6. Practice Panic Stops

Honda CBR600RR ABS

Worried the front end will wash out from under you when braking hard? Don’t be. When done correctly, a modern motorcycle will stop very quickly, even in the wet, as shown here.

New or inexperienced riders can have a hard time grasping the braking power of modern motorcycles. To fully understand how powerful your brakes are, we recommend practicing maximum braking drills.

Find a safe, empty lot clear of any sand or gravel and gradually experiment squeezing (not grabbing!) the brake lever until you come to a stop. Try this at different speeds to see how the bike reacts. You’ll soon realize the front tire has more grip than you think. Being aware of how the bike reacts when aggressively using the brakes can be a huge benefit when you’re unexpectedly thrust into panic mode.

It’s important to distinguish between squeezing and grabbing the lever. A squeeze is deliberate, controlled and powerful, whereas grabbing involves a sudden, erratic, forceful yank at the lever. The former keeps the motorcycle composed while gradually loading the front tire, while the latter can overwhelm the grip of the front tire. For those with ABS-equipped motorcycles the same rules apply, with much less risk involved if you grab or stab at either lever.

  • Jake

    My MSF course almost docked me a few points for covering the brake. But I still passed.

  • dm

    Same as Jake above, MSF instructors tried to break me of this old habit. I enjoyed the course, though.

  • nelson mariano

    very useful tips to us.
    please,keep sending them so we can avoid crashing and falls

  • Alvin Davenport

    A couple of suggestions I might add: On 2-lane roads, when approaching a string of on-coming traffic, I try to move to the right side of my lane. Not only does it reduce the impact of wind and debris from the passing vehicles, it also makes me more visible to drivers who may be planning an overtaking attempt. Also, I like to make passes on the freeway in two steps. First, I begin the pass and move near the center of the two lanes, check my mirror again, then complete the pass. Of course, traffic density and speed may make this difficult, but the second mirror check may find a vehicle you didn’t see before.

  • ricardo

    Good tips for the new riders, and for more experience ones as well, keep it up guys.

  • Lou V

    Two additional tips. Rarely do i hear bikers using their horns. First off replace the toot-toot factory horn with a louder sound and don’t be afraid to USE IT. Whenever a car is waiting to merge or pull out into my path i flash my lights and blow the horn. I want to engage as many of their 5 senses as possible to insure they know I am coming. Secondly, whenever making a left turn, glance in your rear view to insure an impatient cage is not passing you.

  • Steven H.

    If you own a motorcycle that has only one small low beam for your head lights – buy some LED’s for the front fork so you can be seen better. You’ll notice drivers won’t be pulling out of side streets into your path as much.

  • Brent Chronister

    Never ever never trust your mirrors when making a lane change or any maneuver that is going to change your position on the highway, even if staying in your own lane. a cager or one of your riding buddies may be crowding your space. ALWAYS LOOK OVER YOUR SHOULDER, it may just save your bacon. I can say this from experience.

  • Ken C.

    Another important addition:


    I see newbies run wide in turns because they’re too fixated on where they don’t want to end up – in the oncoming lane – and sure enough, they usually end up there anyway. I was guilty of this when I first started riding too. Keeping your eyes looking ahead on the path you want to be riding on is absolutely crucial, and requires practice.