Two Fingers on the Front Brake?

I grew up on dirtbikes and BMX bikes. Us dirtbike kids always covered the brake levers with two fingers while riding. Most of us had special little “dog leg” levers that only allowed room for two fingers. As a motorcross, trail and enduro rider I constantly worked the front brake lever with just two fingers. The remaining fingers allow you to hang on for dear life over bumpy terrain and control the throttle at the same time. Later in life I returned to motorcycling and bought a Harley-Davidson. I took the beginner and experienced MSF courses where I was instructed over and over to use all four fingers! I was even shouted at by instructors! Anything less than four fingers is frowned upon!

During the first cold weather ride of the 2010 season with my HOG Chapter I wore bulky winter gloves. Not being used to winter gloves the slight weight of my two fingers on the brake lever was just enough to engage the brake light (but not the brakes). The brake light stayed on and caught the attention of the other riders. They thought I might have a blown fuse or something and became concerned. When I explained to some of the other Road Captains that I often cover the front brake with two fingers I was told that what I was doing was contrary to all the instruction they heard. I argued briefly that covering the brake and being ready to stop at anytime allows me to stop quicker than someone who is waiting for the full four finger method taught in the MSF classes. I dropped the topic because I felt dumb. But the debate continued in my head. Did I have a bad habit that I needed to break? Or was I right and covering the front brake at all times while still controlling the throttle with my other fingers was an advantage? I often thought I should write a blog post about this skill set… but then I decided that it is probably just something that works for me and I should keep it to myself.

Then I read the chapters called Braking Techniques and Still Bringing Up the Rear in Ridin’ Safe by Larrry Grodsky and was relieved to find out I was right all along. Hopefully you already know a motorcycles stopping power is in the front brake. According to Larry the rear brake is not neccasary for stopping the motorcycle however it is a valuable aid in controlling the bike. Regarding my two finger braking here is what Larry says: “Two fingers are enough-if yours are long and strong enough, and if the lever hasn’t so much travel that it’s trapping your unused fingers against the grip.” I have been vindicated!

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Stayin’ Safe