Motorcycle Braking Simplified with BrakeBuTT

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PERTH, Australia – Braking is one of the toughest skills to learn on a motorcycle. Get into most cars, and it’s pretty simple. Stomp big pedal, car stop. Bikes, as any rider knows, are much more complex. There are two brake levers, each with its own way to kill you.

The front lever controls the powerful front brakes, and if you grab that too hard all the bike’s momentum will shift the weight forward. If the tire grips, you might lift up the rear wheel and launch yourself Superman-style over the handlebars. If it doesn’t, you can be flat on your face in less than a second. Try it in a corner, and you can quickly eat up whatever traction you were using for cornering and slide merrily off into the bushes.

The back lever – an unresponsive pedal you stab at with a stiff motorcycle boot, I might add – controls the rear wheel brake. Stomp it too hard, which is very easy when you’re pooping yourself in an emergency, and you’ll lose traction and lock the back wheel up straight away. Many a new rider has gone and over-prodded that lever, steering clear of the front brake due to uncomfortable weight transfer, and given themselves their first taste of road rash.

The proper way to do it, of course, is to apply both brakes together, making sure you’ve got around about a 70:30 ratio of pressure between the front and rear brakes. The front brakes handle most of the stopping, the rear brake causes the bike to hunker down instead of pitch forward, the angels sing and you stay out of hospital. But this is easier said than done, especially where spongy foot pedals are concerned.

Linked brakes are reasonably common on higher-end streetbikes now, Honda having developed its combined braking system through the late 70s and early 80s. Many of today’s ultra-high-tech sportsbikes rock electronically controlled proportional braking systems, most with lean angle-sensitive ABS included, and they’re absolutely terrific at their jobs. But the BrakeBuTT is the first system we’ve come across designed to retrofit to just about any motorcycle, giving you a fully adjustable combined braking experience.

This electronic system fits to your bike in two places. At the handlebars, it places a hydraulic pressure sensor that reads how much brake you’re applying at the front lever, as well as an on/off switch and a dial that lets you choose how much braking you want at the rear wheel. Somewhere near your right boot sits a pressure control unit the size of a GoPro camera, that can put as much as 1,000 psi of pressure onto a cable that actuates the rear brake lever.

The effect is near-instant, putting as much brake pressure as you’ve dialed in back to that rear brake. BrakeBuTT’s inventors seem primarily to be dirt bike riders, and you can easily see how handy this kind of system would be when negotiating steep downhill sections in motocross boots. The ability to flick it on and off and modulate the pressure as you ride gives you total flexibility.

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