How to Brake on a Motorcycle

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 103,186
    Motorcyclist Jeff Thompson demonstrates how to brake on a motorcycle.

    Jeff Thompson: Hi! I am Jeff Thompson of Motorcycle Riding Concepts, this is Mark Payton, he is going to be doing the demonstration for us and we are going to talk about braking, we have done everything, that we need to do up to this point to ride the motorcycle in a parking lot. We have learned how to find our friction zone, we have learned how to move the motorcycle under power. We have learned how to stop using our rear brakes and now we are going to talk quite at length about how to stop the motorcycle properly. Before we do that we really have to talk about the surface the of the roadway.

    In addition to being a motorcycle instructor, I am Certified Accident Reconstructionist and I can't tell you how many times I have been to the scenes of motorcycle crashes, where motorcycle riders didn't properly use their brakes to learn how to stop the motorcycle. The surface of the roadway here in Northern Virginia is about 90% blacktop. Well blacktop is made up of gravel and tar, which is mixed together with other chemicals that harden up. So you can drive on it.

    Well what is tar made out of? It's made out of a oil and grease, it's a bituminous material. What is the tar made out of? It's made out of 80% rubber and the rest of it's mixed together with other components, some of which is tar and grease. Well what happens when you heat those two materials up together? They become greasy. When you slide a tire on the surface of the roadway it actually burns a molten patch of rubber on to the ground and for just a split second, the motorcycle actually goes just a little bit faster.

    So what we are going to teach you how to do is, how to use your brakes properly and become your anti-lock braking system. When you are riding down the road, you have got a tyre patch on the ground of each tyre probably is about the size of a $0.50 or a little bit bigger as you are riding down the road. What we want to teach you how to do and if Mark is going to sit forward on the motorcycle here as a demonstration up on the tank here, he going to compress the front-end of the motorcycle a little bit.

    What we are going to get you to do is learn how to bring that front-end down smoothly and progressively, so you can spread that front tire out on to the ground and get more friction surface on the roadway, that will help you stop a little bit better. But before we do that we are going to give you a demonstration of stopping distance, so you will understand how each brake works independently. There is a lot of information on the internet and in books they talk about highside and what you should do when the motorcycle rear end starts to out track. We believe here at Motorcycle Riding Concepts, that you can modulate your brakes and keep the motorcycle under control. So think about that as you are riding your motorcycle, when you got to use your brakes if the rear end starts to lock up and start to float out. Remember the old analogy of my dad teaching me how to drive the pick up truck when I was a kid in the snow when the rear end start to step out, what do you do, you steer in the direction of the skid and that's exactly what you do on a motorcycle. When you are riding your motorcycle and you have to stop, pick a point off in the distance to focus on and keep your handle bars pointed in that direction and the rear end of the motorcycle will stay with you. So in the next segment we are going to have Mark actually come down and learn how to stop the motorcycle properly. Okay as Mark approaches this time, he is going to come down the parking lot about 20 miles an hour and at the white cones, he going to depress his rear brake and skid like a normal street person would do without any training at all. So here he comes.

    Finds his friction zone, speeds up in first gear to about 20 miles an hour and just skids the rear brake until he stops. Now that's normally how people on the street stop their motorcycle when they don't know, when they have never had any training at all. I always tell our students when do this demonstration, that's probably about 60 feet. Well at 35 miles an hour, you are traveling about 43 feet per second. Think about that as you are riding in your car even. At 35 miles an hour it takes the average person about a second-and-a-half to decide what they are going to do when they encounter some type of problem out on the street 1.6 seconds. So with 43 feet per second, they have already traveled quite a distance haven't they.

    This time he is going to come down do the same exercise with one exception, he going to apply his rear brake at the cones, except this time he is going to stop his bike by keeping the rear wheel rolling, using his body rather as an anti-lock braking system. So here he comes this time. This time he has used his rear brake, kept his rear wheel moving. You saw it skid just at the end. Well that's because all the weight has shifted forward and he has got maximum braking achieved, but the big point that we should make a point here is the distance that it -- by using the rear wheel and keeping it moving look at the distance that he was able to stop the motorcycle in without skidding it. That's 25 feet right there. 20 feet, that could be the difference between you crashing a nice, new motorcycle or taking a ride to the hospital on the ambulance or worse. This time he is going to come down, he is going to use his front brake only.

    Notice the difference in the stopping distance, quite a bit. As he approached, he applied his front brake and he came to a complete stop putting his left foot down. But look at this distance. This distance is important. Compared to that distance, but look at this distance compared to the first distance front brake only, big difference there, you are looking at 50 feet, that could be the difference between again you talking a ride in an ambulance or worse. This time he is going to come down and stop using both brakes properly as Mark approaches he will apply both brakes and stop, look at it split, putting his left foot down. Now dramatic difference, between using both brakes and using just your rear brake, when Mark approached the cones the last time, he applied both breaks and came to an effective stop, by putting his left foot down. You are going to want to practice this when you get your motorcycle. Take your motorcycle into a parking lot and learn how to stop that motorcycle by practice, practice, practice. Now remember when you use your brakes properly. Think about it like you are cutting an orange and trying to squeeze the juice down into a glass. If you would take that orange and squeeze it hard what happens to the Juice, it goes everywhere, but if you take it slow and squeeze it nice and control, you can get that juice to fall right down into that glass and it's the same thing with using your front and rear breaks together. Practice, practice, practice; we want you to keep the wheel rolling.

    Again at Motorcycle Riding Concepts, if the wheels start to lock up, we want you to release and readjust quickly, but smoothly, you never want to slap the front brake, it's always a controlled stop on a motorcycle.