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What is a Rake and Trail on a Motorcycle?

What is a Rake and Trail on a Motorcycle?

Motorcycles are carefully designed machines built to deliver superior handling and control for safer rides. Before a motorcycle is manufactured in the factory, it takes a lot of time to craft a perfect motorcycle design with appropriate geometry and dimensions to ensure an ideal riding posture, maximum performance, and a safe riding experience. One of the primary elements of a motorcycle design that plays a crucial role in the safety, control, and stability while riding is its rake and trail. Read this article to learn what a rake and trail is on a motorcycle.

1. What is a Rake and Trail on a Motorcycle?

To understand what a rake and trail is on a motorcycle, consider the front end of a motorcycle. To give you a rough idea, a motorcycle with its front wheel visible from the rider’s eye view is said to have a greater rake angle and trail distance. Meanwhile, if the motorcycle’s front wheel is less visible to the rider in the riding posture, it means that the motorcycle has a shorter rake and trail distance.

Consider an imaginary vertical line passing through the center of the front wheel when the motorcycle is parked straight on two wheels. Consider another imaginary line passing through the steering head and front forks, intersecting the vertical line, and extending to touch the ground. The angle between these two lines is known as the rake of a motorcycle. Meanwhile, the distance between the point of intersection of the vertical line touching the ground to the other line passing through the front forks and touching the ground is known as the trail distance.

2. What Is a Wheelbase on a Motorcycle?

A wheelbase on a motorcycle is the horizontal distance between the centers of the front and rear wheels. If a motorcycle has a greater rake angle and longer trail distance, its wheelbase will be longer.

3. What Is the Impact of Rake and Trail on a Motorcycle’s Handling and Stability?

3.1 Impact of Rake and Trail on a Motorcycle’s Stability 

Motorcycles With Greater Rake and Trail

A motorcycle with a greater rake angle and longer trail distance has a longer wheelbase and better stability. This is because such motorcycles have a low center of gravity due to longer wheelbase. A longer wheelbase allows the motorcycle seat to be installed at a lower height. Such motorcycles are easier to ride on straight roads due to their better linear stability. Examples of motorcycles with a greater rake angle and longer trail distance and wheelbase include cruisers, touring bikes, and choppers. Out of these, choppers have the longest wheelbase, trail, and rake. However, it does not mean they are the most ideal for stable and comfortable rides. The motorcycle design has to be balanced and must also consider various factors.

Motorcycles With a Smaller Rake and Trail 

On the contrary, motorcycles with a smaller rake angle and trail distance are less stable. In such motorcycles, the front forks or front end is steeper and closer to the imaginary vertical line passing through the center of the front wheel. A smaller rake angle and trail distance means a smaller wheelbase. Such motorcycles are more compact and have a taller seat height, meaning the center of gravity is higher in such a motorcycle. A higher center of gravity means the motorbike will be less stable and the rider will find it difficult to control such a bike. Examples of such motorcycles include sports bikes and naked bikes. Due to being fast, agile, and having greater rake and trail, such motorcycles are unstable.

3.2 Impact of Rake and Trail on a Motorcycle’s Handling 

Motorcycles With Greater Rake and Trail

To understand the impact of rake and trail on a motorcycle’s handling, we must first consider the relationship between stability and handling. Stability and handling are two major characteristics when it comes to motorcycle riding that are indirectly proportional to each other. If a motorcycle is more stable and has better linear performance, it will have poor handling characteristics.

A motorcycle with a greater rake angle and longer trail distance and wheelbase, like a cruiser, will not be agile and quick when it comes to handling and steering. Such motorcycles are difficult to steer and maneuver on turns and corners. A greater rake angle and longer trail distance and wheelbase also means a heavier front end which makes the steering difficult.

Motorcycles With Smaller Rake and Trail 

On the other hand, sports and naked bikes, despite being unstable due to their smaller rake and trail, are highly maneuverable and agile motorcycles. They perform better when it comes to turning tight corners, leaning, and maneuvering on twisty roads. Sports and naked bikes are also easier to steer as you do not have to push a heavier front end like in most cruisers and touring bikes.

4. The Bottom Line

It is up to you which type of motorcycle you ride and what you want from a motorcycle. If you like comfortable rides on straight and paved roads with classic bulky looks, a cruiser or a touring bike is a good option. However, you must have the skills to handle a heavyweight motorcycle as cruisers and touring bikes are usually heavy. Meanwhile, if you prefer maneuverability and better handling over stability while riding a motorcycle, a sports or naked bike is a perfect choice.

Also, handling and stability are not the only two factors that you must consider while buying the perfect motorcycle that suits you. You should also consider its weight, type, capability, engine size, cost, speed, acceleration, and performance. If you love high-speed performance with aggressive styling, full-body fairing, forward-riding style, better leaning angle, and better aerodynamics, there is no better motorcycle than a sports bike. However, if you want a lightweight, more maneuverable, and flickable motorcycle, naked bikes are a more exciting motorcycle category. However, if you are one of those riders who love traveling long miles on touring-oriented bikes with comfortable ergonomics, then you should go for touring bikes and cruisers.

Several motorcycles ensure a perfect balance between both stability and handling. These motorcycle types do not have too long or too short a rake and trail distance. These motorcycles include performance cruisers, adventure bikes, and standard bikes.

If you want to boost your riding experience on a long-distance ride, Viking Bags brings you the best-quality motorcycle equipment and luggage options. You can buy a fairing, sissy bar, backrest, and crash bar for your specific make and model to make it look new and perform better on long-haul rides. Further improvements can be made in the storage section by mounting multiple luggage bags on your motorcycle. These include saddlebags, tank bags, trunk bags, backpacks, and handlebar bags.

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