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Trail and Trail Braking on a motorcycle, how to understand and use it?

As a person for whom languages ​​have always been difficult, I always explode with indignation when specialists switch to their profile bird language. Over time, when you start to sort out the terms, you find an alternative explanation for them in your native language, many little things become clear that so treacherously slip away in boring technical literature.

It is sad to admit, but in the Russian language there are no stable analogues to the concepts of “Trail” and “Trail braking”. Maybe someone tried to introduce them, but not many people use these methods and terms. By and large, the vast majority take a motorcycle just to enjoy life, and not to engage in philology and digging in the meanings of the notation.


This is a concept in the geometry of a motorcycle that can characterize the level of handling of a model. It initially depends on the inclination and the extension of the front fork. Basically, imagine the visual continuation from the end point of the fork to the ground, and now imagine how far from that point is the contact patch on the tire? It is this segment that bears a proud, incomprehensible to many, name – Trail.

– To me, too, what an important bird. Trail of some kind, well, is he so what? – someone will snort skeptically.

Not so simple. The length of the cut really helps professionals adjust the bike’s handling. The longer the distance between the contact patch and the visual extension of the fork, the less maneuverable the motorcycle. The Long Trail can be found on all choppers, all motorcycles with a large fork angle. If you cannot determine this indicator externally, suddenly you only have a meager table of characteristics in front of your eyes, observing Trail in numbers you are able to predict the level of agility, stability and approximate geometry of the model.

How does the Trail change?

The easiest way to change the Trail is to adjust the front fork. But the geniuses of technical thought did not stop there. There is a legend that on low-profile tires the Trail segment is reduced, despite the fact that the fork itself does not change its position. I am referring to the experiments of techies who cannot sleep well and do not drive, but just give me something to cheat. They went further, it is logical that when the front wheel of a smaller radius is installed, the angle of inclination of the entire motorcycle changes and, accordingly, the Trail decreases. This approach is fraught with simple city bikes because changing the geometry of the entire motorcycle can cause imbalance.

Anyway, most of the mechanics are playing with the position of the fork in search of the optimal angle for the desired characteristics.

Trail braking

A concept that everyone knows about on the track, but everyone uses it, from fragile beginner girls to severe bearded bikers. But only professional riders always remember about it and practice this phenomenon consciously.

Have you ever noticed that at the moment of braking with the front brake or when you possibly got on the footpegs, rested on the steering wheel, at such moments the motorcycle’s handling changes? I’m not talking about balance and not about the horror in the eyes of the brakes and wheel locking when you are trying with all your might to cope with the situation.

When braking or other loading on the front of the motorcycle, the front fork will obviously sag. The sense of the technique is CONTROLLED braking when maneuvering in a corner. When the fork was compressed, its angle of inclination changed. The continuation point of the fork has approached the contact patch, hence Trail … What is he? That’s right, it has become smaller. It is easier for a motorcycle to enter a turn, but do not forget that you are moving and braking, and even in a turn! Professionals hone this skill for a long time. Urban motorcyclists sin with such driving methods on an unconscious level, not realizing that they are doing some kind of Trail Braking.

Moreover, your goal is not to squeeze the lever stupidly. You control your speed and trajectory by applying the front brake, from start to finish. In the city, this is necessary when the situation tends to a stalemate, the hair on the head stands on end, and the counter for the correct action inexorably rolls to zero, because someone decided to slip the same turn in front of you or did not give way. There can be any reason. The bottom line is that you smoothly edit your speed with the brake, monitor the tilt angle and the turning radius, and when the peak of the turn is passed, release the brake just as smoothly so that the motorcycle does not kick up, but calmly level out due to the speed.

Trail Braking requires from the pilot a complete understanding of the process, nerves of steel and trust in both his own mind and the capabilities of the motorcycle. Any unnecessary body movements, sudden thrusts of gas or squeezing the brake more than you should and you are already out of the corner.

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