Feb 19, 2011

35 How to Apply Brakes on Indian Roads

Some "desi" braking tips from my side..

There are many publication/sources which will give you “expert advice” on how to properly brake on a motorcycle. Most of which are copied gyan either from other sites or from sports bike riding guides.

So what you get to read is good advice but relevant only on perfect roads/tarmac/track (in developed countries)and not really practical when it comes to braking on our “desi” roads.

The experience posted below has been accumulated by yours truly after years of riding, skidding and even painfully falling on our Indian roads.

I was told not to touch the front brake (when I was young)...

The first advice that I got when I was learning to ride a bicycle and also when I was learning to ride my dad’s Bajaj scooter was “Never touch the front brake, always brake using the rear brake”.

I was told back then that using the front brake is dangerous. So I never used to touch the front brakes of my bicycle or my dad’s scooter. In fact if I remember correctly, the front brake on our old scooter was always disconnected..!! I also believe that many Indians do not use the front brakes while riding two wheelers.

... but now I have the habit of using the Front brake more

The first advice that I got while riding a motorcycle from my younger brother (yep, my younger brother introduced me to motorcycles) was to use the front brake more for braking. This was the gyan that he had read from auto magazines which is correct but more apt for flawless roads/race tracks.

Later I realized (painfully) that this "copy+paste" gyan does not work perfectly for our less than perfect Indian roads.

Using ONLY the Rear brake is unsafe

The practice of using only the rear brake to stop a two wheeler is actually unsafe. When we brake on a two wheeler, the weight of the bike is transferred to the front of the bike (isn’t the rider and the pillion is thrown to the front?). If only the rear brake is engaged, the rear wheel can lose grip. The result could be a slide.

On my bicycle or my dad’s scooter probably it was not an issue since my riding speed used to be quite low. But after a couple of scary rear wheel slides on my brand new CBZ (in 1999), I was convinced that using only the rear brake is not totally safe.

Using the Front brake too much can sometimes be dangerous on our Indian roads

I have had two instances of falling from a motorcycle because of using the Front brake more than the rear brake. And both times it was not because I had squeezed the front brakes too hard nor was it because I was at high speed. I was in fact riding only at 20-30 kmph when I had those spills.

Both times it was because the surface on which I braked was loose, the first time it was a patch of sand on tarmac and the second was a broken patch of gravelly surface. I had just touched the front brakes and due to the loose surface, the front wheel had got locked.

The two spills made me realize that there was some wisdom when I was told not to touch the front brake when I was learning to ride a bicycle.

Reason: "A rear wheel lock results in a slide which is scary but can be controlled, but a front wheel lock in most cases results in a fall.

One gets virtually no time to recover from a front wheel lock.

So what’s the correct way to brake on our desi roads?

Its better to engage the rear brake first to slightly cut down the speed and then apply the front brake progressively.

This incidentally also also happens to be a sports bike braking technique.. this should also minimize the chances of a front wheel lock in case of loose surface.

Some Simple Golden rules:

    [1] Use both brakes while braking

    [2] Use the rear brake more while riding on a broken patch/bad road

    [3] Practice normal braking/panic braking.. practice, practice

About the role of clutch during braking:

For braking on public roads, ideally it's better NOT to depress the clutch lever during braking, this lets what we call as "Engine Braking" take place which slows down the vehicle and also lets the rider remain in control of the bike.

Engine braking + Application of both brakes is the best way one can stop a vehicle most effectively. Depress the clutch lever just before the bike comes to a complete stop to prevent the engine from stalling.

This manner of braking of using "Engine Braking" + Application of brakes and then again depressing the clutch lever just before the bike stops, needs some practice. Personally I am still trying to get over my habit of depressing the clutch lever during Panic braking.

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This is to remind that the Views or Opinions in the blog are entirely mine unless explicitly stated. The Views and Opinions published in this blog should in no way be related to any other person or organization associated -- directly or indirectly -- with me.


Saurabh said...

Nice article dude.
:-) :-)
I had seen many people falling by applying front drum brakes bikes. Even they are dangerous in panic braking.
One should be cautious enough.

Also here most of our elders and uncles think that disk brakes are much more dangerous and scary than drum brakes. :-)
I got a nice lectures before buying it.

Also the Unicorn guy is not wearing helmet !!!

There is a typo-"The experience posted below has been accumulated by yours truly after years 'of' or riding, skidding and..."

:-) :-)

Anonymous said...

superb article thanx 4 da wonderful tips...n also kudos 2 ur bro 4 introducing u to motorcycling....

melville said...

Good, informative post Sat!

Would've been even better if you'd put in Clutch modulation while braking too. Inexperienced riders are always tentative abt that...(atleast I was; when inexperienced )

S.P - Biker Next Door said...

