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Old 11-02-2011, 04:39 PM   #1
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Join Date: May 2008
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Default Rake and trail explained

When looking at motorcycle specifications, the terms rake and trail often are listed. It's often a mystery to riders how these differ from motorcycle to motorcycle. In this article, I will explain what is meant by these terms and how they effect the riding characteristics of a motorcycle.


Rake is simply the angle of the steering head holding the forks. It is measured in degrees. The rake angle determines straight-travel stability. A larger rake angle means the motorcycle will tend to stay moving in a straight line while traveling. A shorter rake angle will allow the direction of travel to be changed with less effort from input on the handlebars.


Trail is the distance behind the steering axis that the contact patch of the tire touches the ground. It is measured from the steering axis to the center of the contact patch. A longer trail means the motorcycle tends to keep traveling in a straight line. A shorter trail will allow the motorcycle to turn easier, but be less stable going straight.

Putting it all together

A happy medium of the proper rake and trail maintains stability, while allowing the motorcycle to turn without too much effort. Sport bikes have around 24 degrees of rake while cruisers land around 30 degrees. Changing the geometry of a motorcycle through wheel size, raising, or lowering will change the trail. Modifications to the steering head angle will change both the rake and trail.
2008 XL1200R

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