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News The Motorcycle Back Brake Is There For A Reason. Use It!

Discussion in 'Motorcycling News' at netrider.net.au started by NetriderBot, Feb 24, 2015.

  1. Front braking only

    37 vote(s)
  2. Front and rear braking together

    241 vote(s)
  3. Rear braking only

    3 vote(s)
  1. #1 NetriderBot, Feb 24, 2015
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 24, 2015
    For many riders, the back brake of their motorcycle is the anatomical equivalent to the appendix. They perform a very minor function overall and if they’re removed you wouldn’t be any worse off. Yet, your back brake is another arrow in your quiver when it comes to reducing your speed as rapidly as possible.

    For many, the back brake is used only when travelling at low speed. Think parking your bike at the shopping center carpark or filtering slowly between traffic. Most riders are taught that the rear brake assists the motorcycle with low speed stability and if you remember your training or have been involved with motorcycle gymkhana, you’ll know this is true.

    Unfortunately for a lot of riders this is where it ends. Carving through the twisties on a sportsbike – no need for a rear break you hear. Even when coming to an emergency stop in a straight line, there are a huge number of riders who don’t even consider using the rear brake and I have a theory why.

    The premise of this theory is located at page 104 of A Twist of the Wrist II. Here’s the quote under the subheading Rear Brake:

    The obvious mathematics of the situation are that the front wheel can do 100 percent of the braking and the back at that point just locks up no matter who you are. Learn to totally rely on the front brake for quick, clean stopping; then, if you still have a use for the rear, go ahead and use it. But realize that the rear brake is the source of a huge number of crashes both on and off the track. I’ll leave the final decision up to you. While it is true for most riders that a motorcycle will come to a full stop quicker with both brakes applied, in racing, you don’t come to a full stop until you’re done.

    Now, it’s reasonable to say that what Keith Code was focusing on here was the use of rear brakes at the track where the need of the rear brake is definitely lessened (although not eliminated). Some have taken this passage so close to heart they’ve turned up at track days with the rear brake system removed to save weight!

    We would however argue that rear brake lock-ups are a result of poor technique rather than an inherent flaw in motorcycle design. You also have to remember that A Twist of the Wrist II was published over 20 years ago and not only has technology improved so that rear brake locks-ups are less common, they don’t even happen at all on an ABS equipped bike.

    Unfortunately, many riders decided to transfer the above quote from the track to the road. They told their mates that you don’t need to use the rear brake on a sportsbike and the wrong information ended up being presented as fact.

    The short of it is that using both your front and rear brakes together when coming to a complete stop will reduce your stopping distance. That’s why Honda, BMW Motorrad and other manufacturers offer some bikes (even sportsbike) with a combined braking system – a system whereby pulling the front brake lever activates both the front and rear brakes simultaneously.

    We did a test to prove with numbers what the difference in stopping distances are between using only the rear brake, the front brake and both combined. This test was done at a speed of 80 kph, or 50 mph


    As you can see, by using both the front and rear brake, stopping distance reduces by around 4 meters or 13 feet. Put another way, a reduction in stopping distance from the front brake alone of over 23 percent. In an emergency situation that’s a fairly significant amount of distance reduced, especially when you consider that 4 meters is the length of a small/medium car.

    Like just about every input in motorcycle riding, the key to good use of the back brake is:

    • Do it consistently
    • Do it smoothly

    If you never use your back brake, come the moment when you’re hurtling towards a car that’s run a red light, there’s little chance your muscle memory will respond by moving your foot to actuate the rear brake lever. So be consistent – whenever slowing to a complete stop, always use the rear brake.

    Smooth application in this instance applies both to the front and rear. If you’re not smooth on the rear brake you’ll lock the rear wheel (even on a bike equipped with ABS you want it to be smooth). Perhaps just as important is the smooth application of the front brakes, especially in higher end motorcycles with massive stopping power – the rear brake will do absolutely nothing to reduce stopping distances if you’ve lifted the rear wheel in the air which will happen if you’re too forceful on the front anchors.

