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Mastering Motorcycles Ancillary Controls – Tips for New Riders

Mastering Motorcycles Ancillary Controls

Mastering Motorcycles Ancillary Controls

Riding a motorcycle is an exhilarating experience, but it comes with the responsibility of mastering various ancillary controls.

These controls play a pivotal role in ensuring not only your safety but also your ability to confidently navigate the road. You should not look down at any of the controls whilst you are riding.

Whether you’re a new rider eager to get out on a thrilling journey or an aspiring motorcyclist gearing up for your first ride, understanding how to use the motorcycle controls effectively is essential.

In this guide, we break down each ancillary control and provide you with invaluable insights to help new riders.

Throttle Control – Where Power Meets Precision

The throttle is your power delivery. It’s not just about twisting it open to get going, it’s about using it smoothly and progressively. This ensures controlled acceleration without any sudden jolts that would upset the balance and control.

Avoid Over-Revving

Aggressively twisting open the throttle can lead to engine over-revving, it sounds bad and compromises the harmony of the throttle and power delivery. Ultimately having a greater negative impact on your control over the machine

Gentle throttle application is your key to a balanced ride. At slow speed control, the throttle is used to prevent the motorcycle from stalling.

Progressive and Deliberate

To keep things smooth, roll on the throttle gradually with deliberate wrist action. A flat wrist will help you be in full control, cocking the wrist may mean the delivery of power through the throttle is excessive and not in full control.

Precision in controlling your acceleration is the name of the game. It will also keep you calm by using the throttle gently.

Wrist Cocked

Your wrist position matters. Do not have it cocked over the throttle, this will mean deliberate throttle control cannot be achieved.

By having a flatter wrist on the throttle, you will be able to adjust the revs slightly when opening the throttle. When riding slowly your wrist should do all the work, meaning you do not need to hold on tightly, small speeds demand small throttle movement.

When riding quicker on the open road, a slightly cocked wrist may allow for better throttle control without straining your hand. If the hand position is too low it will feel awkward and could become sore.

Clutch Control – Smooth Transitions

When it comes to the clutch, smooth use and biting point engagement is paramount. This ensures seamless gear changes without any sudden jerks to the motorcycle. There is a huge relationship between the throttle and the clutch when changing gears and pulling away.

Full-Finger Use

Use all four fingers on the clutch lever to maximise your control. It is vital to have the fingers in the correct place to feel the lever properly. Using all four fingers gives you a better feel as you use the biting point when pulling away and riding slowly.

Balanced Throttle and Clutch

The coordination between your clutch and throttle, especially at the biting point, is the key to achieving a perfect slow control. Without having a good feel of the biting point, slow manoeuvres become more difficult and challenging.

The relationship between the throttle and clutch will help with smooth and seamless gear changes. Get it wrong and it not only sounds awful but you will not be in full control of the bike.

Avoid Snatching

Abrupt clutch movements can disrupt your balance and smoothness of the motorcycle, especially at slow speeds. Use fluid, controlled clutch operation for the best results.

Fingertip Control

For greater feel and control, operate the clutch using your fingertips. This approach enhances your ability to finesse your slow control and also have smoother gear changes.

Gear Selection Expertise: Finding the Right Balance

Gearing up or down isn’t just about the number on the dash on the gear indicator. It’s about selecting the gear that matches your speed and the riding situation. You must learn and understand what each gear does and how it works in relation to the speed you want to ride.

Generally, the lower the speed the lower the gear and the higher the speed, the higher the gear. But there are some exceptions.

Avoid Over-Revving

Over revving in each gear not only sounds wrong but can also have a damaging effect on the engine. If the revs are high, you should consider changing up a gear.

Avoid Labouring

On the flip side, using higher gears at low speeds can strain your engine. It can be so wrong that the bike struggles to move forward and starts to judder.

Choose the correct gear thoughtfully to maintain optimal performance. With some expert guidance you could learn to master this quite quickly.

Stall Prevention

Changing down a gear or two will also prevent stalling if the bike is labouring, especially when you find yourself in a gear that’s too high for the speed and situation.

Front Brake Mastery: The Art of Stopping

Only apply the front brake when your bike is in an upright position and travelling in a straight line. It’s your primary brake for reducing speed effectively and quickly if necessary.

Primary Speed Reduction

The front brake is your go to brake when slowing down. Using all four fingers on the brake lever ensures maximum control. The bike must be travelling straight and not in a corner, however it is possible for front brake use in a corner but for novice riders we advise against it.

Smooth Application

Avoid snatching at the front brake lever. Ensure the action of braking is smooth and progressive. Proper use and application is the key to maintaining control and stability.

