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Thread: New BMW guy, old rider, and BMW brakes

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    New BMW guy, old rider, and BMW brakes

    My first post so pls bear with me, this may sound kind of basic to seasoned BMW riders...This past August I bought a 2012 R1200RT after almost 30 years since selling my last bike, a Honda 750 Sabre. I love the RT and feel pretty comfortable with it to this point but recognize the need to go back thru a riding class to renew some lost skills (had a class scheduled but had to cancel due to business travel. Rescheduled for mid-January). This question is about the best practice for the bike's brake system. They are impressive to say the least, but the technical and anecdotal stuff I've read about the partially integrated ABS system seems contradictory at times. I have always been a proponent of lots of front brake and judicious use of rear brake during both routine and "aggressive" braking. But if I read the technical info correctly, on the RT you get maximized front and rear braking using only the front brake lever. In fact I've noticed at times that when I initiate braking with the front lever and then get on the rear pedal, the pedal seems to pulse as though the ABS is kicking in. I'm curious what techniques you all use.

  2. #2
    Registered User lbarbee's Avatar
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    New BMW guy, old rider, and BMW brakes

    Never touch the back brake except in the rare situation when I am scrubbing off speed say in a steep downhill set of twisties.
    Lynn
    2008 BMW R1200RT (most fun you can legally have)
    2002 BMW R1150RT
    2008 Kawasaki Versys

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    rabid reader dbrick's Avatar
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    I never touch the rear brake pedal except when turning sharply at very low speeds.
    David Brick
    Santa Cruz CA
    2007 R1200R

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    100,000+ miler 32232's Avatar
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    The current RT front brake applies a proportional amount of rear brake depending on the brake force being used. The few times I've tried to add rear brake while using the front, the rear pedal feels like it has already been depressed.

    I find the rear brake pedal to be redundant in most on-the-road stopping situations and only use it for slow speed parking lot manoeuvres.
    Dave

    '06 Triumph Scrambler (Trans-Labrador veteran)

  5. #5
    Registered User lbarbee's Avatar
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    New BMW guy, old rider, and BMW brakes

    I did think of another time I use the back brake. A friend has a very steep grass and gravel drive about 100 yards long. I tend to drag the back brake as I slowly coast down the hill on a dew covered morning. ABS would probably take care of me, but old habits will not let me touch the front in that situation.
    Lynn
    2008 BMW R1200RT (most fun you can legally have)
    2002 BMW R1150RT
    2008 Kawasaki Versys

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    Thanks to all for your responses. You have confirmed my findings as well.

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    MOA #24991 Pauls1150's Avatar
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    One more time to use the rear brake and not the front: rolling downhill backward (yes I've done this quite a few times on various bikes).

    NOTE that one of the rear brake pads will wear significantly faster than the other rear pad, whether you use the rear brake lever or not.

  8. #8
    2011 R1200RT ka5ysy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 188233 View Post
    My first post so pls bear with me, this may sound kind of basic to seasoned BMW riders...This past August I bought a 2012 R1200RT after almost 30 years since selling my last bike, a Honda 750 Sabre. I love the RT and feel pretty comfortable with it to this point but recognize the need to go back thru a riding class to renew some lost skills (had a class scheduled but had to cancel due to business travel. Rescheduled for mid-January). This question is about the best practice for the bike's brake system. They are impressive to say the least, but the technical and anecdotal stuff I've read about the partially integrated ABS system seems contradictory at times. I have always been a proponent of lots of front brake and judicious use of rear brake during both routine and "aggressive" braking. But if I read the technical info correctly, on the RT you get maximized front and rear braking using only the front brake lever. In fact I've noticed at times that when I initiate braking with the front lever and then get on the rear pedal, the pedal seems to pulse as though the ABS is kicking in. I'm curious what techniques you all use.
    First, welcome back and welcome to the RT. You will love this machine as you grow to understand its capabilities.

    *** Instructor Hat On ***

    1. Best practice is to use both brakes fully for all stops. This avoids a major problem if you happen to ride another bike that does not have the brake system the BMW has which proportions a bit of rear brake in when you apply only the front brake. If you are taking a MSF or Harley Riders Edge class (MSF with Harley add-ons), you will be drilled in "both brakes". There is actually a penalty deduction for failing to use both brakes on a couple of the evaluations.

    Using both brakes has the benefit of having the weight transfer smoothly to the front tire occur and allow the 80% or better braking on the front without a lock up of the front tire. You still have a good deal of braking available on the rear. On our BMW's it is not a big deal because of the ABS. On other bikes, if you lock the front tire you probably will hit the ground unless you release the brake instantly. This is the reason it is drilled to use both brakes fully, and it is a good idea to lead a little with the rear brake first.

    2. When you are below about 10 mph (slightly above walking speed or less), do not touch the front brake unless the handle bars are square and straight ahead. If the front wheel is turned even slightly either way, you will feel an immediate hard pull in the direction of turn and probably will result in a drop, especially if you have full fuel and maybe a passenger on board. For parking lot maneuvers, rear brake only !

