This One Simple Change Could Save Your Life

In the realm of motorcycling, there are two key threats to rider safety. The first is a tendency to run wide in corners, while the second is a significant risk associated with intersections.

Fundamental rider training programs play an invaluable role in introducing beginners to the basics of motorcycle operation.

However, the scope of these courses often falls short of equipping riders with the advanced skills necessary to transition from novice to experienced motorcyclists.

These beginner courses are designed to make us beginners – not seasoned riders. While this is a crucial starting point, we need to acknowledge that these basic training courses are rudimentary and equip us with fundamental motorcycle control skills.

To survive on the road long-term and gain experience, we need to evolve beyond these initial teachings when they cease to be relevant.

Understanding the Dangers of Intersections

I have spent considerable time discussing how to prevent running wide in corners, emphasizing the significance of “trail braking” and slowing into corners – crucial for street riding.

However, less attention has been dedicated to the other major hazard: intersections. In the United States, almost 100 motorcyclists lost their lives in fatal accidents each week, with over 30 percent occurring at intersections.

What’s intriguing about intersection data is that accidents aren’t necessarily confined to four-way stops or traffic lights.

Uncontrolled intersections – those without any form of traffic control such as stop signs, yield signs, pavement markings, or traffic lights – are actually hotspots for accidents.

Think about driveways, parking lots, neighborhoods, surface streets, and rural side roads.

Outgrowing the Fundamentals: The Importance of Covering the Front Brake

Basic rider courses often instruct riders to cover the clutch and avoid touching the front brake lever – a suitable guideline for a complete beginner.

However, to mature as riders, we need to acquire the skills that ensure our survival beyond the controlled environment of the training course parking lot.

The initial step is simple yet critical: we need to cover our front brake nearly all the time while riding. The reason?

It significantly reduces our reaction time and prepares us for sudden stops when other drivers or pedestrians fail to notice us.

It’s a straightforward equation of time and distance – the faster we can react and apply the brake, the shorter our stopping distance.

The problem many riders face is the instinctive “stabbing” of the brake in response to sudden surprises. Regardless of how quickly we need to brake, applying the brakes gently is vital, even when equipped with ABS. Abrupt application of the brakes must always be avoided.

The Art of Covering the Brake

Expert riders understand the importance of brake coverage and manage to execute it without overreacting to unexpected hazards.

They acknowledge that the initial 5% of brake application is crucial and must be done smoothly, irrespective of the situation’s urgency.

So, how can we emulate this? The preferred method, adopted by the majority of professional riders, is to place our hand on the throttle as follows:

The first two fingers cover the brake while the rest grip the throttle tube. This isn’t the only way to cover the brake, but it’s a method most commonly used by professionals.

Covering the brake with the first two fingersImproves reaction time and preparation for sudden stops
Rest of the fingers gripping the throttle tubeProvides throttle control while being prepared to brake

The Role of Anatomy in Brake Control

Our hand consists of two primary components – the radius, which is the bone controlling the thumb, index, and middle finger, along with the radial nerve, and the ulna, a smaller bone in our arm controlling the ring and pinky finger, along with the ulnar nerve. This structure explains why our ring and pinky fingers tend to move together.

As motorcyclists, we demand a lot from our right hand – both power grip (using our large forearm muscles to hold on and apply the brake forcefully) and precision grip (using our smaller palm muscles for precise throttle control and brake application).

Understanding the dual nature of our hand is key to using our throttle hand effectively, allowing each half to perform its function independently.

The Importance of Visual Lead and Controlled Braking

Visual lead is a crucial component of preventing abrupt braking. Just as we learn to release the clutch slowly to set the motorcycle in motion, we need to apply the same principle to our front brake lever.

The initial and final 5% of the braking process are most critical, while the middle part – the powerful squeeze – is comparatively straightforward.

Remember that our actions on the motorcycle communicate our intentions. Abruptness in controls can lead to mishaps.

The ultimate goal is to practice and become proficient at covering the front brake – an essential step toward preventing intersection-related fatalities.

Final Thoughts

It’s time for you to practice. Sit on your bike, get your fingers over the front brake, and adjust your lever to a comfortable position if necessary.

Practice gently squeezing the brake as you roll off the throttle, focusing on the initial and final 5% of the braking process.

We must strive to avoid fatalities at intersections. We can’t afford a delay in reaching for and applying the brake. Let’s replace abrupt braking with controlled actions.

How has your experience been with covering the front brake? Are you proficient, or are you struggling? Let me know in the comments.

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