Commonly Asked Questions About Motorcycle Braking

Riding a motorcycle is completely different than driving a car or riding a bicycle. A motorcycle has two sets of brakes — one set for the front and one for the back. Both are used in order to properly brake while riding on a motorcycle. But many beginning riders are confused as to the best way to use their brakes for the most effective, efficient way of stopping while driving. Also, different driving conditions constitute different braking techniques. Here we will discuss how these brakes are used on a motorcycle, and address some commonly asked questions that new riders have regarding motorcycle braking.

 

Understanding how your brakes work
Each set of brakes are applied differently. On most every motorcycle, the front brakes are applied with the right hand using a handle, and the rear brakes are applied by using the right foot. When used together, these brakes will help you slow and stop as needed. However, approximately 70% of the stopping power is done by the front brakes, which makes them key in understanding how to properly brake and stop a bike. There are a few motorcycles that combine the braking power of the front brakes with the rear brakes. Referring to the owner’s manual to fully understand your bike’s braking mechanisms will ensure that you are utilizing them properly.

How and when do I apply my front and rear brakes?
The key to a proper stop is utilizing a combination of both the front and rear brakes for an effective, smooth stop. Many riders also use “staged braking,” which is a series of steps that allows a rider to brake in the most effective way. By using this form of braking, riders will be able to learn how to come to a smooth stop, and will have more predictable braking patterns for better riding ability and technique. However, by gently using both rear and front brakes together, a motorcyclist will be able to ensure that the distribution of weight from the rider and the bike is evenly contributed to the braking of the motorcycle for a smooth stop.

How do I brake under different road conditions?
When encountering tricky road conditions, it is essential that you adjust your braking accordingly. Just as you would when driving a car in slippery, icy conditions, braking softly and earlier than normal will be key to stopping when necessary. Know that bald tires on your motorcycle can also effect how your bike will drive, so make sure that you check the condition of your bike and tires before you hit the open road. Jamming the front brake sharply, regardless of the road conditions, may cause your brakes to lock and result in a hazardous outcome. Slowly apply the brakes when possible to prepare for a solid, smooth stop.

How do I downshift gears to properly brake when driving?
It is important to downshift while braking for turning or stopping. As you start applying the brakes, downshift accordingly as you hear your engine coming down. Slowly drop the gears as you brake. If you’re turning and do not need to stop, be sure to downshift and brake accordingly, but apply the throttle when you’re near the beginning of the actual turn to keep from taking the turn too slowly. Shift gears accordingly to get back up to the speed you were before braking.

What are some common braking techniques?
Some motorcyclists will consider learning “staged braking” in order to allow them to best handle their bike on the road. Others will rely on the feel of their brakes when applied together. By knowing how the momentum of the bike will react to your braking strength, you will be better able to adjust your braking habits accordingly.

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