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Motorcyle Ride
photo credit: | El Caganer

become a better motorcyclist: ride without brakes

I’ll be the first to admit that riding a motorcycle while deliberately trying to avoid using the brakes sounds stupid. The claim that doing so can be make you a better rider sounds counter-intuitive, but allow me to explain.

Brakes aren’t just a part of a motorcycle, they’re often a motorcyclist’s last line of defense in case of emergency. So why stop using them? You shouldn’t. The thing is, there’s more to life than classical music and safe ***. There’s a longing to experience the unknown, there’s a certain decadence that comes from danger. For that reason alone I always spend a little more on a more generous insurance policy (Kwik-Fit has a good depth of options, you can see what you’re eligible for and if its right for you).

When riding without brakes you’ll notice some immediate changes to your riding style, especially if you’ve picked up bad habits over the years. Here’s what stood out the most to me:

1) A lot more space in front.

First and foremost, if you’re not planning on using your brakes much, you’d better leave a lot more space between you and the car in front of you. No more tailgating and revving your engine to get the cager in front of you to pick up the speed. You’ll want a lot more distance between you and the vehicle ahead, and that probably isn’t a bad thing.

2) Doing the speed limit.

Travelling at the speed limit doesn’t is painful when you’re on a vehicle as quick and nimble as a motorcycle. Motorcycles can accelerate and decelerate much faster than larger vehicles. However when you eliminate brakes from the equations, riding a little slower finally makes sense.

Vintage Motorcycle Ride

photo credit: | El Caganer

3) More predictable riding.

There’s a certain degree of safety that comes from being unpredictable. Standing on your pegs or weaving around in your lane will get you the attention of the traffic around you. Unpredictable moves like heavy acceleration, hard braking, or quick lane changes might get you attention, but they could also get you in trouble. When riding a motorcycle without brakes you’ll find yourself sticking the manoeuvres that are actually necessary to your ride, and forget the potentially riskier ones.

4) Drawing your line.

There’s a little invisible something that motorcycles navigate on through curves or turns on the road, and they call it the line. Motorcycle racers will typically have their lines memorized for every corner. As a street motorcyclist you probably aren’t so concerned with shaving fractions of seconds off of you commute, but knowing your line means less chance of getting in trouble in the corner. Typically in street riding you can just adjust mid-turn if you’re not on your line. When riding without brakes things get a little more difficult.

5) Looking further ahead.

One of the safest things you can do as a motorcyclist is always keep looking. Motorcyclists tend to be extremely aware of traffic, and you’re probably no exception. The trouble is, when you can’t count on your brakes you’ll be paying that much more attention to your surroundings, and that much further ahead for potential risks and potential safe escapes.

Again, you wouldn’t want to be riding without brakes, nor should you try it… but if you were to go out and ride around trying to use your brakes as little as possible you might find yourself leaving more space ahead of you, travelling at the speed limit, riding more predictably, drawing your line through corners, and looking even further ahead… and you might agree that non-braking aside, these are some pretty safe habits for a motorcyclist.

If you’re interested in more info on motorcycle brakes, check out these two posts on YouMotorcycle about motorcycle brake types and brake lines.

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  1. Being half-Irish and half-Scottish, I’ve been a cheap ******……oops, I mean FRUGAL…..all my life.

    I’ve always subscribed to the theory that being able to ride without using the brakes means you have “inputted” as little unnecessary acceleration as possible to get where you’re going….and, conversely, if you’re constantly “on” the brakes, you’ve probably been on the gas too hard just prior, thereby wasting precious (and expensive) fuel.

    Think about it: if you can almost coast to a stop, which you should be able to do given a motorcycle’s intrinsic “engine-braking” capabilities, why wouldn’t you? Rather than using up those expensive brake pads!

    Call me cheap, if you must, but the insurance industry seems to agree with me. Many companies are now offering to install accelerometers in your car and, based on your ability to demonstrate “tame” driving habits (read: gentle take-offs and stops), they’ll reduce your premiums substantially.

    So, my fellow global rotaters…….save the planet……get off the brakes!

  2. Took several track days with Frank Kinsey in North Florida a few years back.
    He taught the no brakes policy in his beginner classes and it changed my riding style on the street forever.

  3. A long time ago I attended a track day where the first session around the track was without shifting and without brakes. Talk about a scary ride. But in the end it teaches you about control and truly forces you to go around a corner at speed if you like it or not :)

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