Thanks guys,

and Saurabh bro.. thanks for correcting me, once again :-)

Anonymous said...

i have a question for you.should clutch be engaged or depressed while braking?my search for its answer on net has been in vain.plz give me ur advice.

S.P - Biker Next Door said...


thanks for the query, I have now updated the post with my personal experience of using the "engine braking" for slowing down the bike.

About the role of clutch during braking:

Ideally its better NOT to depress the clutch lever during braking, this lets what we call as "Engine Braking" take place which slows down the vehicle and also lets the rider remain in control of the bike.

Depress the clutch lever just before the vehicle comes to a complete halt to prevent the engine from stalling.

Personally I am still trying to get over my habit of depressing the clutch lever during Panic braking.

melville said...

thanks mate...the post is now Complete!

that makes two of us...even I'm trying to rely more on Engine braking and stop riding the clutch.

Anonymous said...

I have recently bought a motorcycle and in the very first week faced a bike skid. I was about to turn and I slowly pressed a rear brake and suddenly realised that the rear tire of my bike was in the air and I was on the ground.

Still trying to figure out where I went wrong and trying to overcome the fear of breaking in roads full of dust and sand?

Can you please help me?

S.P - Biker Next Door said...


practice, practice and be smooth

Anonymous said...

really helpful for d newbees like me.

Anonymous said...

Hi Guys, I been riding bikes for 20 years and from my experience I can say the
proper technique is to use both the breaks without pressing the clutch will be more effective then not pressing the clutch as the engine power also helps overall when using both the breaks to stop and when you coming to a standstill, press the clutch. Also it is a good habit to use the front break followed by the back break as when you break, the centre of gravity of the bike moves forward. Always practice this in a empty road so you know how to bring your bike to a complete stop and in case of an emergency. Also it is a good habit to always keep one or two fingers in your front brake always to stop in emergency as in Indian roads you don’t when you will have a surprise. lastly..keep your tire properly inflated with correct pressure at all time and don’t use worn out tires as no breaking technique will help you with a worn out tires…. Ride safe with a helmet always and always follow the traffic rules and use common sense to survive…..Good luck.

Sam said...

I'll throw my 20 paisa in too, with 30+ years of riding experience, including lots of off-road/dirtbike riding. On any bike, your rear brake can only supply about 30% of your bike's total braking capability. That number drops during deceleration. If you're using your front brake properly, under heavy deceleration the rear wheel can lift off the pavement, even here where roads aren't squeaky-clean. The rear brake should be used to stabilize the bike only; don't rely on it to stop you under any circumstances (except maybe if the front brake doesn't work). It is possible to recover from a front wheel skid, if you notice it quickly. If you release the brake as soon as you feel the skid, you can recover control and re-apply the brake. Brake modulation is key; you must not just grab the lever. Squeeze it. Using only two fingers is a good way to keep from overapplying, and you will still be able to stop (even GP riders do this, and their bikes are way more powerful/heavy).

Regarding the clutch: at higher speeds, it might be ok to have engine braking, but at lower speeds, especially with the small low-horsepower engines on most indian bikes, you run the risk of stalling out the motor, which will guarantee that you go down. A good rule would be to use engine braking and your brakes for slowing when approaching a curve (stay off the brakes and give the bike a little gas as you go through the curve). For turning in to a side street or coming up to a traffic light/intersection, or other low-speed maneuvering, use the clutch, and make sure you're shifting down in the gears, so you're in the right gear for your speed in case you need to accelerate.

Anonymous said...

Recently I've been riding my friend's Apache RTR 180 with ABS.
Once you brake on a bike with ABS on our treacherous road conditions, you'll never want to use regular brakes again!

Thanks for the writing the article. It's a good read and more relevant for India than most of the articles on the interwebs.

ravi said...

good post dude, i just fell due to a front wheel lock in a panic breaking.(the bike i was using was Yamaha FZ)
So I request you please write a post about panic braking.

rhino vinoth said...

hi .., tiz is rhino vinoth...,me2 faced a pblm like tis..
wen am riding my frnd pulsar @ abt 60 km speed.., 1 stupid super xcel crossed perpendicularly 4m right side 2 left side.. coz of tat idiot i turned d bike 2 right side and applied front disc.., suddenly it leads 2 skidding and i was near down f d opposite ford car.., and the damages cost around 4000 to modify the bike and to correct that driver...
thiz al coz of that xcel super bastaur...

S.P - Biker Next Door said...


the bike has to be in a straight line to apply the front brakes.. else the are changes of locking the front brakes very easily resulting in a fall

Ashesh said...


Anonymous said...

