Braking

I do not like braking! braking means wasting fuel. Braking means arriving at a corner carrying a bit to much speed. Braking means perhaps I haven’€™t planned far enough ahead. It’s much better for all sorts of reasons to get off the gas early to lose momentum than hitting the brakes

If you are new to two wheels it is important to realise that the front and rear brakes have two very different jobs to do. The physics of why each brake makes the bike react the way it does is easy to understand if you think about it. Braking shifts the weight forward, useful if stopping in a straight line, not so useful if you are turning or cornering.

Front Brake

The front brake is essential to stopping quickly, but only if the bike is upright. As you brake the weight moves forward, this gives increased grip on the front tyre, you can brake harder, this gives more grip, …… You need to squeeze the front brake lever progressively, it can be a quick squeeze but do not grab. If you grab the front brake there will not be time for the weight to move onto the front tyre and you will not get the grip you need, this could lead to the front wheel skidding, scary, but not normally a problem if you let go of the front brake quickly enough.

Rear Brake

The rear brake is very useful on its own for holding the bike stationary when stopped, used properly it makes hill starts very easy, it gives good control for slow speed manoeuvres and turns, finding the drive point on the clutch before moving off, and gentle stops in slow traffic. It is absolutely useless for stopping quickly from any sort of speed.

Balancing out the front and rear Brakes

You will need to learn how to balance out the front and back brakes. As you brake the weight shifts forwards loading up the front tyre and increasing the grip, this clearly makes the back end lighter so you need to use less rear brake. As you stop harder this weight shift increases, so you need to use even less back brake, not more.

Do not brake in corners

If you need to brake in corners be honest with yourself, you have misjudged it and arrived carrying to much speed. You will make more progress by arriving at the corner slower than you can go round it. This gives you a margin for error and means you can gently accelerate round and out of the corner with confidence. It is much more relaxed and quicker ! Smooth is fast !

If you must brake in a corner then use just the back brake to scrub off some speed.

See cornering to find out how to correctly assess corners on the approach so you will arrive at the right speed.

How hard can I brake ?

Not sure how hard you are braking ?

Find a quiet dry road ( with no traffic behind you ), brake steadily, put the bike on the stand, spin each wheel in turn and look at the tread on each of the tyres. The markings on the tread will tell you how effectively you are using the brakes.

Tread still a light matt grey colour ? Your not really using the brake confidently, and will be taking a lot longer to stop than needed in an emergency.


Tread looking a bit speckled, grey but with darker spots ? Better but could try harder, you are starting to use the brake more effectively.

Tread much darker in colour, looking a bit streaked ? Much better, now you are using the brakes well, the streak marks mean you are near to the point at which the tyre locks up, this means you are getting as much braking effort as you can and your stopping distances are nice and short.

Tread completely black ?

Braking to hard and skidding. Not good ! This normally happens to just the back tyre, it is very unusual to see this on the front end. There are two issues with braking to hard and skidding the wheel, most importantly skidding tyres have less grip so you will take longer to stop, secondly unneeded tyre wear.