    3. The pulsing you are feeling is the ABS keeping you from locking the rear wheel from excess pressure on the rear brake. Remember that the BMW has very powerful brakes, and as a re-entry rider, you are not back up to speed with brake application, so the ABS saved you a possible high-side had you locked the rear wheel and then let off the brake before getting fully stopped. The ABS system on the RT is a great tool for emergency braking. The wife and I had an opportunity to exercise the ABS several weeks ago when a doe deer decided to merge into traffic in front of me out of a ditch alongside the road ! It is worth every cent of its cost.

    4. Remember to squeeze the front brake smoothy, no grabbing: It is a volume control, not an on-off switch. Same thing for the rear: Press smoothly. For both applications, coordinating smooth roll-on, roll-off of the throttle with application and similar smooth release of brakes is the key to a nice ride.

    *** Instructor Hat Off ***

    Happy new year and enjoy your new ride
    Doug, 2011 R1200RT Polar Metallic
    MSF #127350 NAUI #36288

  9. #9
    Registered User lbarbee's Avatar
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    New BMW guy, old rider, and BMW brakes

    I am certainly no expert here but here is what the owners manual says:

    "To optimise stopping distance, apply the front brakes rapidly and keep on increasing the force you apply to the brake lever."
    Lynn
    2008 BMW R1200RT (most fun you can legally have)
    2002 BMW R1150RT
    2008 Kawasaki Versys

  10. #10
    Registered User lbarbee's Avatar
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    New BMW guy, old rider, and BMW brakes

    From this article it looks like applying the rear brake has no effect until you apply more braking than the partially integrated system would apply.

    http://www.webbikeworld.com/BMW-moto...mw-abs-asc.htm

    "Even when using the integral function, the rider has the option to brake the rear wheel harder via the foot brake lever than the integral system as such would allow. This he can do up to the rear wheel locking point where ABS cuts in.

    Should the brake pressure applied by the rider be weaker than the pressure generated via the integral function, the riderÔÇÖs operation of the foot brake is not taken into account and the rear-wheel brake is applied in accordance with the integral function. Ideal brake force distribution between the front and rear wheel changes as a function of the load the motorcycle is carrying. "

    So with my limited riding skills, especially in emergency braking situations, I see no benefit for me to try to out think the system and apply additional rear braking that is only effective between the already system determined amount and full rear brake.
    Especially if I have to think about the load I am carrying and adjust rear brake accordingly.

    I am just not that good.
    Lynn
    2008 BMW R1200RT (most fun you can legally have)
    2002 BMW R1150RT
    2008 Kawasaki Versys

  11. #11
    2011 R1200RT ka5ysy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lbarbee View Post
    ...
    So with my limited riding skills, especially in emergency braking situations, I see no benefit for me to try to out think the system and apply additional rear braking that is only effective between the already system determined amount and full rear brake.
    Especially if I have to think about the load I am carrying and adjust rear brake accordingly.

    I am just not that good.
    Lynn: I would suggest that you take some training classes. The Experienced or Advanced rider course (now called BRC2 in some places) is a good choice as are other various programs around the country.

    You missed my point on the brakes: getting comfortable with having the gadgets doing what you should be capable of is a recipe for disaster if you happen to ride anything but your BMW. Your muscle memory will not be up to the challenge if you ever have to exercise any kind of emergency braking or swerving maneuver and it can kill you. Even with the BMW system protecting you, remember Murphy's law. Mechanical stuff fails. No matter how remote the possibility, it does.

    Since you mentioned "limited riding skills" please take the opportunity to practice three very important skills that are volatile and you will lose them without regular practice:

    1. Quick stops straight ahead
    2. Quick stops in turns
    3. Emergency swerving left and right.

    None of these requires a whole lot of thought as to weight you are carrying, and you will absolutely need them at some point in your riding career, and you really need to know how to perform them instantly without a whole lot of thought anyway. This is why the practice is necessary. I do a quick check on the way out the driveway when leaving the house: Quick figure 8 at low speed, then a swerve left and right going down the street using the fireplug marker reflectors in the street as the obsticle. I practice the quick stop in a curve heading to the main street, and then do a quick stop straight ahead at the actual stop sign before leaving my subdivision. All the elements are now warmed up and available in case of emergency.

    Something else I have noticed about some of my students; many have no idea what the bike does when the ABS activates. You might try a full quick stop with max braking pressure on front and rear and see what happens. (answer is: nothing exciting other than the bike will stop right now like you dropped a tail hook! )


    Homework: Mark off a stop point then do three runs at a constant speed (15mph is good) as follows;

    1. Apply only rear brake at the stop point, then mark your actual stop position.
    2. Apply only the front brake at the stop point and again mark the position.
    3. Apply both brakes fully up to ABS activation or slightly below and mark that position.

