How to Slow Down (Engine Braking vs Braking) - Kawasaki Vulcan Forum : Vulcan Forums
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post #1 of 44 (permalink) Old 06-29-2014, 12:52 PM Thread Starter
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How to Slow Down (Engine Braking vs Braking)

So I'm a newbie and I having some questions on braking. Mainly, I think I take too long to slow down.

What I've been doing is mainly engine braking for everything except for hard stops. I'm still not great at it yet (I'll still jolt a bit from blipping the throttle too much). But my slow down routine is generally:

1) Let off throttle
2) Downshift (once deceleration from letting off throttle stops becoming noticeable)
3) Repeat

If I have to come to a complete stop, I will brake after downshifting from second. I never really touch the brakes unless I am intending to stop.

My question is: Is this good practice? Will I eventually be able to do this fast enough (with enough practice) or should I switch to a different "slowing down" technique.

Like I said, my concern is that this isn't fast enough in certain situations. For example, to go from 40 mph to 20 mph (to make a left turn), I usually need about 200 feet of "prep" beforehand and I feel this is too much. And I don't if it is because of bad technique or just inexperience.

Luckily, I've never really been in a situation where I had to do something fast but it leaves me a bit paranoid that I might not be able to if the situation occurs. What if 50 mph traffic drops quickly to 30 mph traffic? Or should I not be in that situation because I should have been paying attention?

If any of you disagree with my technique, please share how you slow down. And I know its second nature to you, but please be specific about what you do (I'm still new so it is not second nature to me!)

Last edited by Eddy; 06-29-2014 at 01:02 PM.
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post #2 of 44 (permalink) Old 06-29-2014, 01:05 PM
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there's a school of thought that advises against engine braking in general. The logic is that brake pads are cheaper than a clutch and easier to replace. Personally I'm not against engine braking when you're idling down to a long slow stop.

But really, you should practice braking and downshifting together. There are two techniques here, and I use them both.

The first combines braking AND engine braking:
1. Throttle off
2. apply brakes (front AND rear)
3. as you approach an appropriate downshift speed, clutch in and bang down a gear.
4. clutch out, rinse and repeat

The idea is you're always in gear and able to accelerate again. This is best used for cornering, and my approach is to be in the gear you need before you turn in.

Also, you can STAY clutched in, and just shift down at the appropriate times as you brake to a stop. Then you can release the clutch and accelerate away. This, of course, eliminates the engine braking aspect altogether.

I'm sure others will chime in and potentially think I'm crazy. We all kinda have our own ways of doing stuff.

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post #3 of 44 (permalink) Old 06-29-2014, 02:52 PM
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I have always used engine braking with normal braking. I like knowing that I can get on the throttle if a danger arises while I'm slowing down. Plus, if you're one of these types that likes to coast to a stop and have the bike in 1st gear before you stop and an emergency situation arises, you're gonna spend more time trying to figure out which gear to be in versus being in gear already. I'm also a non-believer in having the bike in neutral at a stop for the same reason.

Personally, I don't think engine braking causes as much wear on the clutch as accelerating since all components are slowing down and not transferring as much energy around. I could be wrong, though. Although, if engine braking was bad for the bike, I think Kaw would have mentioned it in the manual.

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post #4 of 44 (permalink) Old 06-29-2014, 03:40 PM
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Riding around other traffic will, at some point, require you to slow down faster than engine braking. You may as well get experience before you need it.
There is a lot of info out there for proper braking; all you gotta do is search.

Two things worth noting though are:
1. Don't use your front brake at slow speed with your bars turned.
It can make you lowside your bike.

2. Apply pressure in a linear manner and don't 'stab and grab'.
In other words, even if you need to stop very fast; apply a moderate amount of pressure to allow your suspension and tires to react then keep adding pressure.

The only serious concern I have about engine braking is that it doesn't illuminate your brake light; letting cars behind you know that you're slowing down.

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post #5 of 44 (permalink) Old 06-29-2014, 03:52 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Eddy View Post
So I'm a newbie and I having some questions on braking. Mainly, I think I take too long to slow down.

What I've been doing is mainly engine braking for everything except for hard stops.

My question is: Is this good practice? Will I eventually be able to do this fast enough (with enough practice) or should I switch to a different "slowing down" technique.

If any of you disagree with my technique, please share how you slow down. And I know its second nature to you, but please be specific about what you do (I'm still new so it is not second nature to me!)
Ed, I believe that's a common issue with many new riders. I used to slow down much the same way when first getting acquainted with motorcycles. As you ride more and become more comfortable on a motorcycle, your braking technique will change, believe me. When the vehicles behind you start to stack up because you're slowing down too slowly, and it happens repeatedly, you'll start downshifting using your engine AND your brakes for a little quicker slowdown.

As for technique, like the previous posters have already stated, it's best to always be in the gear that is normally used for the speed you're traveling. I always use engine braking with or without my brakes, at least down to 2nd gear. It's simpler that way.

Just takes more saddle time and it'll come naturally. Ride safe.
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post #6 of 44 (permalink) Old 06-29-2014, 04:14 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you for all the replies. I sort of guessed that would be correct, but I wanted to make sure before I started making bad habits. Engine braking =/= brake lights was also a concern I thought of too.

Using the brakes at the higher gears feels so weird though. Just have to practice more I guess...
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post #7 of 44 (permalink) Old 06-29-2014, 07:35 PM
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This is just what I do. Not necessarily right or wrong; just what I do.

I pretty well know what speeds constitute what gear. So I pull the clutch in, downshift (keeping the clutch in) to keep the bike in the 'correct' gear; and hit the brakes. My thinking is; if I suddenly need to stop quick; I'm already on the brakes. They are already warmed up, etc. etc.

Just don't get in the habit of shifting down to 1st while still cruising at 50! I've seen guys do that and boy does it end badly if they slip off of the clutch.

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post #8 of 44 (permalink) Old 06-30-2014, 08:49 AM
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I do a combination of both, shifting down while still using the brakes. Keep in mind that engine braking only will not light up your brake light, so that transport truck behind you will have no idea you're stopping. Be sure to use a combination of both front and back brakes - you'll get most of your braking from the front due to weight transfer. Also, as mentioned, for slow riding (around gas pumps, parking lots) use your rear brake only, don't even tempt yourself by putting your fingers over the levers.

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Last edited by Joelg; 06-30-2014 at 12:24 PM.
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post #9 of 44 (permalink) Old 06-30-2014, 12:13 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Eddy View Post
Thank you for all the replies. I sort of guessed that would be correct, but I wanted to make sure before I started making bad habits. Engine braking =/= brake lights was also a concern I thought of too.

Using the brakes at the higher gears feels so weird though. Just have to practice more I guess...
Have you taken an MSF course? Highly recommended if not. It will give you some much needed techniques that may just save your life someday.


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post #10 of 44 (permalink) Old 07-02-2014, 01:59 PM
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What I do is always use the brakes to signal my intent to the driver behind me, and downshift as needed to be ready to accelerate instantly if I have to. I think that's what some others are saying too.

I learned about braking in a '41 2-ton Chevy, hauling wheat. Loaded, it only had one reliable hard stop, then required a brake job; the rule was stop with the gear shift if at all possible. I probably don't brake hard enough soon enough since I began with nearly useless brakes, and haven't forgotten the experience.

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