Riding Tip: Low Speed Motorcycle Maneuvering P2

May 4, 2017 Tags: , , , ,


In this video, part two of four, we explore how to master low speed motorcycle maneuvering by improving our clutch-throttle relationship while adding in rear brake pressure. When it comes to slow speed turns, like a u-turn, mastering your clutch-throttle-brake relationship will be valuable.

We will cover these fundamentals in this video:

1) Friction Zone with rear brake engagement: The area of clutch lever travel that starts transmitting power from the engine to the rear tire. We use the rear brake to control our speed; in essence the rear brake is “fighting” against the power delivery from the motor.
2) Clutch Control Lane: A practice area where we can master use of our clutch-throttle-rear brake relationship.
3) Off-Set Weave: A practice area where we repeatedly turn our handlebars while maintaining a steady, consistent clutch-throttle relationship.

For riders who want to improve their skills and have total control of their motorcycle at slow speeds, register for a course or private instruction today at MotorcycleTraining.com!

At TEAM Arizona we often say we’re in the business of building relationships. And the clutch-throttle-rear brake relationship is one you’ll want to master. The best place to master that clutch-throttle-rear brake relationship is in our forty foot clutch control zone.

Because we’re going in a straight line, we have less risk. The goal when we’re in that clutch control lane is to have our RPMs slightly elevated, our clutch in the friction zone, and our rear brake slightly engaged the entire path of the forty foot clutch control lane.

But get this; we want to avoid using any front brake. This mastery is all about using the rear brake for low speed maneuvering.

So does how fast or slow you go matter? That’s a great question, Jordyn, yes it does. Ideally for the entire forty foot length we want to take about ten to twelve seconds to go through that clutch control lane, and again we want to engage that rear brake the entire length so we can feel motor starting to fight against our rear brake and see how it is actually stabilizes the motorcycle at low speed.

Warning: You’ll want to perform this exercise several times, but give your motorcycle a rest. Because we are engaging in the friction zone and using that rear brake we can tend to overheat our clutch. So, perform the exercise several times and then go do something else or take a break.

So, maybe relationships aren’t that difficult. Is there more to it? A lot more Jordyn. Just because we can manage that clutch-throttle-rear brake relationship in a straight line, doesn’t mean we’re finished there. Now we’ve gotta try it while turning the handlebars. We’ve gotta see how smooth we in an off-set weave.

Alright. You’re really ramping it up this time. Yeah, we’re getting tricky. And because riding is so much more fun when we’re challenging ourselves, we’re really going to have the goal of riding that off-set weave with a smooth and consistent clutch-throttle-rear brake relationship. If we experience any dramatic raises in RPMs or if we experience any dramatic pushes on the rear brake to cause the bike to lurch around, then we’ve got more to practice. And, boy, that’s the fun part to motorcycling when we get to practice. Eventually, when you get smooth and consistent at one speed, you’ll want to try and go a little bit faster and see if you can be smooth at that slightly faster speed.

So this seems like a lot to put together, this clutch-brake-throttle relationship seems like a lot of work. And isn’t that true of most relationships. The more work we put into it, the better we get.

I would have never thought to practice the clutch-brake-throttle relationship for slow speed turns. Well, you’re not alone Jordyn. As the old adage goes, we don’t know what we don’t know. And that is why TEAM Arizona exists. We’re here to share our knowledge and understanding of how motorcycles work, and we’re asking people to invest in rider training, so that they have a long, safe riding experience.

 For the Entire TEAM Arizona Newsletter Content, CLICK HERE

Bill Seltzer Yamaha FJ-09Bill Seltzer has been a Motorcycle Safety Foundation RiderCoach since 2003 and a Total Control Advanced Riding Instructor since 2011.  He currently serves as the Marketing Director for TEAM Arizona and is a member of the Arizona Strategic Highway Safety Planning committee.  Have questions or comments about the article?  Email him: Bill@MotorcycleTraining.co


  1. Robert Brumley 5 months Reply

    The rear brake clutch throttle I have been using for years and nobody ever told me about it. I guess you could say it came to me naturally. I will say it works great, especially on heavier bikes like cruisers to maintain control at low speeds.

    • Bill Seltzer 5 months Reply

      Outstanding. Gotta love it when things come together naturally. For most riders thought, putting that combination together can be challenging. In fact, there are stories out there that riders are told to stay away from the rear brake. The way we see it, riders need to learn when, how, and why to use each control available on the motorcycle. Otherwise, its like having tools in a toolbox and not knowing their purpose. Thanks for your comment Robert!

  2. Nick Feldaverd 5 months Reply

    Very well done, informative. Thinking of the friction zone as a “dimmer” switch may also help with the mental process.

    • Bill Seltzer 5 months Reply

      That’s a great way to think about the friction zone Nick. Thank you for sharing!

  3. Hi, Rodney Robbins here. I’m the author of “Gold Wings are Murder” under my pen name Moxie Nixx. Your video is very well presented. However, with respect, using three different tools to control one thing, your speed, is almost certainly an error called OVER PROCESSING. Logic tells us using three controls for one thing is probably unnecessary, but what happens in the real world? On my GL1800 Gold Wing, my “Motorcycle Idle Speed” is 4-5 mph. That is with the clutch all the way out, engine at idle, no gas or brakes. My “Stall Speed,” on the Wing, is 2 mph. That is with the clutch all the way out, engine at idle, dragging the rear brake until the engine almost starts to lug or stall, but doesn’t. It just so happens that 2 mph is exactly the speed you need to ride 40 feet in 12 seconds. If I can ride 2 mph using only 1 control, the rear brake, why do I need anything else? I know I can’t close the throttle more to ride slower, so what else could I do to keep it simple? Turns out, I can cycle the clutch in and out, no gas, no brakes, and ride about 1 mph. “Oh, but that’s on a giant Gold Wing!” True. The well used 883 Sportster I tested had a “Motorcycle Idle Speed” of 10 mph and a “Stall Speed” of 5 mph. To pass the 40 feet in 12 second test, I would need to at least cycle the clutch. Could I use all three controls? Sure. Do I need to? Probably not. I offer this challenge, before you tell me I’m wrong, find out your “Motorcycle Idle Speed,” and your “Stall Speed.” While you are at it, see if you can ride your 40′ slow speed lane in 10-12 seconds just by cycling the clutch from barely off to slightly on–no gas, no brakes. If I can control my speed with ONE control, rear brake or clutch, why should I struggle with THREE at the same time?

    • Bill Seltzer 4 months Reply

      Thanks for the reply Rodney. You bring up some key points. It is challenging to bring all aspect of maneuvering forward in a 3 minute video; we try our best. You may note that there are plenty of different ways to ride a motorcycle that allow a rider to accomplish their task. Our goal is to have riders explore all of the available controls. Not learning how to properly use all of the motorcycle controls is akin to a mechanic not learning how to use the available tools in his tool box. Some jobs require different tools and if we don’t have the right tools for the job, then we could be at a disadvantage. What if a rider needs to adjust their line mid-turn? Plenty of situations arise that may cause us to alter our speed and/or direction.

      First, we are conscious of rider bandwidth and are aware reducing operator workload to be valuable in many respects. This is the second video in a four part series. These videos are meant to be building blocks for riders who are not only new to the sport but may have years of experience. If you notice, our first video asks the rider to begin exploring the clutch/throttle relationship in a straight line. Only once a rider feels comfortable are they meant to use those controls while turning the handlebars. Again, there is no one way to ride a motorcycle. We are asking riders to invest time in learning how to use the available controls of their motorcycles. Use less controls? Go ahead. Use all three? Great. Rider choice for the given situation.