The best possible way is to not use the clutch at while you're braking and use it only when you feel you are in control of the bike speed. For panic braking, one has to practice and practice as has been rightly said by the author. Different bikes could pose different braking characteristics but the above-mentioned method has been the best for me so far.

Anonymous said...

As already discussed above..
1.Rear brake first
2.Combine Front brake too
3.Don't touch the clutch until the engine comes almost to a halt.
4.However, while going uphill, use front brake first.


Sunny said...

nice article.... its really helpful...

sheelu said...


Anonymous said...

I have newly shift from Bajaj to Yamaha and I have been instructed by few of my friends not to use too much clutch in yamaha as it heats the bike, anyone can tell me how to avoid using much of clutch in congested traffic conditions ? what will be the effect on bike if i use brakes without using clutch (both rear(drum) and front(disc)) ??

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Do not clutch the clutch while braking. Clutching in high speeds is making the motorcycle a very heavy bicycle with only brakes to control.... really scares the shit out of me :)

Apply the brakes as what it is called as pumping. Need to practice it which helps in panic braking. Pumping working like ABS and we should know the value of ABS.

Bhushan said...

Clutching theoritically makes u loose half the control of ur motorcycle. Also the speed of the motorcycle increases when u clutch.
Considering the above, i even have a habit of slightly applying brakes just when i clutch it when downshifting.

Anonymous said...

excellent post, especially for those new to riding or those new to riding on slippery surfaces like gravel, wet leaves, or even snow. i'll agree with "Anonymous" above and say that buying motorcycle with ABS brakes - ABS automatically pumps the brakes when wheel slippage is detected, so that the bike can slow, but also so that you can continue to steer and control the bike - is the best way to go if you have the forethought to search for bikes with ABS brakes and have the extra money to pay for the feature. seriously consider that feature if you ride a lot.
before i bought my very first bike, years ago, i read convincing data produced by police departments in the United States concerning accidents their police officers had on departmental motorcycles. such a large percentage of those well-trained professional riders' accidents were related to emergency braking or braking done incorrectly that now most, if not all, police departments i'm familiar with only purchase motorcycles for their officers with ABS brakes.
for those of us without ABS brakes what i was told was nearly the opposite of what the author of the article was told when he was first starting to ride. i was told only to use my front brake, never use my rear brake and to forget my rear brake is even there.

this was advice given to me by more than one professional or well experienced rider when i a beginner rider. the motivation for giving such advice to a beginner is because the type of accident caused by locking up the front brake and not modulating it correctly, to both slow and remain in control of steering, is a comparatively "simpler" accident to survive. your front wheel locks and the bike tips to whichever side has the most weight. an unfortunate accident certainly, but predictable and again, percentage-wise, a more survivable accident.

alternatively, rear brake lock ups are not only less effective for slowing the motorcycle but also cause it to swerve from the rear and often produce a kind of whipping motion. when the bike "whips" from the rear its very difficult (especially i think for a new rider) to continue to keep the rear wheel locked and let the bike slide until stopped, even if that means on its side. a new rider will often release the rear brake in a panic, during the unexpected swerve, and when the rear wheel "catches" its grip again the resulting accident is called a "high side" accident where a rider is thrown from the motorcycle as it catches grip and "stands up". the rider is thrown into the air from their motorcycle and then their motorcycle comes tumbling after them just as fast. this latter situation is more dangerous situation then simply sliding sideways and getting your bike's paint scraped and maybe your skin scraped. having your bike throw you unexpectedly and then having it come tumbling after you is a more dramatic, damaging and unfortunate situation which would require more luck to survive.
of course professional or well-seasoned riders in an emergency situation or when racing may understand better how to use the rear brake when coming out of a corner to purposely "stand the bike up" quickly with the rear brake, but in a controlled way to not get thrown. for most of us this tactic should not be used unless you have the opportunity to practice in a controlled environment and probably with someone else's bike!
consider your choices carefully in this regard. -ride well

Anonymous said...

Alright, I don't see much of a discussion on pushing down the gear, or maybe I missed. Anyway a very effective way that I used to slow down the bike and keep it in control is to quickly shift one or two gears down while at the same time carefully applying the brakes, since the bigger gear gives you greater control to steer the bike. This also gives you greater confidence for applying more brake pressure. I beleive this is especially useful when you have a situation where you don't need to brake suddenly, but have about 1 or 2 seconds more. But I think in crunch situation you have no other option other than to brake hard and hope for the best.

Anonymous said...

I totally disagree with shifting down at high speed as it will damage d engine n reduces its life..it can also damage d gearbox if done regularly.

Unknown said...

First, let me clarify engine braking.
Engine braking / limiting is probably best used to keep control of machine in a downward slope.

About using Engine braking on straight road:

What happens when you don't depress the clutch.

