35 comments on “Tips for braking on a motorcycle

  1. Your post on braking has helped me reconcile and organise the braking techniques I’ve been picking up through various training activities I’ve taken. Emergency (front only and clutch in), regular road braking (both), corners to scrub off a little speed(rear but maintain throttle).

    May I add another advantage of pulling in the clutch during emergency front wheel on braking; if the rider “forgets” in his panic to close the throttle fully then holding in the clutch prevents the rear wheel drive accidentally re-engaging and shooting the rider forward after they’d already stopped!

  2. Just read your artical on braking And just wish I had read it before I picked up a new cruiser type bike to ride home. After many years riding sports type short wheelbase bikes I had to brake slightly hard for a driver who had come round a round about quickly after changing there mind !!!! and applied the front brake the same as my Bonniville and yes the front washed out so easily so didnt use the back at all ,so no weight tranferance ( so lesson learned the hard way luckly hardly any damage to bike , thanks to leather bags on the bike just some bruises for me and wounded pride I had never had an off whilst moving before in many years of riding and was a real suprise as would not have happend on my other bikes I have ridden

  3. Nice article. A BMW R1100S with ABS will do stoppies. Pulling in the clutch when the rear wheel starts to come around is like putting on the rear brake, the rear wheel stops turning and a high side is a very likely result (did this test at racetrack: lots of pain). Keeping the rear wheel turning can stop the high side. May be possible to steer opposite, out of this rear slide to the left or right; the “coming around” of the rear end. Not easy to practice on the street. Little off-road bike, off-road is the best learning scenario. Wear all protective gear, rib protection too. If possible try to ride a minimum of 10,000 mi (16,000 km) per year for a couple of years. If you live you’ll be very proficient.

  4. Enjoyed reading cornering , braking, & comments, excellent advice.I’m the safety guy, I just completed a skills upgrade course , I’m a work in progress, you re-enforced what I was taught . With this go to site I can improve myself on my my bike. I’m going to suggest my motorcycle club members visit your site. For me, at 71, you’re never to old to learn, could save a life, your or someone else.thanks. Bob.

    • Hi Bob, we are of the same vintage! I have had a succession of Triumphs over many years and now at 71 I fear I may not bounce as easily if I go down. New left hip and right knee, from too many years of judo at a competitive level, sold my 1983 Bonnie 3 years ago as I thought my new knee would not be good enough. now I am back on a 2002 Triumph T100, electric start, no oil leaks that can cause skids, better brakes, ABS which is a new concept to me, just 5k miles on the clock, windscreen and now exploring around the rural roads of Hemswell in Lincolnshire, UK. I have decided to enrol for some BikeSafe training with the local police for a day and then maybe progress to higher levels.
      Its good to be back on two wheels but I fully appreciate that we can be almost invisible to car drivers, narrow profile of course, so I use day lights. I am a Trainer in my own business and so I appreciate that added knowledge, even when we THINK we know it all, can be a real life saver. What works for me is thinking ahead, knowing my capabilities and riding within them. The info here on braking is excellent and I am next door to ex RAF Hemswell where I will be using the peri tracks for some test braking. Its an extra 30kgs over the old Bonnevilles and so that added weight can help the braking road grip, but also hinder through the momentum .. safe riding everyone, Liam

  5. very good article except the last part about braking in the corner. You don’t want to really hard brake especially using front brake because you’ll washout front wheel in no time. If you want to do it you have to get up for moment to be vertical, brake and lean again. Otherwise you should use so called trail braking meaning you very gently squeeze either front or rear brake to adjust the speed. But trail braking is not easy, you have to practice it long enough.

    • In a corner, you cannot brake hard anyhow.
      But you can use the front brake fare more than you would expect; that is the message.
      We were able to practice braking in a corner on a circuit.

      Of course, when there is time and space, you can first get straight up and then brake in a straight line, but our advice is for situations ion which you would hit a truck or a tractor if you would act like that.

  6. Thanks, good write up. Another easy way I found to practice front wheel instability safely and easily is to find a parking lot with piles of fine sand/rocks and at low speed front brake into it.

  7. I am extremely delighted to have found this site. It is highly informative and heavily useful. Very very well written. All braking info are justified with practical explanation. Kudos to the team.. Thanks a ton.. well appreciated..

  8. Hi there.
    Just reading this, thanks to a google search. Seemed I found some accurate and detailed information. Thankyou for putting down the facts, i find website often contradict themselves and it is confusing.
    Your reasoning makes good sense, despite what people post here, your reasons are good and from experience.
    I am buying a bike in the next 4 weeks, and will be working on the things you said to practice.
    Thanks again,

  9. In Canada, the 3 day motorcycle training course for newbie’s teaches to always use BOTH brakes in all stops, there is no seperate routine for emergency or otherwise. Try it on your next emergency stop..use BOTH brakes.. you’ll stop significantly faster. Get it down pat, so it’s automatic in any situation. The mind is amazing, and remembers how it was trained. This is also true in cornering…remember both brakes..the rear brake stabilizes the bike.

    • As we say: it’s up to you.
      Precisely because the mind is amazing and remembers what to do, most motorcycle riders who are also car drivers will use the foot brake whith much too much force in an emergency situation.
      If you trust that you will behave correctly in an emergency situation, you could train yourself using both brakes (you are right that that works better).
      And if you have the idea that you might be one of the many people who would, being trained like that, use too much force on the rear brake, you could train yourself using only the front.

      • Lazymoto you are 100% right, if you grab too much rear brake, and thank you for refreshing that fact. The rear brake is only used for a slight drag in a corner and even then, it’s off and on. Remember the cone test, how dragging the rear brake slightly, straightened up the bike getting you around those cones with more ease?