    So remember, motorcycle companies install rear brakes for a reason. Use them.


    Continue reading...
    • Like Like x 11
    • Agree Agree x 4
    • Informative Informative x 1
  2. For me, I'm never on a race track, but I'm on the public roads every day. I'm also acutely aware of the power of habits. If I get out of the habit of using my rear brake, then I'm likely to neglect it when I need it most - in an emergency to avoid another road user. In those kinds of situations, chances are that I'm not likely to be braking in a straight line - I'll be taking evasive action as well. And if I'm 100% on the front brake, not only will I lose the power of the rear, as your pic eloquently demonstrates, I'll also be 'crossed up'. This means I'll have a greater chance of being thrown. Any rider who's done dirt riding knows the 'throwing power' of relying on the front brake only when 'crossed up'. The bike tends to throw you over the bars! So I consciously choose to use both in balance. All the time.
  3. As one of the loudest voices on NR about the dangers of overusing / over reliance on the rear brake, I read the article with interest and totally and fully endorse it.

    An ebrake should be a systematically and routinely practiced application of both brakes directed at maximum deceleration. If you don't need to stop, then reduce speed ASAP to get to an evasive manoeuvring speed.
    • Like Like x 2
    • Agree Agree x 2
  4. I'll have to check the gixxer when I get home to see if it has one of these " rear brake " things u mentioned
    • Like Like x 2
  5. The rear brake my 30 year old relativity long wheelbase Italian sportsbike is a twin leading shoe wacking huge drum.Very strong brake and very useful,on long wheelbase bikes when both brakes are used hard the bike sinks evenly both ends and is more stable inder hard braking,would be the same on cruiser type bikes. Thats a bit different to short wheelbase modern sports bikes.
  6. One of those serendipitous moments for me. I think I'm at the stage where I'm finding I need to re-learn all the things I used to know.
    This last weekend I was TECing through a 100km section of twisties and had plenty of time to play around with various techniques that I've let lie unused for too long.
    Properly using the rear brake was a big one, and it was a revelation how much more stable it made turning in, as well as scrubbing off speed more easily.
  7. I would add that on certain types of bikes the amount of braking that the rear brake contributes is actually greater than the picture indicates.

    Heavier cruisers often have a rear biased weight distribution and single front disks meaning that using both brakes properly (together) is essential not only for emergency braking but also for day to day use.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  8. #8 iClint, Feb 24, 2015
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2015
    It's actually exactly the same on short wheel base sport bikes, when using the brakes correctly the bike will squat and be more stable. Over use the front brake and you will lift the rear wheel. but it is much harder to lift the rear wheel when you begin the process of braking properly in the first place.

    I was practicing some stunting on my old scooter it has a tiny front disk and single pot calliper and still more than enough braking force to lift the rear wheel off the ground and even over the front wheel if not careful.

    I practiced stoppies and tried different methods for lifting the rear wheel. when using both brakes together it was undoubtably harder to lift the rear wheel except for virtually right at the end of the stop and only a few inches.

    When applying the front brake progressively harder with no rear brake at all only the front of the bike dived with the back having virtually no weight on it it lifted off the ground every time with ease.

    Screen Shot 2013-11-23 at 1.46.18 pm.
    Screen Shot 2013-11-23 at 12.43.43 pm.

    I will also add that these photos were taken while I was practicing stoppies on wet concrete this is possible to do with out lockups through progressively applying the brake the harder the tyre was pushed into the concrete the harder i could apply the brake with no lock up.

    there is no exception front and back brake used together is the fastest and safest way to stop

    If someone wants to lend me there cruiser I'll do a stoppie on that too :D
    • Like Like x 2
  9. #9 Geoff3DMN, Feb 24, 2015
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2015
    This I would like to see :D

    (ok so this cruiser is a little different)

  10. Probably no stopies on that but i bet it rips some impressive doughnuts :playful:
  11. I probably worded my earlier post misleadingly, that's not actually my Tri-Glide.

