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Using your Motorcycle’s Brakes En trad. Fleufleu

Unfortunately, from time to time you’re going to have to stop your motorcycle. Your motorcycle has brakes to let you do this. There are two brakes, one on the front wheel, and one on the back wheel. On most motorcycles, the lever on the right handlebar works the front brake, and the pedal on your right foot works the rear brake.

The front brake on a motorcycle in typical situations has about double the effectiveness of the rear brake. Some beginners are told that the front brake is dangerous and they should not use it. While it’s true that you can get yourself into trouble with the front brake, you simply have to learn to use it. If you don’t, you will be unable to stop your motorcycle from typical traffic speeds in safe distances – the rear brake working alone is not very effective on a motorcycle. You’re simply going to have to practice using your motorcycle’s brakes – both of them. You should always use both brakes to slow or stop your motorcycle. Even though one brake alone may be enough in some situations, your motorcycle is more stable when using both brakes, and you should develop the habit of always using both.

Squeeze the front brake smoothly and progressively. It takes a second for the weight to transfer forwards. If you grab the brake lever abruptly, the front wheel can lock up resulting in a front-tire skid. You will lose balance and steering control. If you lock up the front tire, immediately release the front brake to allow the wheel to resume rolling, and then reapply the brake properly. If you’re a particularly skilled rider, you can do a front wheel stand, a “brakee.” Don’t worry, there’s no chance you will do this accidentally, it takes a lot of practice.

A Brakee – from

If you use too much rear brake you can skid the rear wheel. The biggest danger in a rear-tire skid is releasing the rear brake when the rear wheel is out of alignment with the front wheel. If the rear wheel stops skidding and resumes rolling when it is out of line with the direction of travel, the motorcycle will immediately straighten out. This can cause a particularly dangerous crash called a high-side, where you are slingshotted over the bike. Once the rear wheel starts skidding, it’s usually best to just keep it locked up. If you learn to ride in the dirt, as I recommend, you will naturally learn this and it will seem like no big deal at all.

Some motorcycles have linked brakes – this means when you pull on the front brake lever, the rear brake is also activated, and when you step on the rear brake pedal, the front brakes are also activated. Personally, I hate linked brakes. I very much prefer the added control of independent brakes. However, some riders on heavier touring machines are perhaps safer with linked brakes.

Some motorcycles have ABS – anti-lock braking systems. These are good things. In tests of the most modern systems, only a very few professional motorcycle racers can out-stop ABS brakes, and that only on dry pavement in controlled conditions, and then only by a couple of feet. If you’re in an accident avoidance situation where you don’t have all your attention on the brakes, or if you’re in a low-traction situation like sand, gravel, or water, ABS out-brakes even professional racers by 100 feet or more from 60mph. Although a lot of old-timers dislike ABS on general principles – computer guided motorcycles somehow seem sacrilege – in fact ABS is a good thing. If you have a chance to get this option on your bike, I recommend you get it.

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