So, you’re riding along and need to apply your brakes for whatever reason. Which brake is the most appropriate brake to use?

Following on my previous article regarding the rear brake, I have had some comments about the use of brakes. As stated, most motorcycle “racers” will use the front brake predominantly to the extent that some will remove the rear brake to shed a few grams of weight. Others state that they hardly ever use the back brake.

So here is my take on the matter. Here at BikeSAFE Motorcycle Training we make a point of teaching riders to use the back brake appropriately, where and when required.

Motorcycle riding is a skill and a discipline. It relies on quick and accurate judgement. Making the incorrect call can potentially cause you physical harm if not completely stuff up your day. So here at BikeSAFE, when learning to ride a motorcycle I teach learners to associate braking with two words:

Slow & Fast or any other synonym for these words.

Slow = Rear/Back brake. That’s the one on your right foot. That’s the one that when you run into trouble you are going to slam you foot onto. So it makes sense that at high speed you want to really avoid using this brake too quickly and firmly. It is because they are going too fast to effectively apply the back brake that “racers” tend not to use it.

Fast = Front brake. That’s the one on your right hand control cluster. That’s the one that in a panic you are going to grab. That’s the one that you should ensure the front wheel is facing forward and that you are upright. This is the one that will in all likelihood make you fall when you “lock it up”.

So, how do I apply this logic?

1 We are travelling slowly, doing a low speed manoeuvre, performing a U turn, turning a corner or going around a round-about (as a novice) we make use of the rear brake.
2 We are travelling down the road at 80kmph and we need to slow down, we make use of the rear brake. If we are intending to stop or possibly power away again we can downshift, using engine braking as well.
3 We are travelling down the road at high speed (no, not exceeding the speed limit) and we need to slow down fast/quickly – note, we are not going to stop. Here we are using both words, so logically we are going to apply both front and rear brakes. Gently and softly on the rear to prevent a lock up – we only want to wash some speed off and assist the front brake and gently but firmly on the front, to prevent a lockup. If you need to stop in this situation, we can now downshift to first gear and it’s acceptable to do this with the clutch in while coasting to a stop.
4 We are travelling at high speed and we are confronted with a situation where we need to stop quickly, such as an emergency. Here we use the front brake primarily. The rear brake can assist, but, we are stopping and applying the rear brake to firmly will result in a rear wheel lockup. If you have time to downshift then you can, but, don’t let the downshift detract from the need to stop.

So, why not drop us a line or send use an email. The details are on the panel at the bottom of this page or if you have any comments that you may wish to add to this, why not include them in a general enquiry on out Contact Us page?

Stay safe, be BikeSAFE.

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