March, April 2018

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 Two Feet, Two Pedals

Many Blog readers will have driven go-karts. Go-karts come is two types: the mega fast pro-karts, and the slower versions for fun or corporate entertainment. ‘Fun’ karting it enjoyable for all, as well as for reminding race drivers of the importance of carrying speed through turns.  Karts have two pedals: one on the right for acceleration, and one on the left for braking. In karting, we have no trouble using our left foot for braking. Until reading these words, most fun-kart drivers have not given left foot braking a second thought. However for road use, they will see left foot braking as a dark art for the dark side. Or is it?

In real world motoring, 3-pedal manual operated transmissions are in decline. Two-pedal automatics, paddle-shifts and electric cars are on the rise. If your road car has only two pedals, do you use your left foot for braking? In 99% of cases the answer is, “No’. So how come we have this anomaly? Left-foot-braking is fine at your karting emporium, yet it is out of the question in your road car.

When I drive a two-pedal car, I always use my left foot for braking, although my wife (who has driven karts) refuses to left-foot-brake. In a two-pedal road car, left-foot-braking has several benefits. It is safer as you can hover over the brake pedal in situations where there is a possibility that you may need to brake. It is also useful for low speed manoeuvring. On the move, it reduces time delay in two ways: throttle to brake, and brake back onto throttle. While this road-going time-saving may seem like words from a racer gone mad, time saving is not the primary reason for left foot braking. By deleting this delay, the ride is smoother in the transition phase: throttle-to-brake and brake-to-throttle. This delivers a more comfortable ride for you and your passengers. It can also be advantageous in the growing number of two-pedal turbo cars as a means of eliminating turbo-lag.

There are disadvantages to left-foot-braking. Get it wrong, like mistaking the brake pedal for a non-existent clutch pedal, and the car will stop dead, whereupon you will be rammed from behind because you ‘braked for no reason’. You might even suffer a dyslexic confusion and stand on the accelerator when you meant to brake. Until you have refined your left foot’s pedal action, you won’t have proper control. It is a valuable skill but don’t blame me if you get it wrong. Once mastered, you will wonder why it took you so long to come over to the dark side.