How To Use The Rear Brake

Royal Enfield

Most riders (who use the rear brake) use it as an extension of the front brake… MSF instructors teach beginners to always use both brakes together for maximum stopping power. But ask any experienced cruiser rider or professional racer and they’ll tell you that the real benefit of the rear brake is when it’s used in conjunction with the throttle. Rear brake + Throttle = Greater Control.

On the track the front brake is strong enough the pop the rear into the air, so the rear brake doesn’t really add to the bike’s stopping power (which is why it’s so darn easy to lock the rear during hard braking) – but by dragging the rear brake into a turn (trail braking) AND staying on the throttle a little bit…when you do hit the gas to accelerate out of the turn you don’t get that drive-lash (that bump of power you get when you first get on the gas from an throttle-off position). It also helps to control your speed at the trickiest part of the turn – the rear helps to offset the throttle, and staying on the throttle helps to keep from locking the rear wheels. Likewise in low speed maneuvers the rear brake helps you control the bike’s speed while staying on the throttle. This is how the motorcycle cops do those slow tight turns, they drag the rear brake and stay on the throttle the whole time!

Why can’t you stay off the brake and just control the bike with the clutch and throttle? You can… But if you need more control both in braking and throttle (and who doesn’t?), this is why the front and rear brakes aren’t simply linked together the way they are in cars. If you used the front brake and the throttle, that would just put more stress on your tires (probably at a moment in which it needs all the traction it can get) – but the rear brake + throttle combination leaves the bike perfectly stable.

So if you don’t want to use your rear brakes – I’m not trying to convince you to… But if you DO want to use your rear brakes and could use a little extra control in fast turns AND low speed maneuvers, then that’s the basic idea… So once you get the concept, get out there and practice practice practice…and ride safe! Cheers!

[About the photo: Just a bike I saw on the street on the way to DeMole in Woodside Queens…the BEST Mexican restaurant in the city…]

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4 responses to “How To Use The Rear Brake

  1. Hello,

    I have a question and maybe by your experience you may help me. I only have my bike for few moths and is my 1st bike,

    I was pull over by a highway patrol here in NYC. He invented a excuse just to stop me and he end up giving me a ticket for a expired inspection exticker. But he decided to tow my motorcycle…is that legal?? or was just a scam to get my money, because the tow truck driver refused to give me a receipt telling me that if he give me one he has to charge me tax, storage fee’s and etc. and I did not feel to pay more.
    Please give me and advice so I can take future actions. If you can reply to my email will be nice.

    thank, and have an excellent ride.

    Ed (*********@gmail.com)

    I edited out the email address so you don’t get spammed because of this post – cb

  2. Love your blog. This article as well as the one that covers slow moving turns are both excellent. As such, I’ve been practicing using the rear brake with a little throttle, and what a difference it makes!

  3. This is akin to one of your earlier posts. Low speed turns. But I would think m0st people are too reliant on their rear brake during turns.

    Also, do you advocate not using the rear brake in emergency situations because its easy to lock out for most riders?

  4. Hey Sanka,

    Yeah there are 2 schools (literally) when it comes to the rear brakes… Lee Parks (the Total Control guy) teaches using the rear brakes in conjunction with the throttle for turns… Keith Code (motorcycle guru) tells people not to bother with the rear brakes because it gets more people into trouble than it’s worth…

    They’re not necessarily contradicting one another – Keith just sees too many (otherwise good) riders getting screwed up by hitting the rear brakes too hard…and has come to the conclusion you can be just as fast on the track without it.

    So I guess it comes down to preference…

    For emergencies – I think as long as you practice fast stops with the rear, you should use it… Especially with uneven city roads, you need all the extra traction you can get… Just remember to repeat the mantra: Do NOT lock the brakes, do NOT lock the brakes… Although locking the rear all the way at the end of a fast stop can be fun…

    But if you don’t have the time or the inclination to practice that sort of thing, using the front brake really well is better than trying to use both badly… Keith Code’s advice on that is simple and effective: learn to get to max braking as early as possible (instead of sqeezing more throughout the braking distance) – because the front by itself (along with other good riding skills) is more than enough to keep you from hitting something.

    I’m trying to think what I normally do: In high speed emergency braking (when I’m going too fast – and all of a sudden I see cars stopped ahead of me) I do most of the early work with the front, and only get on the rear towards the end… I don’t know if that’s the best way – I just don’t want to lock the rear when I’m going fast. I’ve heard people do it the other way – they use the rear first and then the front…but I don’t see the advantage of that…

    Cheers!

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