Stay in Control

Aggressive front brake use can lead to a loss of control, especially if you do not have ABS (Anti-lock Braking System) fitted to the motorcycle. Having ABS can help riders who are overzealous with their control, but it should not be used as a tool to keep you out of trouble.

So, when applying the front brake, do so in a manner that keeps you in command.

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Rear Brake – Precision in Slow-Speed Control

When navigating through slow moving traffic or executing tight manoeuvres, the rear brake becomes your best friend. Using the front brake in these situations can lead to dropping the bike, especially if the steering is being turned.

Applying the rear brake gently allows you to maintain precise control over your motorcycle’s speed.

No Lock-Ups

One of the key aspects of using the rear brake is to avoid locking up the rear wheel. Locking up the wheel can lead to a loss of stability and result in a skid. The rear brake should not be used to reduce higher speeds when riding.

Remember the rear brake is for slow control, stopping when riding slowly and for taking away excessive speed if going into a corner too fast (and then it should only be light application).

Under 10-15 mph

Typically, you’ll use the rear brake alone when your speed is under 15 mph.

It’s especially handy during the last section of your approach to junctions or roundabouts, where fine control is crucial.

Final Stretch

About 2-3 car lengths away from a junction or hazard, it’s often the rear brake that you rely on to make those last minute speed adjustments. If you want to stop, then straighten the steering and use the rear brake only to stop.

Cornering Caution

However, it’s essential to note that using the rear brake at high speeds during cornering can be dangerous.

At higher speeds, your primary braking tool is the front brake, while the rear brake’s application can destabilise your bike.

Steering Techniques – Precision and Control

Maintaining precise steering is essential to prevent your motorcycle from running wide when exiting a junction.

Proper throttle and clutch control and looking in the right place can help you steer with accuracy.

Control at Slow Speeds

At low speeds, steering is your ticket to accurate positioning. When the bike is travelling slowly the steering does the work to guide it where you want to go.

Whether you’re navigating the bike in a car park or filtering through traffic, mastering steering at slow speed steering control is imperative.

Counter Steering

When you’re riding at higher speeds, typically above 20 mph, counter steering techniques come into play.

This involves applying pressure on the handlebars in the opposite direction you want to turn, a technique that enhances stability and control during high speed cornering.

For more information join Motorcycle Riders Hub to learn about counter steering and riding at higher speeds safely.

Ancillary Controls – Awareness

Learn to use the other controls on the switchgears. This is the name given to the location of the switches on either side of the handlebar.

They should be used with the thumb of each hand and you should use the left thumb on the left switchgear and the right thumb on the right switchgear. Don’t cross your hands to use the opposite controls.


Familiarise yourself with the horn’s location and use it as a means of alerting other road users to your presence in potentially hazardous situations. Read up on the highway code for the times you should not use your horn.

Passing Light

Understand how to activate the passing light to warn others of your presence. It should not be used to flash other road users to tell them to go first! Its primary role is to indicate your intention to overtake another vehicle safely – hence the term passing light.

High Beam

Learn how to use the high beam to enhance visibility when riding in low light conditions, such as at night riding.

Hazard Warning Lights

Know when and how to activate hazard warning lights if fitted. Use in emergencies to make your presence known and to become more visible to other road users.

Emergency Cut-Out Switch

Recognise when to use the switch and know the location and function of it.

This switch is reserved for emergency situations only, do not use it to turn the machine off on a regular basis. You have to turn the ignition key off to remove the key anyway, so get into a good habit from the start.

Balance and Control – Striking the Right Balance

Your ability to use ancillary controls effectively is linked to maintaining good balance on the motorcycle. Striking a good balance between control inputs and your bike’s response is essential.

Avoid Extremes

As a rider, you should aim for a middle ground when it comes to control input. Learn how each of the controls works and then learn how to operate them gently.

Being excessively aggressive can lead to instability and less control. On the other hand, being timid with excessive caution will hinder your capability to ride safely.

Deliberate Actions

Every control input you use should be deliberate and precise. Confidence in your actions is crucial to maintaining control over your motorcycle. This does not happen overnight, it takes time to become familiar and delicate with all the controls.

Confident Riding

Confidence on your bike is not just about your mental state, it’s also about how you carry yourself physically too. It’s about your deportment and attitude towards riding.

Confidence in your ability and control translates to confidence in your riding, which improves your overall enjoyment and safety.

Mastering the ancillary controls is a fundamental aspect of becoming a proficient motorcyclist. As a new rider, these controls are your key to safety, control and an indication to others of what you intend to do.

Practise, precision and confidence will go a long way to ensure you’re in full control of the motorcycle all the time. Ride safe and Keep it on the Black Stuff!

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