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cyclesteve 10-21-2003 12:54 PM

Re: To Cover or Not To Cover?
Understand that MSF instructors are required to give the info from the MSF manual. Many even know the info is incorrect, but they must tow the company line. Some unfortunatly are there, because there is a real shortage of those willing to give up riding weekends to work and don't know better. I would suggest going to Reg Pridemore's Class or another reputable track school if you want stright answers and real practice outside a parking lot.

maccasmark 10-21-2003 12:58 PM

Re: To Cover or Not To Cover?
At street legal speeds, the latest top performance cars (the really expensive ones) can actually outbrake a bike. This is due to having more rubber touching the tarmac.

But the average car takes far longer to brake compared to a bike.

maccasmark 10-21-2003 12:59 PM

Re: To Cover or Not To Cover?
Going by that logic, I learner would continue to use only the rear brake.

Flickmeister 10-21-2003 01:07 PM

Re: To Cover or Not To Cover?
Being a former MSF instructor with considerable ractrack experience and 40+ years of riding taught me to spend some serious time getting my grubby little mitts on everything I could read, go to several track schools, and spend the time to figure out what worked best for me then practice it so it would be instinctive and reactive when the inevitable idiot rears his ugly head.

While there are a few hard and fast rules of physics when it comes to motorcycle riding, whether or not you cover your front brake is not one of them. If you are an experienced rider and that works well for you, I wouldn't change no matter what anyone said. Personally, I cover my front brake and clutch only in heavier traffic and intersections. I feel I get more precise throttle control not covering the front brake in other situations.

There are two other areas I take issue with the MSF. First, I strongly disagree with the keep your brake locked if you lock it while maximum braking. I have found there are many times when you maximum brake then have to swerve around an object to avoid a collision. If your rear brake is locked, at the most critical moment in this scenario, you have to remember to release the rear brake and allow it to regain traction before you swerve. This takes valuable time and distance. If you attempt to swerve with your rear brake locked, you are instantly on your ass. Because of this, if your are stopping in a straight line, concentrate on using your front and rear brakes just short of lock-up. If you lock your rear brake, release it and reapply with less pressure. If you are leaned over in a corner and you lock your rear brake, keep it locked. You're goin' down, but lowsiding and sliding along the tarmac beats releasing the rear brake, allowing the rear tire to regrip and throw you over the top of a wildy bucking, pissed-off motorcycle. This is defined as a "highside" and is # 3 on my list of collisions to avoid at all costs. # 1 is hitting another vehicle head-on and # 2 is hitting a solid object head-on.

The last issue I disagree with has to do with a sentence we taught in the ERC when I was an instructor. It involved a discussion of how much riding is mental versus physical. The phrase we read out of the ERC instructor's guide went some like this: "How much riding is mental and how much is physical?" "Some say it's as much as 90% mental and 10% physical." This phrase makes me crazy. I view it as the worst wording in the whole MSF curriculum. It is truly SAD (Stupid And Dangerous) and a blatant lie. Sure, if you are on a quiet country backroad with no side streets, the cruise control is on, etc., that 90%-10% ratio may be about right. But when that idiot makes his left-hand turn in front of you, it is 100% physical and reactive. If you have to spend any time thinking before reacting, you are an accident statistic. My point is that those mental-physical percentages are changing constantly as you ride and you damn sure better be aware of it and prepared for it or else.....

The only way I know to be able to react when that 100% situation arises is to practice your defensive maneuvers until they become instinctive and reactive. That means practice your ass off, and get thee to a track school if you are so inclined.

My last suggestion is that every rider, newbie or fossilized like me, buy Nick Ienatsch's "Sport Riding Techniques" (ISBN # 1-893618-07-2). Guaranteed the best book ever written on the topic. It's available dirt cheap ($17.47 + S&H) from Or, better yet buy it and David Hough's "MORE Proficient Motorcycling" (ISBN # 1-931993-03-3) for another measly $17.47. If you order both, shipping and handling is free. I promise it'll be the best thirty-five bucks you'll ever spend.

Jeez.....the old fart got on his high horse again. Thanks for letting me vent. Time to wake up MOrons and if anyone has any comments or suggestions on the novel above, I'd be interested in hearing them either here or off-list. Enjoy the ride. Cheers, Jack

giuliom 10-21-2003 01:58 PM

Re: To Cover or Not To Cover?
I ride in heavy traffic a lot and I do cover. I use my thumb and index to control the throttle and the other three fingers on the brake. I can control the throttle very well (practice) and I get enough stopping power that way. If the braking needs increasing, it takes an extra fraction of a second before the index finger also closes on the brake. I am not a newbie, so I doubt I would panic and lock up when I don't mean to brake. The extra time has saved my butt a couple of times (lane splitting, city traffic), so I am not changing, no matter what everyone says.

oldedogg 10-21-2003 02:00 PM

Re: To Cover or Not To Cover?
As a recent returnee to the sport after a break of some thirty years, I took advantage of the law here in Wisconsin. Not only do they offer one the option of successfully completing the Basic MSF Course in lieu of the DMV road test to earn the "M" endorsement on a driving license (saving me a 100 mile comute to the nearest DMV office conducting the road test), but the state also subsidizes the MSF Course ($56.50 is all I paid).

