Safe Ways to Practice Motorcycle Braking

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Learning how to brake properly is one of the first skills you should attempt to master when first learning to ride a motorcycle.

Follow these braking tips to improve your technique, increase your confidence, and stay safe when an emergency stop may be required.

Considerations Before You Ride

Not all bikes brake the same way. Before you begin practicing, there are a few factors you'll want to take into account:

  • The type of brakes.
    • There are several different types of braking systems that will alter your braking technique and affect your stopping power. These include:
  • Dual-disc brakes.
    • Common on most street bikes and will have a greater stopping power than single-disc brakes.
  • Single-disc brake.
    • Common for cruisers and are usually on the front wheel.
  • Linked braking.
    • Slows both wheels with a single control.
  • Antilock braking systems (ABS).
    • Will allow for maximum braking force without wheel lockup.
  • Your motorcycle's weight.
    • The weight of your bike will affect your grip on the road.
    • Cruisers and choppers will generally have more weight over the rear wheel than other street bikes, which will increase traction and improve braking.
  • Road conditions.
    • Braking techniques will differ depending on the condition of the road.
    • A few situations that could affect your braking include:
      • Oil spills, which are common in intersections.
      • Rain or other poor weather conditions.
      • Rough pavement with potholes, gravel, or cracks.
  • Speed.
    • When traveling at higher speeds, you'll need to increase your following distance to allow for more reaction time.

Practice Your Braking Technique

After becoming familiar with your braking system and your motorcycle's capabilities, your next step will be practicing and perfecting your braking technique in a safe environment.

Practice in a low-traffic area, such as:

  • An empty parking lot.
  • A business park or similar area that's closed on the weekends or after hours.
    • This allows you to practice without having to deal with cars or trucks pulling in and out of the parking lots or service roads.
  • A residential neighborhood.
    • Keep in mind that you'll want to keep your speed low, obey traffic laws, and be mindful of your neighbors.
  • A motorcycle safety class.
    • You'll learn the basics of braking and how to perform emergency stops under observation from a professional.
    • Usually a good idea after you've spent time practicing on your own to fine-tune your skills.
  • On the road.
    • This should be your last practice route—try practicing in the early morning on days when traffic is minimal before heading into busier times.

Motorcycle Braking Precautions

No matter which option you choose, you'll need make sure you take certain precautions when practicing your motorcycle braking skills. These include:

  • Obeying the speed limit.
    • When practicing maximum braking, stick to the posted speed limit.
    • You can increase your speed by a few miles per hour after you gain more comfort.
  • Preparing for a skid.
    • Know beforehand that practicing maximum braking can cause an accidental skid.
    • When this happens, stay calm, release the brake, and reapply to regain control.
  • Learning from other motorcyclists.
    • Ideally, you'll practice riding with an experienced biker who can offer you tips as you ride.
    • Having a friend or two not riding who can alert you of an approaching vehicle may also be helpful.
    • If something happens, having others around is a safer option than practicing alone.

Motorcycle Braking Tips

As you begin practicing your braking technique, here are a few tips to help you as you learn:

  • Don't go straight to max pressure on the brakes.
    • Start with a gentle squeeze and work your way to maximum pressure. This will improve traction, keeping you from skidding or losing your steering control.
  • Always apply both brakes.
    • Even though most of your braking power is on the front wheel, applying both brakes will help you come to a stop quicker.
  • As you slow, begin to release the pressure from your back brake and increase the pressure on your front brake.
    • This will keep you from locking up your wheels.
  • Keep in mind that you'll need to allow for greater stopping distances the faster you're traveling.
    • Maintaining a safe, slower speed until you feel comfortable stopping at higher speeds is always good advice.
    • If possible, keep track of the distance it takes you to stop.
      • This will help you gauge your following distance more accurately out on the road.
      • You'll need even more stopping distance when road conditions are poor.
  • During your brake, don't forget to get off the throttle and shift down to first gear.
    • If you have to maneuver out of the way at the last second, having your bike in the correct gear could be a life saver.

Remember every bike and every braking system is slightly different. Practice often to gain familiarity with your machine. Always practice at low speeds until you're comfortable and confident to begin maximum stops at higher speeds.

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