How To Stop A Motorcycle Quickly

When you are riding a motorcycle there is always the threat of danger and unexpected hazards. An important skill is knowing how to properly handle these hazards and how to stop quickly. That’s why I decided to write this helpful article, to share with you some tips and tricks to help keep you safer.

So, how do you stop a motorcycle quickly? To stop a motorcycle quickly you are going to first make sure the handlebars are straight, then you begin to apply and increase pressure to both the front and rear brake. This has to be done in a gradual and continuous motion, don’t just stab at the brakes. Be smooth.

That’s a quick overview, there is so much more to it. If you want to know how to properly stop your motorcycle in more detail, learn some great drills you can use to get better or how to calculate the amount of stopping distance you need to stop safely, read on.

How To Stop A Motorcycle Quickly

One of the most important skills all motorcycle riders need to know is how to stop quickly. No matter what the road conditions are, there is always the chance of something unexpected happening. When this does happen, you need to be able to quickly and safely bring your motorcycle a stop. Let’s go over exactly how to do this.

When you need to stop your motorcycle quickly, the first thing you are going to want to do is make sure your handlebars are straight and you are not leaning. The motorcycle needs to be fully upright.

If you want a guide all about stopping in a corner, I wrote an in depth guide which is worth the read. Check it out below.

Once your bars are straight and the bike is fully upright, you are going to want to begin to apply even pressure to both the front and rear brakes. Many riders forget to use both brakes, this greatly increases the stopping distance.

When you are applying the brakes, you need to do so “smoothly”. This means you want to increase the amount of brakes being applied in a smooth, gradual and continuous manner until you come to a stop. You don’t just reach for the brakes and squeeze as quickly as you can, smooth and continuous is the key. 

When you are riding a motorcycle on flat even ground, the weight is evenly distributed between the front and back wheels (50-50). Once you begin to apply the brakes, this weight is going to shift forward on to the front forks and compress the suspension.

This is good, when this happens the front tire contact patch is increased. This improves the motorcycle’s traction and increases the amount of stopping power.

This also means the rear wheel is no longer under the same amount of weight, which means there is a chance for it to lock up and cause a skid. That’s why you need to regulate the rear brake and release pressure if you feel it starting to skid.

In an emergency braking situation, you don’t want either of the wheels to skid. When a tire starts to skid, you have lost traction and control which increases the stopping distance. So avoiding a skid is always a good thing.

You can help prevent this by trying to keep your weight off the handlebars and shifting towards the back of your seat. This keeps a bit more weight over the rear tire and reduces the point at which the rear tire will lock up and skid.

You can grip and squeeze the tank with your legs to help prevent you from sliding forward. Handlebars are only for providing inputs to the motorcycle, not for hanging on. 

Another important thing is to keep your head and eyes up, try to focus on the horizon. Keep from looking down at your controls, it will help you keep balance and be more stable.

I would like to point out that I did not mention changing gears. This is because in an emergency situation you should only be focused on stopping as quickly as possible. Your gear is not relevant. If anything the engine braking will help to shorten the stopping distance. If you want you can pull in the clutch right before you come to a stop, this will prevent you from stalling.

So to sum it up. Straighten the handlebars and cancel out any lean. Apply continuous and gradually increasing pressure to the rear and front brakes, letting off the rear brake if it begins to lock up. Keep your weight off the handlebars and to the back of your seat.

There are a few things you should never do. I think it’s important to quickly go over them.

Some riders will get into a habit of only using the rear brake or stamping it to stop. This is not the way to do it. The front brake provides around 70% or more of your stopping power, without the front brake you are not going to stop quickly in an emergency. Use both brakes.

On the other side, there are some riders who will say that the rear brake is not needed. They’ll argue that because the front brake does over 70% of the braking, the rear brake is not really necessary.

They are completely wrong. The rear brake does much more than just contribute to slowing you down. It also helps to regulate the weight balance of the bike, which makes sure the front tire isn’t overwhelmed during a quick stop and doesn’t lose traction. So use both brakes, in an emergency every bit of braking power is needed.

There are also riders who will reach for a fistful of front brake causing the front end to lock up, usually this results in a crash. Don’t do this, you need to be smooth on the controls. You can help prevent this by only using two fingers to operate the front brake.

Laying her down” to avoid a crash, I can begin to explain how silly this is. Once you have laid it down, you are no longer trying to avoid a crash. You have crashed. Don’t do this, most of the time you can stop the motorcycle in time. Remember your training and use the skills you have learned to stop the motorcycle. Don’t give up.

This gets me to my next point, practice. You need to practice these skills. You can read all the articles you want, watch a thousand YouTube videos, but without practice you won’t have the muscle memory needed to stop quickly in an emergency. You need to head out to a controlled environment and work on your skills.

Find a empty parking lot and practice. Work on making yourself a better rider, get it to a point where you don’t even think, you just react. It might be the difference between sucking on the back of a pickup truck or stopping with a few inches to spare. Don’t neglect to train and improve your skills.

Check out this parking practice guide I wrote, there are a bunch of articles aimed at helping you improve your riding skills. There are even a few aimed only at emergency stopping. Check it out below.

How long does it take to stop a motorcycle?

To work out your stopping distance in feet you need to take your current speed, then starting at 20 mph with a multiple of 2, you times the speed by the multiplier. As you increase your speed by 10 mph, you increase the multiplier by 0.5.

So for example if you were travelling at 20 mph, you would multiply 20 x 2 which would give you a stopping distance of 40ft. If you were travelling at 30mph, you would multiply 30 x 2.5 for a stopping distance of 75ft.

Here’s a quick chart to help you out.

Speed x MultiplierStopping Distance
20 mph x 240 ft
30 mph x 2.575 ft
40 mph x 3120 ft
50 mph x 3.5175 ft
60 mph x 4240 ft
70 mph x 4.5315 ft

This all assumes the weather and reaction time are not a factor. While in perfect conditions it might take you 75ft to stop, if you add some rain or a delayed reaction, this could easily go up to a 100ft or more. So it’s always good to leave yourself more room than needed to stop safely.

That’s it for this article today. I hope you enjoyed and learned a thing or two. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me using the contact form here. I’d love to hear from you or help any way I can.

Until next time, happy riding!

Jordan Baker

Hi, I’m Jordan. I’ve been riding motorcycles for a few years now(9+ years). Along the way I’ve learned a bunch, made mistakes and picked up a thing or two. I’ve also spent countless hours practicing and working on improving my skills, something I try to do a few times a week. That’s why I made this website. So I can share my love for riding and everything I’ve learned over the years. Hopefully you’ll stick around and check out a few articles.

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