My previous experience of flogging the twisties in Monterey County, CA between Carmel and San Simeon taught me the value of effective front brakes. I totally faded the drum brake on my '69 CB360 Honda many times. Initially, I was curious that my highly professional MSF instructor was putting so much emphasis on covering the front brake lever, but I quickly realized he was getting the beginning riders to focus on the importance front wheel braking. I firmly believe ALL beginning riders, when faced with their first emergency stop, will instinctively stab their foot down, and lock the REAR brake and wheel, guaranteeing a low-side "step-off", to include an unsolicited embrace with the pavement.

Returning to the true spirit of a MOFO upchuck, I am obgliged to reveal my passion is riding my neighboring superbly maintained state and county roads on the most sporting lightweight motorcycle I am permitted to own in the US--a Kawasaki EX250 Ninja. (Shame on the Feds I cannot buy a street legal Aprilia 125!) I can map out a route of 200 miles of hills and twisties hardly ever leaving Vernon County.

My point here is twofold. Firstly, never take delivery a a new motorcycle or ride hard a used one without fitting braided stainless steel brake lines (I chose Spiegler), filling the system with silicone fluid (I chose Castrol SRF), and installing sintered-metalic pads (I chose EBC). Secondly, I am asking if all you MOFOs are insisting I paint myself into the tiniest corner of the idiot fringe if I believe it is essential to be able to effectively brake with two-finger control while simultaneously blipping the throttle to change down to a gear appropriate to stay in the torque band. (Fat twin cruisers know you need not respond, and 600cc+ sportbike riders should understand, if you respond, are likely pleading guilty to your local authorities to exceeding the posted speed limit by at least 70mph. I cover with two fingers when I cannot see far enough ahead. All other times I concentrate on the line within my lane and road surface conditions. That is not to say I have not had an awkward moment when I had to grab for all the braking I could get with four fingers. The time I crested a blind rise at 8000 rpm in fifth only to confront a tractor towing a manure spreader, traveling at 10 mph, randomly depositing the flotsam of its cargo in my lane was a true learning experience.

In conclusion, while there is no substitute for looking ahead and assuming no one else on the road--motorcyclist or cager--can see you or gives a s*** you have a legal right to the space you occupy on the roadway, please keep safe! Please upgrade your braking system to the best reasonably available for your chosen machine, and please practice emergency stopping before you actually need to do it.

This is my first post since I began reading MO two and half years ago, and I trust you will overlook any spelling and syntax errors, and credit my enthusiasm. Be smooth and quick!

southwindphoto 10-21-2003 04:03 PM

The best answer IÂ’ve read
The best answer

And so very true.

NewbieÂ’s need to keep to the basics, whereas more advanced riders, who can master "multi tasking" can handle the challenge of doing two things at once with the same hand, should cover the break with two fingers.

Flickmeister 10-21-2003 04:16 PM

Re: To Cover or Not To Cover?
I'm not sure how necessary braided lines or sintered iron pads are on a modern sportbike. Silicone fluid (DOT 5) can creat far more problems than DOT 4 fluid since it won't mix with the vapor (water) that works it's way into the brake lines. There have been instances where the brakes have been applied properly, abruptly locked, and when released, remained locked causing the rider to go down (ain't a whole lot of steering or recovery when your front wheel is locked). I strongly advise against silicone fluid. The stainless steel brake lines can be very useful, adding both braking power & feel in most cases. Same with good aftermarket brake pads even though they may cause additional wear on your rotors. Now days, brakes, on modern sportbikes, are so good that the weakest link is definitely the rider. The bottom line is the best way to achieve the shortest stopping distances is to learn the correct maximum braking techniques and practice them until you can stop in the shortest distance keeping both wheels just short of locking up. And the good news is it won't cost you anything except your time and effort. After you've mastered the necessary skills and IF your bike becomes the limiting factor, then invest in brakes lines, pads, rotors, etc. as necessary. Hope this helps. Cheers, Jack

JALacroix 10-21-2003 04:52 PM

Re: To Cover or Not To Cover?
I had this exact same debate with both of my instructors at the MSF ExperiencedRider Course that I took this weekend. I ride with my lever covered and also only use 2 fingers to brake.

They argued that the lever will be hindered by the two fingers that I leave on the bar (to help maintain better control of my bike while braking). Mind you, I have my levers adjusted so that hitting my other 2 fingers is physically impossible. I demonstrated this to them. I ride a sportbike (VTR1000F) with aftermarket brakes and have more than enough leverage using only 2 fingers.

I have also never panicked and grabbed a handfull of brake as they argued that I might in an emergency. Whatever.

In any event, I was one of only 2 people in my class of 12 that had a perfect score on the skills test (though I did have the fastest time through the course ;).

I also could have brought up that covering the lever is recommended by many experienced, talented riders (Nick Ienatsch is a proponent of doing so in his book).

Alright, enough venting. From now on I think I'm just going to do track schools.

giuliom 10-21-2003 05:45 PM

Re: To Cover or Not To Cover?

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