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technique or advice for riding down a mountain road?


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A friend and I are taking our bikes (mine is an '04 RT) up the Mt Washington (NH) auto road next week. I've invited a few other biker friends to come along and I'm getting the "Are you crazy?" response.


It's New England's highest peak (6288 ft) The auto road is paved. They close it to traffic if it's too windy. http://www.mountwashingtonautoroad.com/


This doesn't seem risky to me. There are no guard rails but we'll be going slowly I'm sure.


Are there particular risks or techniques?


Can I use my engine to break the speed all the way down without harm?


Anyone want to come along? We're making it a two day trip 9/19 and 9/20. Spending Satursday night here. http://www.mountwashingtonresort.com/

We'll probably leave the Nashua NH area Satursday morning around 8 or 9, and return Sunday afternoon. We're doing it over two days to get more riding in on the backroads and to have a 2nd shot at the mountain in case it's closed on Satursday. I'll be heading up from the Metro-West area of Boston (out near rt 495). We are not speed daemons... More people welcome! (I should probably post this in Ride and Event Planning)


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It's been a long time since I've been back there but there's nothing wrong that I can see. Remember the weather changes real fast up there (20 minutes can see a huge degree change) so make sure its a good warm clear day all around and you should be fine. I'd recommend having winter riding clothes available just in case and if the weather is the least bit questionable I'd pick another day to go up.


You might want to have an alternate ride route planned if the weather is not good on top. The fall colors back there probably won't be peaked but should have a good start by then. A secondary ride could be just as nice.


By now they should have some type of radio or something up there give weather reports as well. You might want to look into that as well.


Ride Safe





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The UnRally group did it by special arrangement as a pre-dawn ride. They caught the sunrise from up there.


It does get cold. Be prepared for weather.


Ride safe, and yes use engine braking as much as possible on the way down.


You'll be fine.

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Joe Frickin' Friday

Ayup, Lots of folks from The UnRally last month made the trip. The paved portion is in rough shape. No serious potholes, but lots of frost-heave and waviness. There is an unpaved section, about 1 mile or so, but ironically it's in better shape than the paved portion.


The brakes on your bike will tolerate a lot of abuse - a number of folks here take their RT's to track days and cook the bejeezus out of their brakes with repeated rapid decels from high speed. You'll be in low gear anyway since you won't be riding very fast (20-30 MPH most of the way), so engine braking will happen more or less automatically as soon as you let off the gas when approaching a corner. But don't worry, no matter what you do you won't fry your brakes on this road.


If you're like me it can be somewhat disorienting when staring off across a big valley/ravine when there's no foreground (next to the road) to provide a local horizon/motion reference. Solution? Just focus on the road itself, same as you would when riding a twisty road through the woods.


Beware of idiots: keep right when going around blind corners and switchbacks, and be ready to deal with someone else who ISN'T keeping right.

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You can adjsut your braking effort by choosing a higher or lower gear as needed. I descended Pikes Peak and maybe only touched my brakes 3 or 4 times going down...and I was riding 2-up. I the used 2nd, 3rd or 4th depending on the grade. 4th gear off hte throttle at only 2000 RPM is nice and serene it's so quiet. :)


I laughed a little at the "brake inspection" sign. It was cold that day so they weren't stopping vehciles. You could have easily touched my brakes with your bare hand... but you could smell the brakes on the cars in front of me.


Motorcycle brakes are pretty well oversized for "normal" street even when 2-up. That's because they have to be designed to slow the vehcile from higher speeds and give better feedback and stopping power with minimal lever effort without power assist. Basically the performance of the brakes equal or better the acceleration performance.


Heck, if you're a science nerd... I forget the exact formula... but you can take take the mass of the vehcile and the change in elevation and calculate how much energy you'll have to remove from the brakes. I'm sure Mitch knows the formula and units. I thought it was just mass * height to calculate potential energy.

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The best possible thing you can do is learn trail braking - which is using your brakes in a turn (technically, the front brake but we don't have much of a choice with our linked brake bikes.) And fairly agressively. This is the technique you use to go down a mountain at speed.


We all learn to accelerate through turns using the throttle to load the rear suspension, too keep the bike more steady. The reality of the situation is that in an aggressive corner, you need to be ON the (front) brake or ON the throttle. Either way, you've loaded one end of the suspension and planted it. On a downhill run, you're just loading the front suspension more.


When I'm entering a curve at 160 mph on my track bike, I'm braking heavily, and in to the turn. At some point, ususally before the apex unless I blow the corner, I'm on the throttle heavily.


I've had the opportunity to do a track day at Infineon recently. That is a "road course" with some pretty significant downhill action. I really learned to use my front brake confidently in the downhill in that exercise, and that has helped me improve my overall track time.


But the principles are the same regardless of the bike you ride. Trust your front brake, and learn to apportion braking traction and cornering traction.

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That sounds like a pretty good analysis to me. Don't mess with engine braking unless you just decide to go slow. One significant advantage of these bikes, anyway, of neutral or constant throttle is that it minimizes all that nasty throttle snatch and final drive slop.

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