The motorcycle rear brake is probably one of the most misused controls on a motorcycle, but, when used correctly offers multiple advantages, such as stability at low speed, slowing down and adjusting speed in mid corner.
Every rider applies and uses the rear brake differently. Some find it easy to control the brake pedal, whereas others may avoid using the rear brakes altogether. Neither rider is wrong, as there are instances when the rear brake is essentially useless or can be of extremely useful assistance to the rider. Most riders who start off and have only been driving motor cars, will invariably apply the rear brake too suddenly and/or to firmly, resulting in the rear wheel locking up when braking. It is in many cases for this reason that some riders are of the opinion that the rear brake lever is just a useless appendage, used when executing low speed manoeuvres. Some will, especially when riding on tracks, remove the rear braking system altogether, in order to reduce the weight of the motorcycle. I frequently come across riders who have specifically been instructed to not use the rear brake.
When hitting the twisties, many opportunities arise for applying the rear brakes, although speeds and reasons may vary considerably. If you find yourself approaching and entering a turn too fast or in the incorrect gear, holding the throttle steady and applying a little rear brake, will scrub some speed and tighten your line, whereas decelerating (reducing throttle) and applying front brakes will transfer too much weight to the front wheel, causing the motorcycle to dive down, possibly loose traction and sometimes result in an accident. Use of the rear brake will flatten the bike out and slow down steering. The added stability achieved easily compensates for any loss in performance. When riding in the streets, the rear brake can be used more efficiently as less braking force is required, leaving more weight on the rear wheel to facilitate braking traction.
It is important to understand the benefits of using the rear brakes in different situations. Practice using your brakes and familiarise yourself with their performance. Practice in a controlled environment and then apply what you have learnt when next out on the road.
Here at BikeSAFE Motorcycle Training Joondalup during our motorcycle lessons, we teach you, when learning to ride a motorcycle to associate your brakes with two words; slow and fast.
Slow – use your rear brakes to slow down or when riding slowly. We use the rear brakes to provide additional stability to the motorcycle.
Fast – use your front brakes to slow down fast or stop quickly. Ensure that your wheels are facing forward and that the motorcycle is in the upright position when using the front brakes. Any sudden application of the front brakes with the handle bars turned, regardless of speed, will almost always result in a low side fall-over.