    Although a Tri-Glide is on my short list for when I replace my current Harley :)
  12. One of the girls who works with SCIA who came to the spinal ward at POW as part of the peer support group was riding one of those trikes. She was paralysed from the waste down when she was hit by a car on her bike in a roundabout.

    We were talking about bikes a lot and the options out there if I couldn't return to a regular 2wheeler
  13. Its a guess but I bet you could transmit more braking force into the rear on a long wheelbase bike before locking it using both brakes to there max than short wheel based bikes.Again guessing lever eg engineering term ,not bar lever, length rations via wheelbase. Anecdotally I have crashed way more from rear end brake slides than locking the front over the years.Again a guess but tyres back then were a lot crappier and I was a lot more ham fisted,foot fisted as well.Anyway we should all get out there and practice all kinds of braking and learn what your bike can and cannot handle.
  14. This is why cruiser riders tend to use the rear brake a lot in normal riding - because the weight bias of the bike makes it so effective. This then becomes an overlearned action.

    In an emergency then, the rear brake is over-applied causing a lockup with leads to skidding. Due to the reliance on rear brake, the front brake may not be applied or is applied poorly. So this leads to suboptimal decelerations. A sliding rear wheel contributing -04g's of deceleration - which isn't a lot so ham/foot fisted ebraking leads to longer braking distances and if the bike gets out of shape with a sliding rear wheel, a fall, quite possibly a highside, is on the cards.
  15. Real cruisers have ABS ;-)
  16. A cruiser with the mashed rear pedal causing the rear ABS to activate still decelerates at about -0.4g's. It will remain upright at least.

    If the brakes are linked then some front will automatically come in with a rear stomp - and the bike should attain -0.6g's deceleration.
    • Like Like x 1
  17. I'm not trying to start a fight or an argument, but you always typically target cruiser riders only, being the one who have bad habits, and how they only use the rear brake etc.

    It's interesting that this article is targeting sports bike riders in particular, and it has always been a pet peeve of mine. You could run a poll and I reckon there would be an overwhelming response of "I use the front brake only".

    The most common theory is, the rear brake on sports bikes does nothing they usually justify this with look how big the front brakes are and how small the rear brakes are, or some nonsense comparison to track/race riding

    I really like this image:

    While the difference isn't huge, the front brake only bike stops a good car length further than both brakes together. that car length could be the difference between a good day and a very bad day. The other benefit would also be the stability gains of using both brakes together which becomes really important when performing an E-stop on a curve with the bike lent over.

    I just want to point out that bad habits aren't limited to one subset of riders, and that everyone can benefit from reviewing their riding and the techniques they are using.

    Sportbike riders in particular, the faster you ride the more important it becomes to stop quickly.
  18. I use my rear brake not only for stopping, but also for stabilising and balance when lane-splitting and when riding in a spirited manner.
    • Like Like x 1
  19. No, not picking on cruiser riders, but am picking on their understandable overuse of rear brake. This is a world wide phenomena. Braking errors in the form of rear wheel skids show up often in in-depth crash studies, for both sports/conventional and cruiser style bikes, but they feature more prominently for cruiser riders.

    Agree. That's why it's good to do an intermediate or advanced riding course from time to time as it helps contain any skill drift or bad habits that have crept in.
  20. You're underestimating the effectiveness of modern ABS systems and are quoting figures for deceleration which reflect locked wheels, an intelligent ABS will achieve better results than that (although not as good as a trained rider under controlled circumstances).

    Where I work we have both a circuitlink brake tester (electronic box) and a older Bowmunk brake tester (mechanical type) and we have roller bed testers in every 3 months and I use them all on a regular basis.

    When I've got a chance I'll throw the Bowmunk on my bike and do some braking tests but I can tell you now (from learned experience doing multiple braking tests) that my rear brake with ABS activated is decelerating at more than 0.4G (and also that it's likely my FLD won't match the 0.94 G of the FXRS in those combined braking tests possibly because I've only got a single front disk and the FXRS had twins).

    After a while of doing tests you learn to judge approximately what the reading is going to be *shrug*.