Remember the Bad Old Days when rider education consisted of: “Here’s the clutch, gear shift lever, and the throttle. Don’t touch that. It’s the front brake, and it’ll kill you.” Well, times have changed, and all motorcyclists who’ve spent any time studying the art of riding are familiar with the proper use of the front brake. That, however, doesn’t mean there is no controversy about its use. Nope, motorcyclists can find an excuse to argue over almost anything. Today, it’s not whether using the front brake is dangerous but rather how many fingers you use on the lever.

So, in our efforts to thoroughly research everything motorcycle related, we turn to you, oh devoted MOrons, to settle the issue once and for all time. How many fingers should you use on the front brake lever? Though we’ll be tallying the results in a poll form, feel free to let us know why you do what you do and how those who do differently are out of their freaking minds.

 
  • Born to Ride

    Two on the brake, oddly 3 on the clutch most of the time.

    • Brent S

      I’m the same way so you’re not alone

      • Born to Ride

        Thinking back, I grew up using two or one on the clutch riding my dirtbikes. I think the third finger came to be due to my choice in motorcycles. Fanning a grabby Ducati dry clutch is not the most fun in traffic…

  • Starmag

    I try to just use my middle finger to strengthen it for politicians.

  • Glenn59

    Good topic for discussion Evans and I believe that any of your suggested answers is correct as long as you fully understand the pros and cons of that method. Having said that, I was taught to use four fingers for maximum available strength and also to prevent any spare fingers from preventing the lever from being fully compressed. Less than four fingers also leaves open the possibility that your ‘trapped’ fingers will get mashed by the brake lever in a crash.

    • SevMontgomery

      Surely, that’s where adjustable levers come in?

      • Glenn59

        Many bikes do not feature adjustable levers. Also, adjustable levers will not solve the problem of your 2 fingers not being strong enough to get maximum braking. If you adjust the lever a long way out so that your fingers won’t get trapped it may well make it hard to get a good purchase on the lever.

        • SevMontgomery

          I flipped my Gixxer like a closing mouse trap with just two fingers at a track day (rider in front of me caught me completely off guard). If you can’t slow the bike down with two fingers, then you must have osteoporosis.

          • Glenn59

            Not all bikes have that level of braking. Also, If you have two fingers inside the lever they can get crushed in a crash. These are valid reasons why rider trainers tell you to brake that way. As I said at the beginning of my post though, all combinations of fingers are OK. If you watch the GP guys many of them change from one up to four depending on what sort of braking they are using, a subtle adjustment of speed or serious braking for a hairpin bend will need a different approach. This is too complex for new riders which is why trainers tell you just to use 4 fingers.

          • SevMontgomery

            The Tokicos on my K6 are infamously bad. Just about any modern sporty bike will have better brakes.

            Even with stock levers, I don’t think that I have ever pinched my fingers on any of my bikes. Not saying that it can’t happen, I just haven’t experienced it to be a problem.

    • Jason

      I use 2 fingers on the brake with my middle finger doing most of the work. The other 2 fingers stay on the grip so I can modulate the throttle to match RPM while downshifting. With 4 fingers (as I was taught in MSF classes) you cannot manipulate the throttle. The MSF technique is the basic method geared towards beginner riders and RPM matching wasn’t taught in that class. It gets a bit more complicated as one’s riding advances.

      However, I agree that there are still bikes today that require a firm squeeze from all 4 fingers. I recently had a Indian Chieftain as a rental and it had the worst front brake I have experienced. Even with 4 fingers I couldn’t get much stopping power from the front and had to heavily rely on the rear brake to stop.

      • R0gueHunt3R

        Yeah, I was thinking about the rev matching this morning as I rode to work, and how it wouldn’t be possible with the “recommended” way of braking.

  • spiff

    Modern brakes are good. Two does the job, and covering minimizes reaction time.

    • Evans Brasfield

      This is my reasoning, too.

    • Gruf Rude

      …and the other two are blipping the throttle for the downshifts that go with the braking.

  • Kamohelo Mohudi

    2 for brake, 4 for clutch….in traffic its easier to cover the brakes with two fingers while making adjustments to the throttle with the remaining two and your palm but on long distance rides this two can change to one depending on comfortability as at times you’re on long twisty roads and want to focus on controlling the bike more than braking

  • Ronald Vennell

    That big blade lever on my Ultra Limited just doesn’t feel right with only two fingers on it. I use four and I’ve never taken an MSF class…I did take a Lee Park’s Total Control class several years ago.

