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How Dangerous is Quick Motorcycle Braking? – Motorcycling Safety Tips

By Butler Prather LLP on March 20, 2018

Due to physics, motorcycles have more difficulty stopping than larger cars. A motorcycle requires at least 120 feet to slow from 60 mph to zero in perfect conditions. Reaction time, distance, speed of the cars involved, road conditions, and weather all play roles in braking. Unlike a driver in a passenger car, a motorcyclist cannot slam on the brakes to come to a stop, and stopping suddenly can cause the motorcyclist to flip over the front of the bike. Studies have been conducted to estimate the stopping distance for motorcycle riders, so in one study by, if you are traveling at 65 mph for example, it would take you 3.83 seconds of braking time. If the front wheel locks at high speed, the motorcyclist will likely fall forward over the handlebars, carried by his or her momentum.

Motorbike Rear Braking vs. Front Brake

Motorcycles typically feature two sets of brakes: one for the back wheel and another for the front. Riders who rely too heavily on one of these instead of using both put themselves at serious risk. Up to 70 to 90% of the stopping power comes from the front brake on most sport bikes, so relying too much on the rear brake can mean a longer stopping distance. On the other hand, relying too much on the front brake alone can lead to over-braking, which can send a rider sprawling over the front of his or her bike. It’s a popular misconception in motorcycling that you should completely avoid using the front brakes. Instead of avoiding it altogether, you should learn when to properly use the front braking system when riding.

Another braking issue with motorcycles involves weight distribution. During a typical ride, the rider’s weight balances evenly between the front and rear wheels. Whenever the rider applies the brakes, the rider’s weight shifts toward the front of the bike and inertia carries him or her forward while the bike slows.

This happens regardless of whether the rider uses the front or rear brake. When the majority of the rider’s weight shifts forward, it relieves pressure on the rear tire and can make it lose traction with the road surface. The excess weight on the front tire can cause it to overload and lock.

How do I Practice Safer Braking on a Bike?

Experienced motorcyclists employ both brakes and shift their weight to compensate the changing distribution while the bike comes to a halt. When weight transfers to the front tire, the rider should ease off the rear brake to minimize the resulting loss of traction. This lowers the chance of a rear tire skid. When weight shifts forward, the rider can squeeze the front brake as the bike’s contact patch creates more traction on the front tire. At this point it should be safe for the rider to squeeze the front brake harder and come to a complete stop.

Part of the difficulty of braking on a motorcycle comes from ingrained habits and knee-jerk reactions. It’s crucial for motorcyclists to practice proper braking and break these bad habits before hitting the road.

Why is this Important for other Motorists on the Road?

It’s imperative for cars and other vehicles to understand the braking capabilities of a street bike for safety. If motorcycles have difficulty making sudden stops on the road, other drivers should try to avoid putting motorcycle riders in a tough situation like this. Examples of this are quickly merging right in front of a bike and making sudden braking actions. This is especially important in the case of heavy traffic congestion, where motorcycles can’t easily change lanes to avoid a collision. If we all educate ourselves and practice a little bit of caution while on the road, we can see a reduction in vehicle collisions, not just involving motorcycles, but for everyone.

If you do find yourself injured in a motorcycle accident in Atlanta or throughout Georgia, consider contacting the Atlanta personal injury attorneys at Butler Prather LLP today.

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