Number One Motorcycle Survival Skill

The NUMBER ONE motorcycle survival skill is HARD BRAKING – also known as “panic” braking, or “emergency” braking.

HARD BRAKING is applied during those infrequent times when you need to INSTANTLY exert FULL BRAKING FORCE – without losing traction and/or losing control of your bike.

Typically, this is because something or someone just became positioned right in your path at the last second.

HARD BRAKING is the strongest possible braking force you can apply to avoid a collision – with the vital and additional point of “not” losing traction or losing control of your bike.

When such an occasion occurs that your very survival is at stake, will you be able to immediately apply full-force braking pressure, without hitting your brakes so hard that you lose control of your bike?

If you cannot confidently answer “Yes” to that question, the remedy is simple: you need to PRACTICE HARD BRAKING right away! (And then practice again and again).

When faced with a sudden potential motorcycle mishap, a common rider reaction is to slam so hard on the brakes, that one, or both tires lock up and skid.

Locked up tires result in lost traction – and a longer stopping distance – presuming, of course, that the rider is still in control of the bike while the tires are locked! (That’s actually “not” a likely presumption, since many riders “will” lose control of their bike when they lock up a tire and lose traction).

YOU should practice emergency braking from time to time in an empty parking lot or some other location without traffic. And keep practicing!!

Another point to consider for those riders who are not always solo: You should also practice hard braking with a passenger! Not only does the increased weight cause the bike to handle differently, but how will you react during an emergency with a passenger slamming into your back during a hard braking situation?

PRACTICE emergency braking with and without a passenger to develop your rider survival skills!

If you are a sport-touring rider, an adventure-touring rider, a cruiser-tourer, luxury tourer, or any rider who loads your bike for a long-distance ride, you should also PRACTICE HARD BRAKING with your bike fully loaded. Not only is this a good way to develop your braking skill with the exact load you are riding with, such practice braking is a good way to test your load security. Better to learn that your improperly secured sleeping bag will come flying forward in a panic stop, while you are practicing, then under the duress of a real road threat.

Keep in mind that if you are continually in the habit of applying “normal” braking pressure under “normal” riding circumstances, how do you think YOU will react in an emergency?

Oh! And if you happen to have an Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS) integrated on your bike does that mean all of this is unnecessary? In brief, there is no substitute for improving your rider experience, but ABS does have some compelling advantages.

Only by PRACTICING HARD BRAKING, over and over and over again, will you create the proper reaction habit for the time when you may most need it….

Safe Riding,

11 thoughts on “Number One Motorcycle Survival Skill

  • Morning MCg,
    Thanks for the update and info,
    Two books every motorcyclist should read regarding safe motorcycling are;
    1. Proficient motorcycling by David L. Hough

    2. More Proficient Motoecycling by David L. Hough

  • Situational Awareness is the best skill, once you recognize a problem, decide to take action, braking or swerving must be done with precision after a person as honed their skills. 10,000 times to mastery

  • Very important addition. Get informed about how the torque from your crankshaft moves your bike under hard breaking. I had a crash this summer that was in a situation even my diligent practice couldn’t save me from. When you slow down SUPER quickly the forces coming off your crankshaft cause your tires to drift apart from the center line of your inertia. This leads to a wild ride and eventually the pavement. I was lucky enough to low-side my bike, but in that kind of split second situation, a high-side is very probable, and almost never good. There’s basically a limit to how much negative torque your chassis can displace before it forces itself apart at it’s weakest point (the steering head) Look this, and other very useful principals of motorcycle physics, up in a fantastic book called “Motorcycle design and technology” from the motorworks books collection. It’s written by the lead engineer for Aprila and is amazingly valuable information if you’re a “push the envelope” type rider. Heads up.

  • Thanks Sir for the infos and tips. I will put this one on my everyday adventure of motorcycle riding leasures.

  • Great article. Please remember to use both brakes and get into the habit of using all four fingers for the front brake. Maximum braking is a skill that is acquired with some practice and should be practiced on a regular basis.

  • Thanks for the idea! I need it ! BUT We need to know the HOW,
    is there a system to the practice? DO’S and DON’T’S for the practice.Speed, down-shift,etc? anyway Iwill start practice some how.

  • I am consistently practicing swerving to avoid unforeseen things in the road, but I don’t practice braking. I have had 3 emergency braking incidents already this year, so I have to believe there will be more. From now on, I will be practicing. The part about practicing with another rider is a GREAT idea too!

    Thanks for the info, I look forward to reading your other articles.


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