Covering the front brake?

Good idea or not? I read an article (in this months Ride mag I think) saying its not good practice as in an emergency it can result in “panic clenching of the fingers”
The argument went on to say something like the microsecond it takes to reach the brake lever, won’t make a significant difference. However keeping your fingers away, enables you to think which course of action is best, ie brake, roll off, swerve etc.
Now, riding along tonight, I had a black cat run across my path. I didnt really see it, I just saw something dash from the pavement into the road. I think had I not been covering the brake & instinctively jabbed the brake, I might have clipped its rear end! (I was probably doing 50mph & scrubbed 10mph off by doing so)
I almost always have 2 fingers covering. Except when im cruising at speed on the motorway. Its not a conscious action. Just something I do.
What’s the IAM view? What does everyone else do?

Depends on the ride but assuming you mean everyday road riding then no, it’s not a good idea to cover the front brake. Why not attend a Skills for Life course or join an IAM group?

I sometimes cover the brake when filtering but, only below say 10mph in places where something is telling me somebody is bound to do something knobbish. The A406 & A11 are good examples for knobbishness :laugh:
Covering when riding generally is a bad idea in my book. The urge to just grab a hand-full when covering rather than a good firm squeeze generally wont work out too well :crazy:

depends, in traffic, filtering, constant junctions I tend to cover, otherwise not. If I do cover its only ever with 1, possibly 2 fingers. I sure the IAM view would be something along the line of, you should cover your brakes if it is appropriate to do so.

If you can find two IAM riders that agree with each other I would be impressed. :slight_smile:

Ahahahahhahaha :smiley:

I, for some reason, seem to place my finger on the top of the brake lever (help with minute throttle adjustments, maybe?:unsure: ) which is something I’m trying to stop doing on track.
I wouldn’t say its affected my braking abilities at all… When I was at the Kent fire bike skills day @ Brands, the IAM instructor told me I couldn’t two finger brake on the emergency stop, so I told him to look in… He was quite impressed I must say! :smiley: Never too old (or in too much day-glo) to learn something :wink:

I think the idea that covering the front brake can result in panic braking lock-ups and crashes is probably true for the less experienced rider - but I don’t think it applies to more experienced riders who know how to use their brakes - for these riders covering the front brakes enables them to brake properly faster than if they had not been covering the brake and this can make a big difference in some situations.

Also - if you are filtering at speed through heavy, multi-lane city traffic where you are sometimes just inches away from other vehicles - then having the front brake covered to make small adjustments to your speed or in order to react to unpredictable traffic as you plot your way through is essential.

I always cover my front brake …its from my days of being a courier. Have a look at most couriers and you will notice its something they do. It saved me many a time and I have never panic breaked. Thats just me and probably wont work for everybody

I think you have hit the nail on the head - for people like me, still on a huge learning curve, I believe it is pretty unsafe to cover the front brake, as we’re at too much risk of panic breaking. This is multiplied 10 fold if you are still learning how to ride well on an unforgiving bike. Having ABS, is a nice barometer of how good you are at braking (I’m sure the juddering you feel is saying 'well-you-f**ked-that-one-up-didn’t-you-aren’t-you-glad-I’m-here-to-bail-you-out!). Don’t think I would ever buy a bike without it, even when I hopefully become a good rider.

For very experienced riders, who are smooth and controlled 99% of the time, I would doubt whether ‘covering’ makes much difference. Two reasons - first, they are much less like to ‘snatch’ the brake and second, even if they did, they are much more likely to be able to recover the situation.

I think it is good to be taught how to do something properly, so you always have that to fall back on, but once everything to do with machine control becomes ‘automatic’ and you no longer have to think about everything you are doing, more of your brain capacity is available to concentrate on what’s going on around you, meaning increased planning time to deal with ‘potential’ hazards before they happen. Net result, fewer situations where someone like me would feel the need to panic brake.

Just on the slow speed filtering thing covered higher up the thread - under 20 mph I would really only use my back brake. Is this wrong?

