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…]