    You will find that 1 is the longest, 2 is medium and 3 is the shortest stop. This will be true for any bike, with or without ABS. If you try this on a non-ABS bike and happen to lock of the rear wheel from over braking, do not release the rear brake until you stop or you risk a high-side crash. For the front tire lock-up, release the brake instantly to avoid a drop.

    If you are uncomfortable doing any of this, please take a refresher course. It will save your life someday. You absolutely will learn some things and might even have fun doing it


    Quote Originally Posted by lbarbee View Post
    I am certainly no expert here but here is what the owners manual says:

    "To optimise stopping distance, apply the front brakes rapidly and keep on increasing the force you apply to the brake lever."
    What they are saying is to "squeeze the front brake lever, not grab it". That is correct as to the statement, but ignores proper application of the rear brake also. Apply both brakes, always, unless you are below about 10mph in a parking lot and maneuvering and you best use only the rear brake unless you want an asphaltic experience. A lot of RT riders (and others as well) have a history of parking lot drops that are easily explained: they touched the front brake with the handle bars turned one way or the other.
    Last edited by ka5ysy; 01-13-2013 at 11:51 AM.
    Doug, 2011 R1200RT Polar Metallic
    MSF #127350 NAUI #36288

  12. #12
    Registered User greenwald's Avatar
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    Thumbs up

    Asking for 'anecdotal information' on how to brake is like opening Pandora's Box - a myriad of advice, testimonials and techniques - many of which could get you into trouble. The fact that you yourself hint at having sub-divided thoughts of braking into "routine vs. aggressive" is already a passive 'cry for help.'

    You mention a lapse of 3 decades since last riding, and the desire to reacquaint yourself with the basic skills set for safe motorcycle operation - principles of physics (i.e. traction patches, weight transfer, etc.) that never change as long as what you straddle is a single-tracked vehicle with two wheels and a handlebar.

    Good for you!!

    I could review proper braking here and now, but will gladly defer to the professionals that will soon teach you.

    Take the course, challenge your instructors to defend the logic of what they propose, and go out and get some real time on your new RT in 2013.
    Last edited by Greenwald; 01-01-2013 at 03:25 PM.
    Kevin Greenwald - Touring Tips Editor
    Nationally Certified Law Enforcement Motor Officer (Ret.) / IBA Member #34281
    MSF RiderCoach # 121656 (BRC,SBRC,IS,IME,SMARTrainer)
    Motorcycle/Driving Instructor - ROAD AMERICA Race Track

  13. #13
    Registered User zenduddhist's Avatar
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    Welcome! Great advice given above...
    1969 Triumph Bonneville T120R, 1972 Commando 750, 1974 Vespa Rally 200, 1974 Commando 850, 1975 Commando 850, 2010 Triumph T100 w/sidecar, 2011 BMW R1200RT, 2013 Honda CB1100

  14. #14
    Registered User lbarbee's Avatar
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    New BMW guy, old rider, and BMW brakes

    Quote Originally Posted by ka5ysy View Post
    Lynn: I would suggest that you take some training classes. The Experienced or Advanced rider course (now called BRC2 in some places) is a good choice as are other various programs around the country.
    I have taken the training and have ridden about 10,000 miles per year for the last 10 or so. Dirt before that. I am not disputing your advice. It is exactly per the course work. It is also correct on the other bikes I own.

    What am questioning is that advice on an R1200RT.
    The manual, the dealers, the literature and the engineers of the bike seem to say different.

    For the first few years after ABS came out on cars, instructors continued to teach people to pump their brakes in an emergency stop. That was wrong and changed once ABS was standard equipment.

    It is not my limited riding skill that keeps me from using my back brake (generally). It is my inability to react to bike conditions in nanoseconds as the integrated brake system can do.

    What stimulus would my brain receive to tell me that the bike is not applying enough back brake and I should apply more?

    Use it if you want, I don't believe you can stop shorter or safer than me. I searched for studies or reviews to support your claims of traditional braking on the RT, as I am always learning, I just can't find any. I do agree that using it probably would not hurt you, but in SCUBA we teach the most simple safety maneuver because panicked people don't think very clearly.

    I have no problem switching to my other bikes, my brain just flips into non integrated mode.

    My goal is to be as safe as I can, so if in fact use of the back brake on a modern BMW is preferred I would love to see the data as I can improve.
    Lynn
    2008 BMW R1200RT (most fun you can legally have)
    2002 BMW R1150RT
    2008 Kawasaki Versys

  15. #15
    Registered User lbarbee's Avatar
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    New BMW guy, old rider, and BMW brakes

    One quick add from my SCUBA instruction life. We also teach, do the same thing, the same way, every time, emergency or not. There is certainly value in keeping the right foot muscles trained.
    Lynn
    2008 BMW R1200RT (most fun you can legally have)
    2002 BMW R1150RT
    2008 Kawasaki Versys

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