1. You apply your brakes

2. Wheel slows down

3. But Engine keeps trying to rotate the wheel ! ( Stopping free moving wheel vs wheel that has forward going force ) .. you decide what is better.

4. Gear was not released.. since you didnt depress the clutch! .. so the gear keep trying to rotate the engine! .. and engine is facing force from brakes and not able to rotate the wheel due to brake.

5. Whats the result?
5.a. Trying to stop a wheel which still has continuous moving force being applied.. simply means it will take more time to stop.
5.b. Stressing the engine out trying to rotate a brake stopped wheel
5.c. Stressing your gear teeth to rotate engine that is already under pressure.

For me the following works and seems logical and practical enough:

Bikes tried: Apache, Apache RTR 180, P220, CBR250r

1. Dip clutch and apply rear break immediately. (Why rear first.. because its a rear wheel drive)

2. Withing a sec/or more depending on how soon you need to brake .. use the front brake.

3. Transfer bit of weight on your handle bars when doing point 2. (remember if you dont do point 1, and do point 2 only as well as transfer too much weight.. you could be doing a stoppie on the road.. which could end you up on a photo frame on wall)

4. As soon as your speed has decreased, gear down quickly to match the speed... unless if it was a super stop.. you should rest your right leg on ground and gear down with vehicle in still position.

5. If the road is wet, use depress clutch, front and rear brakes all at once.. but not with too much force.. unless you have ABS. Also try to keep your handle straight and body aligned with bike to avoid a side skid. (Was lucky to do this and avoid collision with a headon truck on my first drive with girlfriend .. yes first drive on new bike and she will not forget that day)

6. Yet to experiment with perfect braking on sand dust/sand sprinkled roads.

Anonymous said...

first thing my father told me
NEVER touch the clutch if there is possibility of skid

Somnath Ghosh said...

Awesome article about braking!!!
"You know most of old man now day's also panic about alloy wheels they said that's it will get crack even after long ride.
many of them don't maintain the proper rule while driving"

Anonymous said...

which you are driving two-wheeled vehicle and you can topple or skidding.

Anonymous said...

i see everyone is been talking about not using clutch in corners, how is it possible?,i cant understand how some people are just brainwashed by some fools advice and still they proudly give copied advice, clutch is necessary in all means, i mean if you are taking a turn and suddenly you found an truck coming from opposite side, what will u do?. are you just gonna apply brakes only(whichever brake)?. i will tell you the consequences,if you do that the engine power will get off and the bike will come to sudden halt and will throw you out leading to accident(i have faced that).most of the time skidding happens when sudden front break is applied, bending towards corner as some said, works only on race track, same thing do it on indian heavy traffic and u will see. i agree with some peoples' advice, but not using clutch while turning is not a good idea. because disengaging the clutch makes the engine free from pressure so then the brakes can be applied, just think you are entering in a dark room walking fast thinking that the door is opened and suddenly you found out the the door is closed,. what will happen? same thing with bike also, you cannot apply same theory in every situation. first you should check the road, i mean traffic, bent and all. u cannot ride fast in traffic, best way is at first slow down your bike before reaching to turning, pull clutch and downshift the gear and release the clutch,give little gas. if no vehicles coming from opposite side then give more thortle no brakes needed as the bike is already slow because of downshift. but always ready for rear brake, sometimes during turning, bike is in little bit bent condition,applying front brakes makes it skid,and u will get less time to control.. and about not using the clutch,it works only during empty road when you are sure that no vehicles coming from opposite side, i live in city, on same road during day time i stop in traffic bents, use clutch to stop the bike(with brakes ofcourse) but at night, same road i dont use clutch nor downshift gear while turning, told you already, same theory doesnt apply in every condition, and ya braking without clutch is for sudden stoppage only because it will off the engine, just think you are taking stiff turn and in middle of turning u did that,there is for sure that you will fall down, and remember clutch helps in avoiding losing of bike control. while riding on sandy,slippery road always ride in a low gear,its much easier to control and also less chances of skidding. always keep you one or two finger in front brake to give you better control over braking as someone said before in upper comment, you dont know the indian road, dogs, drunk people, people driving,riding on wrong way so many things we deal with while riding especially at night.. best thing is before riding bike, see the road condition, if its on highway then u can fly ;) but in small, congested,traffic with so many turns always be careful... safe riding....

Shreyansh Modi said...

Interesting Article. Thanks for the Share.

Ramesh C said...

@Anon above.
That is what engine brake is.
Downshifting the gears and applying brake is more efficient(stops the bike with control) then pressing both brakes + clutch(Not safe because you are applying brake where the bike is moving by the force).
If you apply engine brake, even if your bike skits, still you can control your bike and stop falling. On clutch braking, if your bike skits, 90% you will fall.

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