I do & don’t cover the front brake all depends on circumstances

I do & don’t cover the front brake all depends on circumstances


Also the idea that you need all four fingers on the brake and having two will not provide adequate pressure dates back to the days of cable operated front drums

Trying to slow a BSA Spitfire down from 70mph even with leading shoe state-of-the-art-leading-shoe-1966-styley drums needs eight fingers and at least one foot I can tell you.

Totally agree with the above. Personally I have 2 on the leaver apart from motorway riding and feel uncomfortable not having them there.

Rear brake is more of a control thing, and I use it to adjust a little speed and especially at particularly slow speed, but at that pace it won’t get you stopped, but saying that, having had an ABS bike, its quite fun just stamping on the thing!

Thanks for this thread, it has reminded me that my front brake is really sharp at the moment, not so much a smooth increase of pressure on the discs as it is a binary on/off switch.

For some reason I had been thinking that I needed to put some lubricant on the brake cable…but I just realised that it has hydraulic front brakes.

Dunno where my mind was at. Will need to have a proper look at it, probably find my front pads are a bit worn.

Oh yeah, on topic reply.

I think that I only cover the front brake in situations where I feel that I am going to need to brake imminently. Such as when I see things ahead where I wonder exactly what is going to happen, pedestrians running across the road despite a green light…a cab driver sticker in the back of any vehicle…an audi.

Other than that, don’t think I do cover the brake.

Covering the lever is meant to reduce panic braking. If the hand isn’t ready and you’re flying along, with the time it will take to pull the lever you’ll already be panicking and grab a load of it (and may need too due to lost braking distance).

Yes - absolutely, I had exactly this experience in the earlier part of my riding career - I was covering the front brake filtering on the outside of a lane of slow moving traffic - I was doing about 25-30 mph - a car suddenly u-turned in front of me and I panicked and grabbed a handful of brake - obviously the front wheel locked up and I and the bike went down like a sack of potatoes.

I was so inexperienced that I didn’t even realise that I had locked the front wheel let alone react to it - the first moment I realised something was wrong was when I was sliding down the road.

But that experience taught me a lot about braking and actually improved my braking when similar situations occurred later. In emergency braking situations after that event I pulled the lever much more progressively in order to load the front tyre because I had prior exprience of lock up. I was also much more sensitive to what the tyre was doing and on another occassion felt the tyre lock up an skid - rather than hold onto the brake like before and lock up I released the lever and then reapplied the pressure to avoid lock up - a bit like an ABS system.

All this shows is that we really do learn and improve from our mistakes and experience - providing we are able to analyse what went wrong and why.

Regarding using the back brake when filtering - this is ok as long as you are aware that the rear brake will not provide the stopping power and control you can get from the front brake and that you are prepared and ready to use the front brake if you need to stop quickly and cleanly.

I often use the rear brake in all kinds of situations - but only as an auxiliary - because it is much easier to lock up the rear than the front and have the rear tyre step out as it is harder to achieve subtle control at speed with the rear brake - unless you are an expert rider.

“for some reason, seem to place my finger on the top of the brake lever (help with minute throttle adjustments, maybe?”

Yes, me too. I used to commute by bicycle years ago and covering the brake was essential. When I began riding motorbikes, it was a habit and my instructor had to tell me not to, or I would be marked down in my test. Once I moved up to more powerful bike, I found the imperfections in the road surface had me jolting along. So I used the lever to keep my hand steady, smooth out my ride and my habit returned.
That said, I still believe its for the best. I’ve never panic braked to the point I’ve lost control. Tbh, unless in heavy traffic, most of my braking is done on the engine.
I did advanced driving years ago and only having an automatic car, used that. My observer was stuck for what to say when he realised I was left foot braking and covering the brake most of the time. He thought i would get confused. He eventually conceeded (having watched me drive) that coupled with good observation, it was a good system as it gives an extra split second to react (0.7 is I think the time it takes for you brain to tell your limbs move to the lever/pedal) Which at a decent speed, can means several meters off your stopping distance.
Maybe panic braking and reaction braking are two different things? Just as some people forget to swerve whilst braking.I suspect maybe its just a case of training your brain not to panic brake.