Controlling the Motorcycle – Clutch, Throttle and Rear Brake
Posted In: Safety Articles
Safety Feature written for Countyline Publications and printed in Wisconsin and Illinois Biker Information Guide – second quarter 2010 by Robert Shelton, Instructor Woodstock Harley Riding School Spring is here! I am sure all of you reading this are itching to bring your motorcycle out of storage and get the rubber on the road! This brings up something for consideration. How well are you going to ride this year? Are you going to soak up every mile with the intense passion of freedom? Are you going to know that no matter where you go this season you’ll be in complete control of your motorcycle no matter what size of the rally, crowd, parking lot, or type of road, be it gravel, grass, mud or concrete? My friend, it is up to you as to how well you ride this year. Let’s discuss an important technique for controlling your motorcycle at slow speeds – between 3 and 12 mph. This important technique is the use of the clutch, throttle and rear brake while riding slow. How important is this technique? It is this control technique that will bring joy and confidence when having to ride in gravel, grass, dirt, asphalt, mud or concrete at slow speeds knowing that you have control of your motorcycle no matter what it’s size, model, or weight. It is this control technique that I use when at gas stations, restaurants, dealerships, horse shows, motorcycle rallies (BIG Border Rally, Sturgis, Laconia, Daytona, etc.), and dealing with parking and getting through crowded main street areas. Let’s see what this technique entails. When you operate your clutch lever there is a point at which the clutch is fully disengaged. This is when your clutch lever is fully squeezed in and touching your handlebar grip. There is also a point at which the clutch is fully engaged. This is when your clutch lever is fully let out from your handlebar grip. There is an area when the clutch lever is fully squeezed that when you begin to let the lever out the clutch will begin to engage or slip. From this point the clutch will begin to slip with more and more friction until it is fully engaged – this is called the “Friction Zone.” When the friction starts there is a slight pull on the rear wheel and as this friction increases the pull on the rear wheel increases as well. When riding or maneuvering your motorcycle at slow speed your clutch lever will be in this friction zone. While operating the motorcycle at slow speed in the friction zone with a bit of pressure applied to the rear brake and applying a bit of throttle you will exercise maximum control of your motorcycle. This also is what enables you to ride at a slow speed and maintain the motorcycle in an upright position. When I am in the friction zone using the throttle and rear brake at slow speed my RPMs are between 1200 and 1500. At no time is the front brake used in this technique. Practice using this technique in an empty parking lot going in a straight line. Work to have your speed at the pace of a fast walk and try to slow it down to a regular walk. When properly practiced the motorcycle will work to stay upright because of a principle of physics – torque on the rear wheel. At slow speed the motorcycle will automatically work to straighten upright when torque is applied to the rear wheel and held back with the rear brake. When you become proficient at riding in a straight line at slow speed, work at turning your motorcycle in a large circle in both directions. When you become comfortable with circles take three or four parking slots and work at making large “U” turns. Work on making large figure 8 using a large area. Learn to maneuver your motorcycle. As you become comfortable controlling your motorcycle with this technique, tighten up the space. After practicing for a bit I suggest you ride your motorcycle around and “air” out and cool off your brakes and clutch. This technique has to be practiced, practiced and further practiced. Should you decide to take a riding course make sure this technique is part of curriculum and used throughout the course. Every rider on the road should be well grounded using this control technique. Until next time, only you can determine how good you want to be.