Have you used your rear brake since your test? Me neither....
But, recently more and more WSB, BSB, club racers, and track riders are using the rear brake to gain "an advantage". In Moto GP riders have used the rear brake for years. But with 320bhp+ you would wouldn’t you....
So what are the advantages? We’re told, by keeping the bike more inline on corner entry, also you can tighten your line mid corner without having to move your foot which again can upset your bike, and for the feel factor, and you get a much better idea of what the brakes doing through your thumb, rather than through rigid boots.
For us, this is a completely new experience, and it’ll be interesting to find out if your average rider that does 5-10 track days a year thinks its worth the cost (I used my own money to buy this). I wanted to try the HEL option for 3 reasons.
James says the only riding advantage for our level though is bling, do you agree?
Let‘s find out....
You can fit a thumb master cylinder to work with the conventional foot brake all bikes have, but I decided to ditch the foot lever altogether and to run the brake line directly to the rear caliper.
If you‘re competent on the spanner’s, you’ll definitely be able to fit this. If not, get it booked in at your local bike shop.
It took me about an hour to fit as I had to drop a fork leg out to get the mounting bracket on, but it wasn't a complicated job. I recommend a vacuum pump to bleed the brake line though though if your running a line directly from the clip-on to the rear caliper.
At the time of ordering, make sure you know the exactly diameter of your fork leg.
Double check that the with thumb lever fully pressed it doesn't come into contact with the clutch lever...
Novice and intermediate riders who see the track bike in the paddock always have two questions, "what's that?" and "does it work?"
I explain what it is and say...yes, it works...
The real question though should be, "what advances does it have over a normal foot operated brake?"
That's easy to answer in my case (other than the advantages given above), I have the option of a rear brake. It might sound like a daft answer as I always had a foot lever, but in my head, I'd ruled it out. I've never liked them and I could never get "the feel" right. So I've never used it.
The thumb brake option therefore puts the rear brake back into play...for me.
I'm not going to lie, it took some getting used to, but the feedback you get is perfect and gives you confidence.
My thinking on getting through a bend was always - aim for the right line, find the braking marker, snap the throttle shut, brake, tip in whilst trail braking, look for the exit, off the brake and drive out. There was no more thinking capacity for adding another brake!
I ended up focusing on two corners at Donington, Foggy's and Melbourne Loop, and learning how using the thumb brake affected the bikes behaviour. I spent 4 sessions doing this, and by the 5th I was using it into Redgate and Godards also without overloading my brain.
Without a doubt it has an advantage over not using it, and it's staying on the bike. Even I can tell that when you've got the front brake hard on, on the thumb brake stops the back end from wondering so much, which gave me more confidence to throw it in at higher speeds. I then found that my braking markers were moving back further, so lap times dropped.
In the final session of the day I found the second advantage - To tighten a line.
I'd got a good drive out The Old Hair Pin (for me, LOL) and on the second left hand kink before McLean's I'd touched the front brake to load the front tyre and tipped into the corner. I got the instant feeling of "You've over cooked this, you've never gone this fast into here before, and the classic, this is it...." Three things then quickly entered my head - DON'T touch the front brake, the tyre's will probably lean a bit more and try the rear brake! My thumb was already on it (its seemed natural by then) and the thumb brake knocked enough speed and revs off to go from the apex to the rumble strip on the exit, all whilst sweating and not breathing!
My only comment on the design is this, and it's a small one. The angle of the lever is set at 90 degrees to the fork leg and this can't be altered. The lever can be adjusted in height, span and length, but not at the angle it meets your thumb. So at the end of the day my thumb was sore as it was constantly on the edge of the lever surface. If the mounting bracket nodes were slightly angled to the mounting point of the master cylinder, it would allow your thumb to be flat on the lever and give more comfort. This was backed up after speaking to an advanced rider in the next garage who had one fitted, but he'd taken a file to the leading edge of the lever and had a plan to get a whole new "twisted" lever machined up over the off season, so it wasn't just me.
Would I advise anyone to buy one? Absolutely, but just allow for a "self re-calibration period".
Its bling too....eh James"
I'll look at this again when my thumb isn't sore!
TOTAL SCORE 26/30