Should You Drag The Rear Brake When Riding a Motorcycle?
This is a great question; should you drag your rear brake when riding a motorcycle slowly? I just want to answer this in a way that makes sense to people.
There are a few ways to do Slow Control on a motorcycle and one of them is to drag the rear brake, however, it isn’t the only way.
Dragging the Rear Brake
Using this method can have issues. It means that the bike is being held back all the time with a little bit of pressure being applied to the rear brake. This also has an impact on the speed of the motorcycle as it will slow the rear wheel down.
One of the issues with this method is that you will be wearing out the brake pads more than necessary and the fact that the rear brake is applied all the time, it is producing excessive heat on the disc and the rear brake pads.
Not only that, but the bike is in a bit of a quandary. This means that the bike is trying to go and stop at the same time. It seems a bit confusing that all three controls are being used at the same time.
Problems that occur
If the rear brake is being used all the time, the clutch is being slipped more than is necessary. It also means the rider has to be even more delicate with the clutch as it could stall at any time if it is released too much. Especially if the rear brake is over-applied.
The other issue that can arise is the fact that extra revs need to be applied to prevent the engine from stalling.
If the brake was to be released too much while the engine revs are high and a little bit too much clutch is used, the bike would lunge forward, shoot away and run too fast and possibly out of control.
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There is a good reason to practice this skill of dragging the rear brake, but it has a time and a place. The dragging of the rear brake offers some resistance, which means in some circumstances dragging the rear brake can stabilise the motorcycle.
This could be if you were getting close to a vehicle in front of you and you wanted to keep the bike moving so that you didn’t need to stop. Dragging the rear brake once you have slowed down will help to keep the speed low and also enable you to use the clutch with a small amount of throttle.
This is perfect if there is a chance that you will not need to stop.
Use one or the other
A preferred method and one I teach most often is to learn how to use the controls correctly and independently first.
This means that when you want the bike to move forward you release the rear brake and use the throttle and clutch control. This way there is no resistance to the rear wheel and as a result the possibility of stalling because there is too much rear brake diminishes significantly.
The only way the motorcycle will stall now is if the rider is not delicate on the clutch and there are no revs. This will result in the motorcycle stalling. There must be a small number of engine revs given to the bike when pulling away and when coaxing the bike to move forward in order for the bike not to feel like it isn’t going to stall.
Using the Rear Brake
When you want to slow the machine down, there are two ways to do this. You can either use the rear brake with the clutch in the same position or you can pull the clutch in slightly (depending on the situation) and then apply the rear brake.
If you only wanted to slow the machine and reduce a small amount of speed the first option may be adequate enough but if you need to slow down it is probably because you are going too fast for the situation.
This could mean you have either used too much clutch or too many revs and caused the bike to go too quickly. The other reason is that you could be on a downhill camber and the bike starts to travel more quickly because of momentum and gravity.
If you want to stop or slow down even more, you could pull the clutch in to disengage the drive from the back wheel and then brake on the rear brake to reduce the required speed. Braking in this situation with the clutch out could result in you stalling the bike.
For learner riders, dragging the rear brake at this stage in the early learning process causes more problems, especially if they are not well practiced.
Dragging the rear brake causes the bike to slow down too much if overused and likewise with little or no skill at clutch control, it will feel awkward trying to ride the bike forward on the clutch and throttle and at the same time brake which is trying to slow or stop the bike from moving.T
At this point the bike is confused as to whether you want it to move forward, slow down or stop. If the delicate control and feel has not been mastered before using this method, this will result in a lot of stalling and feeling like the bike wants to fall over.
Adding all the other elements of vision, posture, balance and stability to name but a few, there will always be a possibility of overloading a learner rider’s capacity to learn this skill. That’s why I advocate using the forward momentum with throttle and clutch for one practice session and slowing down with the rear brake once it has been perfected in another session.
To avoid issues and accidents it is wise to practice on flat level ground to start with. Make the riding easy and learn at a slow pace, don’t try to cram all the work into a limited time.
Having a methodical process to follow will allow you to develop and set the foundational skills. There are a number of exercises you can do to practise but make sure you practise the right skills otherwise it will not have the desired effect. It could make it worse rather than better.
You must build up confidence slowly whilst practising the Slow Control riding techniques. Practice does make perfect but it is not a quick fix. This is a skill and if you do not use it, you lose it. Skill fade happens quickly, so regular practice to maintain confidence and experience really do play a key role.
If you’ve got any questions or any problems please get in touch. We are more than happy to answer any more questions you might have. Ride safe and Keep it on the Black Stuff.