Riding Tip: How Many Fingers When Braking?

November 10, 2012 Tags: ,


At several events recently, I’ve been asked the same question about braking multiple times.  Here is my attempt to clarify matters a bit.  So . . . when it comes to using the front brake lever, how many fingers?  Two fingers or four?

The question may seem simple, but the answer for each individual rider may be complex.  For Valentino Rossi, famous motorcycle racer, the answer is three fingers!

For us mere mortals, let’s keep the conversation to just two or four fingers.  If you participated in a Motorcycle Safety Foundation Basic RiderCourse, you may remember the *ahem* pleading of the RiderCoaches to have you use all four fingers when braking.  Why?  When it comes to motor skill development for entry level riders, having all four fingers on the brake lever helps in the following ways:

  • Separation of control utilization permits riders to roll off throttle for brake application easier
  • Reduces accidental throttle roll-on during the braking process
  • Maximum force from the hand can be applied at the lever
  • Allows for full brake lever travel
  • Builds gross motor skills before fine motor skills (training philosophy)
  • Four finger braking instruction means consistent training at all MSF locations

So you might be saying, “I’ve been riding for awhile now and I don’t consider myself an entry level rider.  I hear friends tell me that they just use two fingers.  Is it okay?”

The short answer is yes, if your motor control skills are ready and your motorcycle is capable.  Two finger braking is actually part of the TEAM Arizona Advanced Riding Techniques course and is used because of its many benefits.  Those benefits include but are not limited to:

  • Reduced braking reaction time
  • Trail Braking technique requires simultaneous use of throttle and brakes

DISCLAIMER:  We really only recommend this technique for individuals who are currently confident with their throttle and brake control application and for those who have a full understanding of their motorcycle’s braking ability.

Where would be a good first place to practice and get an understanding of your motorcycle’s braking ability?  You got it, in a church parking lot across from a hospital.  Want an even better place to practice?  Check out our Advanced Riding Techniques course and expand your abilities!

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