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Motorcycle Safety & Driveability/braking on a harley davidson motorcycle


What is the right way to brake on a motorcycle. Is using the engine and downshifting bad on an engine?ld

The best way to brake on a motorcycle is use both brakes -- smooth, progressive squeeze on the front, squeezing harder as you slow; light to lighter pressure on the rear as you slow.

During braking, it's simplest to squeeze the clutch and downshift as you slow without releasing the clutch (engine braking). It's also less wear and tear on the engine's top end (valvetrain) -- brake pads are much cheaper and easier to replace than engine internals.

However, that said, the additional wear on the valvetrain due to engine braking is pretty minimal, and I've never heard of engine braking causing an otherwise unnecessary valve job. So it's not realistically worse for the engine, it's just a little simpler process to keep the clutch squeezed while you slow.

My personal style is to use engine braking when adjusting speed in traffic or for an upcoming curve; I do not use engine braking when I plan to come to a stop or if there is traffic behind me -- in other words, I want to illuminate the stop lamp so drivers behind me know I'm slowing.

I hope that helps!


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Pat Hahn


I can answer questions related to motorcycle safety: knowledge, skills, technical, or theoretical. I am especially familiar with the concepts of risk management, hazard awareness, crash avoidance, and traction management as they pertain to motorcycle riders. Please do not ask me to troubleshoot your mechanical/electrical problems ("Why won't my bike start?").


I'm an MSF-Certified Instructor (12 years), author of the motorcycle safety books How to Ride a Motorcycle, Ride Hard, Ride Smart, and Maximum Control; co-author of Motorcycle Track Day Handbook, and Public Information Officer for the State of Minnesota: I coordinate public information and education for the Minnesota Motorcycle Safety Center, a project of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. I am also communications director for the State Motorcycle Safety Administrators and serve on the NHTSA team that provides motorcycle safety program technical assessments to states.

Motorcycle Safety Foundation, Minnesota Motorcycle Safety Center, State Motorcycle Safety Administrators
Check out my website at Of particular interest is "Safety Tips"

BA Communications/Organizational Management

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