many levels to braking today that you really have to understand everything from the mechanics to your type of reaction. First, do you have ABS? Second, the ongoing debate, does that make a difference? Personally, I think yes and no. A lot depends on your training and experiences. The odds are, if you have always had a bike without ABS and you’re familiar with stopping hard on the bike, you don’t have a problem I think the key either way is familiarity with your bike. Bonding.
Another key factor is the condition of your brakes. When did you last inspect them for wear? Do they need to be replaced? Have you bled the brake line and/or replaced the brake fluid at appropriate intervals? Maintaining your bike has to be pro-active. Nothing hurts more than laying a bike down and saying I was going to check that… soon… eventually. Do it regularly.
The last part of this formula is you. Have you practiced hard braking? Do NOT wait until you’re in an emergency situation to find out if you can do it. It’s good to find that quiet (empty) parking lot and practice. Try it at 5 MPH. Then, if you’re still happy, do it at 10 MPH. By now you should have a feel for it. You also need to understand over-braking on the front or back brake. Even application is important. Over braking with one will throw you to the right (front) and the other will slide you to the left. I know many riders that are afraid of the front brake and rely totally on the back brake. This is a formula for disaster. Many newer bikes have a balancing or assist process, but you should still apply both with balance. The assist does just that… it assists. It doesn’t do the work.
Finally, be aware of road conditions. Wet weather will screw you up in even the best braking. Sand or loose debri might as well be ice. Know the area and always look ahead. The road is full of surprises, potholes, nuts and bolts. These situations may be the cause of your emergency braking and will always influence the quality of your braking.
Part of riding is stopping. Practice stopping so you are prepared for that cager on the cell phone. I want to see you safe enough to flip them the bird a little later. Ride safely!