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Here's the deal... Last summer I sold a 2013 Concours C14 and ultimately purchased two bikes for a different style of riding and fit (a 2010 Vulcan Classic and a 2013 Voyager). The Concours and the Voyager both use K-ACT. To my error, I’ve never taken the time to practice any type of panic stop on my Classic and thought my story might encourage others to take time to practice your stops.

I rode to work in heavy traffic this morning on the Classic (a non-ABS version). While on three lane road doing about 45ish the lady in front of my decides to slam on her brakes to see someone pulled over on the side of the road. Although I had to act fast, there was plenty of clearance for stopping. I hit the brakes (pretty hard) and the rear wheel immediately locked up. The front was fine, but the back was sliding.

The bike was very stable, so control wasn’t an issue. However, every time I lighten up the right foot to stop the rear skid, my darn right hand would automatically reduce the braking on the front. I had to regroup and concentrate to get the front brake pressure correct, without pushing too hard on the rear. This was a totally different style of braking for me and it didn’t feel natural. It wasn’t something I had to do with much effort in the past, as the electronic braking systems on my previous bikes did all of that concentrating and calculations for me. I was surprised at how I had to disregard my instincts in order to manage a fast non-ABS stop. In the end, I stopped in time, but if I hadn’t of given myself a lot of clearance or if it had been a "REAL" panic stop the story would have been a lot different.

This note is to encourage everyone (especially the non-ABS riders) to make sure they’ve practiced their quick stops (in a safe way of course). I didn’t think much about taking time to re-learn how to stop when I changed bikes, but I sure will do it now.
 

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+1 Kap

I've practiced a few emergency stops before (non ABS) and thought I had it down pat, but I was mistaken. The one unplanned (real) emergency stop I experienced was a near disaster in proper braking. I don't know how the bike remained upright. Maybe the few practice stops helped, I don't know, maybe they did, but there sure wasn't any thinking involved, just pure panic. The books tell you to practice stops working up to higher and higher speeds and I can't stress enough how much that should be done. Most of us probably don't and seldom practice quick stops above 45 or 50. My one near disaster was over a blind hill where I ignored the yellow suggested speed sign and the bike was light on the wheels. That made a huge difference and was unpleasant to say the least.
 

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Last year was my first year on my '09 900 Custom, and my first time on a motorcycle in 43 years. I (thought I ) practiced panic stops, both in parking lots and on empty roads, enough to be ready for the real thing. I had a few panic/hard stop incidents last year, twice because I was too close and daydreaming. Each time I locked up the rear wheel but managed to recover nicely.

This year I practiced more, and began treating many stops as "almost" panic stops, being sure to apply front and rear together without grabbing, to train myself. Yesterday I hit the brakes hard when the car in front did not do what I expected (how dare he?). I used much more front brake than before, with nary a chirp from the rear, and slowed down quickly and safely.

When you react and don't have time to think and plan your actions, muscle memory does the job. I will continue practicing, and will continue to learn to ride safer so I don't cause my own panic situations.
 

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Effective high effort braking is something we all must practice and get comfortable doing. Yet, a VERY high percentage of riders of all brands and styles rarely ever practice high effort braking. Being a MSF instructor for 25+ years has kept me sharp on my skills, including those far faster than parking lot speeds. Doing it right means both brakes, applied at the same time, with firm progressive application on the front and steady reducing effort on the rear (keep that rear wheel rolling for stability). On most bikes I can get the front brake lever almost to the grip with no lock up, and the rear keeps rolling up to the end of the stop.

I can stop my BMW R1200RT very quickly with no rear tire sliding and no ABS engagement because I do practice the stops. In the recent Street Skills class I teach at Road America I demo'd high effort stops from 45 mph, without engaging the ABS and then purposely engaging the ABS (front and rear). One student said I stopped quicker without the ABS. The point is, you HAVE to practice effective high effort braking so you know what/how to do when you need to do it. Effective braking done right is really no drama, the bike just stops.

Now that I have my VN1600 Classic (non ABS) I have a lot of practice to do. Practicing braking helps make you a proactive rider (controlled and effective) and not a reactive rider (panic and loss of control).
 