        I have been so very fortunate that as a child I was taught this same way riding a bicycle (It was a 5 speed, so now you know I am ancient) But it did teach the skills of counter steering and the like even though that too is a natural instinct within our minds, and kids have no idea they have already mastered it, particularily when booting it along over 15 MPH.

        This is a outstanding motorcycle website. The main thread from it is you never stop learning to ride. I for one will never have all the answers.

  10. Hi, I recently went on an advanced braking course to practise exactly what you have been writing about.
    They got us to hold a spinning bicycle wheel by its axle and then asked us to turn it. It showed how strong the gyroscopec force was and by keeping the back wheel spining how stable the bike would be under braking!
    These are some of the best biking tips I have seen

    From: Joe

  11. I was told to NEVER brake IN A CURVE OR TURN. Now I’m too afraid to practice using your tips.
    I want to try by moving into a turn which I feel my “line” is too wide, I need to brake, and SQUEEZE the front brake. Is that a technique you’d recommend?

    From: Karen East Rutherford, NJ USA

    • Well ask yourself the question, is it safe to not brake and skid out of a turn ?

      It’s not safe to brake in turns *without* first practicing, but when practiced enough, it is perfectly safe to do a controlled brake manouvre, you see Rossi and Lorenzo do it in *every* corner 🙂

      For small corrections of speed and line, slightly apply the rear. For emergency braking, *don’t ever apply the rear: you’ll skid easily. Apply the front brake in a slowly building squeeze and you will feel the bike slowing down and uprighting, making braking more effective.

      But be careful not to use rear-brake in real deceleration; it will skid far more easily compared to the front, but be *careful* with the front too !

      But please learn it, it is the most occuring cause of fatal falls, people in angst gripping a full handfull of brakepower, and locking the rear or front with all consequences following.

      If practiced, it can be up to 80% as effective as in a straight line… Whoever told you to *never* brake in a corner was insane.

  12. This is by far the best piece of motorcycling advice on the entire world wide web ! Do you know how well a thing has to be written to be that ?

    From: TenHut

  13. I have a little query with the emergency brake, why pull the clutch in?
    Agreed there are many ways.. but the procedure (tought to me) was to roll back on throttle, to have the engine assist in breaking, front break followed by back, and gradually increase both. Then just before stop, to pull the clutch in (to avoid a stall).

    From: David

    • You need all your concentration to apply the front brake near 100% perfect…

      If you divert your concentration to downshifting, you not only divert cncentration, but also waste lost of *time* downshifting.

      And if you *forget* to downshift, the engine will try to push the bike forward massively from about 40 km/h, or stalling if the engine has no torque to push the bike… Both situations distracting the rider from optimal descelerating, and thus enlarging the risk hittng the object in your way !

    • @David : Never use the rear brakes.
      The last time I was in a panic situation I applied both brakes simultaneously (but gradually). The rear of the bike looses its traction with the road, thus making it easier to lock. Fortunately for me, I fishtailed, loosened my brakes are reapplied, and went around the obstacle.
      Also check out one more experience I had at http://apache160.blogspot.com/2009/11/i-should-have-been-dead-by-now_28.html.

      From: Akshay

  14. Just excellent. Well done. I doff my cap to you.
    You should think of putting all your detailed tips, and pictures together for a book. I for one would buy it.
    Again, well done

    From: Tunde

  15. Again, I think you have done an excellent job in presenting and explaining a complex process.
    I’d suggest a small change to your maximum braking procedure however, where you recommend rear brake first to achieve some early weight transfer to the front.
    By intentionally delaying the application of the front brake, even for an instant, you are extending your stopping distance. MOST of the weight transfer will occur as a result of gradual front brake application as you describe, and the value of the early rear brake is mainly its effectiveness before the weight transfer happens.
    If you start with 50-50 weight distribution, the front wheel will never have less than 50% weight on it and so is ready to start doing some serious slowing down immediately.

    From: Jim

  16. While I understand that you are trying to avoid a “panic situation”, it is already an emergency and every last bit of braking capability may be required.
    Additionally, the less grip the surface has, the more the rear brake will be used to slow and stop the bike. I recommend that beginners practice using both brakes and understanding the weight transfer.
    This means that when an emergence occurs they will instinctively use both brakes to their maximum and correctly. If braking is practiced I find it doesn’t take long before correct technique becomes instinctive.

    From: David

    • The problem is that ever so often you’ll see people locking the rear as a result of weighttransfer or “ABScarbrake instinct” (push the pedal to the metal), and then, as a result loosen *both* brakes, giving away essential braking potential.

      If you learn to concentrate fully on the front brake, most bikes (choppers and long tourers exluded by their geometry) will stop faster than many a ABS bike, with just the front stoppers.
      So psychologically seen, it’s much easier to concentrate on just the front.
      I’ve seen it happen that someone accidently locked the rear brake, loosened both, and in the following panic of overshooting the corner reapplied the front and locked it completely. If only the front was locked, a controlled loosening would have corrected the situation without getting scores in the paintwork like now happened.

  17. 27th Sept : Passed my test today!, massive thanks to your site which cleared up my thinking and definately assisted in me having a clear mind for the test. After about 30 mins practice this morning based your tips gave me much more confidence.
    Happy Biking from here on in !

    From: Dean

  18. Thanks for the info, this has helped in my understanding. I have my test tomorrow so this has cleared my thinking …..

    From: Dean

  19. You are doing an excellent job in safety promotion. please keep it up.
    I heartly appriciate your task

    From: Pawan Sharma

  20. This is really so helpful for us during motorbiking. I am really grateful to this site for all the biking tips and tricks.

    From: Jameer Ahmed

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