When to Use Rear Brakes on a Motorcycle: A Beginner’s Guide


Closeup detail of motorcycle rear wheels and brake disc

Trying to understand when to use your rear brakes, how much to use them and in what situations to use them, can be extremely confusing for a beginner. Additionally when you’re new to riding working one which situations front-brakes vs. rear brakes are best for can also be challenging.

Mostly, rear brakes allow you to modulate speed around a corner. Additionally, rear brakes assist you to stop more quickly when used in conjunction with the front brake than just relying on the front brake alone. The rear brake also allows you to perform maneuvers such as hill starts, u-turns, and coming to controlled stops. These maneuvers are almost impossible to do with your front brakes and using your front brake around corners is extremely dangerous.

Let’s explore the main situation you’d need to use rear brakes on a motorcycle in a little more depth and then we can unpack some other situations where it would also come in helpful.

Use your rear braking to slow down around corners

POV motorcycle driver on empty road

Every professional will tell you, “brake before the corner” and that if you’ve done everything right you shouldn’t be braking around a corner at all! But every motorcyclist will experience that “oh no” corner that they under-estimated.

In these situations reaching for the front brake is tempting but will almost always result in a crash. Instead, use your rear brake as softly as you can get away with. When slowing down during a corner used as little rear braking force as possible while still being able to maintain control of the bike. By using your rear brake you’re allowing your front wheel to maintain traction with the road.

What to be careful of when rear braking around corners

  • Don’t get lazy: You should still be braking early & on the straight. Using your rear brake around a corner should only be done in emergency situations where you really can’t make the corner without slowing down.
  • Braking will lean your bike more: In the same as accelerating out of a corner makes your bike straighten up, braking or slowing down during a corner will make your bike want to lean over more.
  • Only use what can get away with: This is a very important point, use your rear brake around a corner as softly as you can get away with. If you were to slam on it during a corner it will result in a crash.

Use your Rear Braking to assist Front Brake in emergency braking

Without a doubt, the fastest way to slow your bike down is to use both brakes together. Whilst your front brake has a far higher braking power, the braking power of both brakes working together is undoubtedly stronger than just your front brake.

Should I use Rear Break or Front Brake First for emergency braking?

Using both at the same time will result in the most brake power quickest. Without a doubt, your front brake will be far more effective to slow your bike down so if you had to prioritize, use your front brake first.

Why does using Both Breaks Together make your Bike Slow Down Quicker?

When you brake any vehicle, including a motorcycle, your brakes turn kinetic energy (movement of the wheels spinning) into heat energy (i.e friction on the brakes & wheels) (REF: ARTOFMANLINESS). By having two brakes working together you’re dissipating the heat energy across two separate brake pads resulting in a larger surface area of friction. This means that your bike stops much faster.

Use your Rear Braking to Perform Hill Starts & other Maneuvers

Hill Starts

Your rear brake is critical when performing hill starts or really any maneuver that needs to begin from a braked stop. This is because it’s impossible to ease off your front brake and use the same hand to ease onto the throttle. It’s just too much for one hand to do. By using your rear brake (which uses your foot) you can carefully release the brake whilst easing onto the throttle at the same time.

U-Turns

U-turns and slow riding maneuvers involve going slower than what would be possible without braking. It is important to note that rear brakes can be used in different ways and are not always there for breaking purposes. A rider will often use their back brake as a tool to help them steer while going around tight corners

By modulating the clutch, rear brake, and throttle a motorcyclist can keep their revs up whilst still traveling at a enough slow speed to perform a u-turn. This maneuver is impossible to complete with the front brake.

Use your Rear Braking to transfer weight backward on your bike:

Rear braking is used to transfer weight backward on your bike. How does this work? When the rear brake is applied, it takes some of the load off the front tire and transfers that weight to the back wheel which can be helpful in a number of situations including:

  1. When you need to keep traction on the rear tire such as going down a steep slope.
  2. When you are coming to a complete stop you won’t be loading the front suspension, resulting in less rebound on the stop. This means that your stops will be more controlled.

When is it Better to use your Front Brake over your Rear Braking?

It is better to use your front brake when you for all high-speed braking

Your front brake will always be able to take more stopping force than your rear brake, this is mainly because your front suspension is working to absorb a lot of the bike’s force. So when you need to stop hard or quickly from higher speeds, priorities the front brake. That being said, using both brakes together would be more efficient than using just the front brake in an emergency braking situation.

It is better to use your front brake when you need to transfer more weight forward on your bike

If the terrain requires more traction on the front wheel, using your front brake will do this. There isn’t any situation where you’d want your front wheel loaded, but it is an important concept to understand.

I hope this article has helped you understand when and how to use your rear brake. If it did, please share with a friend who may need the help as well!

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