While practicing braking technique, begin with early braking points to perfect the sequence without the stress of a fast-approaching corner. Initially, smooth is slow, but as you master the technique, you'll find you will be able to remain smooth while executing these inputs in an ever-shorter period of time. Keep in mind, however, that doing it quickly is optional-doing it smoothly is not.
Once the weight is transferred forward and the fork is compressed, it's time to transition to maximum braking, really squeezing the front brake lever (again, smoothly). Build up the level of lever pressure incrementally over many, many sessions, and you should feel the limits of front-tire traction and the rear tire lifting. Don't rush to find the limit; this is delicate business and the price of exceeding the limit is dear indeed. To best judge your corner-entrance speed, try to get your heaviest braking done early, allowing you to release the brakes smoothly over the end of the braking zone, transitioning from near-maximum fork compression to perhaps 50-70 percent of its stroke, where fork travel usually ends up under maximum cornering force.
I confirmed these figures by calling Yoshimura Suzuki crew chief Tom Houseworth, the man leading the group responsible for current AMA Superbike Champion Ben Spies' GSX-R1000. When asked where in the stroke the front suspension is during maximum cornering, Houseworth called up Spies' data from a recent test at Fontana on his computer. "In Turn Five-the double left-once he's off the brake, and in the three-tenths of a second before he's back on the throttle, Ben's at 84 out of 120mm of stroke, so yeah, 70 percent." Most of us don't corner as aggressively as Spies, so figure something nearer 50 or 60 percent stroke.
When I taught at the Kevin Schwantz Suzuki School, fellow instructor and three-time AMA National Champion Jamie James said it best with the fewest words: "Release the front brake even slower than you squeeze it on." This allows the weight to transfer more evenly front-to-rear, to prevent the front suspension from rebounding (springing back) too quickly and upsetting the chassis as you're entering the corner. At the same time, you need to be careful not to overload the front contact patch with too much braking as you lean into the corner, causing the front tire to slide or push, which to the vast majority of mortals is quickly followed by dragging your elbow and then helmet in rapid succession.
In my experience, more crashes are caused by trailing the brakes too hard and deeply into the corner than any other method of losing traction, so beware. Front-tire traction is never more critical than while turning into a corner with the throttle off and the front brake on, so this balancing act of braking force versus cornering force is best done with delicate care. That said, Houseworth's data revealed that Spies trails the brakes all the way to the corner's apex (with the fork at or near maximum compression). Evidently, that's what it takes to beat six-time AMA Superbike Champion Mat Mladin. Only two men have beaten Mladin in eight years-Spies and current MotoGP World Champion Nicky Hayden-so for the rest of us, it's prudent to not push the limits of trail-braking.