    • Darryn Gibson

      Would we need 4 with abs?

      • someguyinhouston

        ABS does not decrease braking distance or strengthen the brakes in any way. It prevents them from locking up. That’s it. In point of fact, ABS can increase your braking distance on some surfaces as locking the brakes would actually bring you to a stop sooner.

        It is a common misconception that ABS improves braking distance and time but the reality is, it does not.

        • Jason

          A small number of riders can beat ABS on a dry surface. Introduce rain, oil, mud, gravel, manhole covers, etc and the number that can beat the computer is tiny.

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X6kO6ltk3a0

          • RE CYCLE

            I’m with Jason on this one. I have to believe that even if ‘ideal’ perfectly-controlled braking technique can in some cases beat ABS, just grabbing a handful of brakes and letting ABS do its thing works best when the panic button gets hit and surge of adrenaline comes. I’m coming up on 40 years of riding experience (No, I’m not a -total- geezer, I started at 7… so call it 30 years ‘on-road’ experience to be fair) and my fair share of panic stops over time. I practice ‘panic stop’ regularly too. I’d say I get it right 95% of the time when practicing, but about 10% of the times I’ve had to do it for reals.

  • TC

    I honestly can’t say. That’s like asking which leg you start walking with. Both are done at a deeply subconscious level. I’m thinking two, especially on my BMW with the servo assisted brakes.

  • blansky

    Two if I’m downshifting at the time and blipping the throttle and probably 3 if I’m not.

  • Two or more depending on the situation.

  • Old MOron

    We Euro-brand riders use three fingers at most. The pinkie is always held high and away from the grip.

  • Brian Cordell

    VFR with combined linked braking, four fingers, no problem

  • Pinoybear

    Two on brake and three on clutch. Two is all I need on my bike even for hard stopping. and it’s a comfortable reach for my little hands

  • Jim Wellem

    It varies on the situation. Sometimes 1 sometimes 2 sometimes 4. It’s unconscious.

  • fzrider

    It varies. I cover with two except on the interstate where I cover with one or none at all. Odd as it seems, I’ll count the number I use on the clutch tomorrow. I wish I was joking. I think it’s four.

  • Jamie Montoya

    Meh, whatever feels appropriate at the time.

  • Jari Martikainen

    I love these articles! More lines of ads than text. Good job, very well written! Now, pass the domain to somebody who actually cares to write something real about motorcycles and move on with your life.

  • wolzybk

    I clicked on “two” which I think is a good balance between power and sensitivity for a modern bike. On my older bikes, with cable-operated drum-brakes, it’s a full hand every time.

  • Jim Davis

    One or two with the 2002 Soft Tail, all four with the 1948 S125.

  • RE CYCLE

    Three (leaving index finger on throttle, so I have an “ok” to keep throttle control.)

    However, I’m trying to retrain myself to use four and/or switch to keeping lower-down fingers on the throttle (still experimenting) ‘cuz a couple times I had to stop real hard I pinched the snot out of my fat/gloved index finger AND still couldn’t really apply full brake power.

    Yes, I’ve tried readjusting so I get full brake with room left for index finger. But when I do that, the front brake gets really touchy for regular/light application.

    I don’t, FWIW, buy the MSF thing about using 4 fingers for “best control”… I got plenty of control with three. I’m trying change just for ‘ouchie’ prevention!

  • Rightwheel

    My MSF instructor told ME to use four every time, too. And I’m sure he’sight about hand strength and all, as applied to an older bike with mechanical brakes. But modern hydraulic brakes with discs will spit a person off if that lever is grabbed too hard, and two fingers is MORE than enough to do that.

  • David Villa

    I use to say, ” I use two fingers on the front brake.” Lately I have realized that I actually pull the lever with my middle finger, and my index follows along hovering just off the brake lever. If I find the need to stop short, my index finger finds the lever and adds pressure. (Bikes: BMW F800GT and FZ1)

    When riding my wife’s GSX1100G, I have to change my riding style. This includes a three finger front brake technique, and using the rear brake.

    So, the proper technique will depend on the bike and riding style.

  • Blackumi

    I generally use one and the rear brake on the street. But on track usually two or three