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i have a bunch of metal in my right ankle, so i have trouble using the rear brake. i rarely use it, i should practice this weekend
 

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I've found with my 900 that dropping a few gears and letting go of the clutch helps a lot when trying to scrub speed from north of 50mph. Not sure if it's best practice or not but it works.

This is of course in addition to using both breaks.
 

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I love threads like this one!

Over the years I continue to practice safe riding skills. I have my own set of cones to set up courses. I periodically take safety courses which I have previously taken.

Some of the comments I regularly hear:

"So, did you not learn what you needed the first time around?"

"What are you afraid of?"

"Are you trying to build confidence? Just ride man!"

"I don't worry about it. I did well when I took the course."

"Maybe you just need to ride more."

"You spent half a day riding courses in a parking lot? That's weird."

"Doesn't all that emergency braking put unnecessary wear on your tires?"


I feel that a rider must constantly practice safe riding skills! Braking is probably one of the most important skills a biker can have. When you consider the split second we get when something happens, improving skills makes sense. If we haven't trained muscle memory we are depending on luck and chance. Because it's muscle memory that will perform the actions needed in an emergency.

Even if a rider has been riding for years it is like starting over when you ride a different machine than the one you trained on. Every technique you learned must now be executed slightly different.
@Kap thanks for sharing your story. As we all know, riding is a wonderous thing. Serious injury and fatalities are not! We must NEVER forget that riding is inherently dangerous. It only takes one incident.
 

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How would you feel about strapping into the seat in coach, and then have the pilot on the intercom declare, "get comfortable folks, we got 500 miles to fly. Myself, well its been at least 15 years since I've had any flight training, but hey, I was near top in my class back then,.....so we should be fine as long as nothing happens."

Thing is, we never know that "nothing" will happen. A friend of mine is the flight captain of a twin engine luxury jet for an insurance company. He has to submit to hundreds of hours of flight training every few years, always getting updates, always sharpening his skills.

Sure he is flying a plane and we're "only" riding. We both can be equally dead when we screw up. He's up there with nothing but other professionals. We're on the roads with all the other crazies/idiots, distracted/disconnected by everything. Training and skills improvement is not a one time event. And I'm certain if I pulled any ten riders on their bikes onto a braking practice lane, maybe two would really do well, maybe. I've been a Rider Coach for 25+ years and braking is the least mastered skill I see with any riders. Practice to use the front brake with steadily increasing effort all the way to the end of the stop, while evenly decreasing the rear brake effort up to the end of the stop. The rear brake is more for stability than braking effort. If you cannot do this, with control, and repeatedly, consistently, then you do NOT have good braking ability.
 

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How would you feel about strapping into the seat in coach, and then have the pilot on the intercom declare, "get comfortable folks, we got 500 miles to fly. Myself, well its been at least 15 years since I've had any flight training, but hey, I was near top in my class back then,.....so we should be fine as long as nothing happens."

Thing is, we never know that "nothing" will happen. A friend of mine is the flight captain of a twin engine luxury jet for an insurance company. He has to submit to hundreds of hours of flight training every few years, always getting updates, always sharpening his skills.

Sure he is flying a plane and we're "only" riding. We both can be equally dead when we screw up. He's up there with nothing but other professionals. We're on the roads with all the other crazies/idiots, distracted/disconnected by everything. Training and skills improvement is not a one time event. And I'm certain if I pulled any ten riders on their bikes onto a braking practice lane, maybe two would really do well, maybe. I've been a Rider Coach for 25+ years and braking is the least mastered skill I see with any riders. Practice to use the front brake with steadily increasing effort all the way to the end of the stop, while evenly decreasing the rear brake effort up to the end of the stop. The rear brake is more for stability than braking effort. If you cannot do this, with control, and repeatedly, consistently, then you do NOT have good braking ability.

Well Said!
 

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Getting ready to start my third season of riding, and this thread is awesome. Such good reminders, and OP, glad you managed this unexpected situation so well!
 
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