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Reading the thread about standing up has made me think about this.
I did a weekend break with one of those Spain trailriding companies last year. They taught and recommended making an effort to get used to standing up and using just two fingers for the clutch and brake levers. I could see the logic behind this but doubted whether three riding days was enough to start benefiting. The standing up only just started to come good by the third day (and I'd be starting from scratch again since I haven't been off tarmac since, a year ago), but the two fingers for clutch and front brake did start to work out.
I work as a London based despatch rider, and I when I came home from my long weekend I decided to make the two finger thing permanent. That would be the biggest advised changed to my riding style for years. It took a couple of months to get comfortable with, as the clutch on my cbf600 was obviously heavier than on an enduro bike. And all day everyday riding takes its toll. At first I was experiencing noticable pain in my left hand towards the end of a weeks riding, not helped by my relentless use of the gearbox on a bike with a very close ratio box. And i noticed I wasn't pulling in the front brake hard enough when trying to stop in a hurry - A few scarey emergency stops which would have been comfortable had I still been been braking as normal.
Over time I beat the braking issue, I guess a matter of conditioning those two fingers to be stronger, and to naturally react in emergency stop situations. My left hand still gets achy near to the end of the week, if I've been spending too much time stuck in London rather than out on the road, but not so much as to be a problem.
On the road, riding like this during the last year (and about 60k miles) has probably saved me from a couple of accidents. If you like to go through traffic aggressively, it will probably eventually save your life. For anyone wanting to improve their riding style on the road this would be the biggest suggestion I would make easily. If you ride off tarmac, the advantages are obvious, documented, and pretty much essential if you want to tackle the tricky stuff without looking like a dickhead.
Yep, 2 fingers for clutch gives a lot more control when slipping it for slow speed maneuvers. But I use 1 or 2 fingers for the front brake depending on what motorcycle I'm on. I've owned sportbikes that will stoppie very easily if using 2 fingers on the brake.
I've always switched out the levers on all my bikes with shorty levers.
I'm never entirely convinced by 'blanket' rules, or why people think you get better control pulling hard with two fingers than pulling gently with all four.
Don't get me wrong, I spend a lot of time riding off-tarmac with two fingers on each lever, because it's a reasonable compromise between being able to control the bike and being able to hang on to the bike over rough terrain. I tend to filter through traffic like this as well because you don't really know what's coming next.
But equally there are situations when one or the other is more important.
For example, riding across really muddy (but level) ground I won't cover the levers at all, because if I'm just holding on to the grips, my throttle control is better, and I am better able to let the bike move underneath me. There's no reason why I would want to brake, and I'm unlikely to want to change gear.
Conversely on a fairly smooth gravel road (or on tarmac), I don't really need to hold on to the bike (I'm probably sat down), but I might want a bit more finesse and power on the brakes. As far as the clutch goes, finesse isn't such an issue, but I might as well take the least tiring option, which again is to pull it in with all four fingers.
-Not having all fingers on lever for better throttle control and better grip on the handle bars
-Improved lever control of both clutch and brake through having to use more strength on fewer muscless for the same degree of input, hence less chance of making large and uncontrolled input changes
I think the latter is most important, and not only offroad, but in all conditions... mostly to prevent wheel lockup in cases of emergency braking.... kind of like a human ABS
With only my index and long fingers doing the all the work, I do not only have less muscles working the lever, but I also have less leverage on the lever itself as I can only grab the inner bit of the lever. In other words, I have to really use some strength from only a few tiny muscles to make the input change necessary to lock up the front wheel, hence the locking point comes less abrupt and more controlled. Also, I find that if the wheel does lock up, then I also find it easier to ease up just enough to find the sweet spot with max stopping power and rolling wheels. The reason for the latter is simple; With the locking point coming slowly, then the sweet spot is also never far away.
A great cause of wipeouts is as we all know panicing and grabbing a handful of brake uncontrollably hard, pulling the lever way past the point where the wheel locks up, making it just as difficult to find the sweet spot with max stopping power when releasing the brake. If the first instant shock did not cause the rider to freeze and wipe out, then chances are that the rider releases way way too much brake and runs into whatever...
In fact, if it is extremely slippery (i.e. ice), I sometimes prefer to ride with only one finger on the brake lever. This much said, riding with two fingers on the levers takes some getting used to.
In traffic, with frequent gear changes, I do often prefer to use all fingers on the clutch though...
I agree. I think folks should try riding with both 2- and 4-fingers on the controls and see what works best for them.
I have found on most bikes that for me 4-fingers on the clutch and 2-fingers on the front brake works best.
Hi All, interesting discussion. I have a few years off teaching both off-road and on, super bikes, trials, and motocross, etc... In competition when we look at the hand around the grips the opposing thumb is usually close to the third finger (under the grip) with the pointer and middle finger are on top of the levers pointing towards the number plate (or in your case the headlight). Some racer only use one finger of the levers but that's usually off-road with a single disk and caliper, and a hydraulic clutch.
One thing I see overlooked when using this sort of hand position is the need to re-adjusting the levers. The levers seem to work best sliding between the first and second joints of the fingers. That's our target functional range.
SO, the levers need to be adjusted for three things:
1. With levers fully out they should lie in the crease of the first joint.
2. At full brake or clutch-in the lever should lie in the crease of the second joint.
3. Full function (brake or clutch) needs to occur before the levers touch the remaining fingers wrapped around the bar.
The above is optimum race configuration but gives you something else to think about if you decide to start using less that four fingers on your levers. Also the newly adjusted functional ranges need to be learned. Practice both braking and friction zone in a safe open place.
In sum, two fingers gives increased control and more sensitivity but requires some wrench time and learning a new way before heading into traffic.
Doing well, thanks for asking. I had to fabricate a new front end for the GS after pounding the crap out of the stock forks in Africa.
Now working with the engineers at Reiger to design shocks especially for an off-road sidecar outfit. Weird stresses that make right turns different from left so the suspension has to respond differently depending on which way I'm turning.
Still use two-fingers to brake even with the extra weight of a sidecar because I upgraded to new 1200GSA brake calipers, plumbed the sidecar brake into the front brake circuit and and added a thumb-brake through the ABS unit to fire the rear brake.
Sorry for the off-topic photos but here are some before and after shots:
I adapted to riding two finger brake/clutch about ten years ago. It took a while to build up the strength for all day commuting but it's really worth while.
It also does depend on the bike. Even now on my tiger (very heavy clutch) it can be hard work in slow traffic but it's worth persevering with due to the increased control you have. If you full finger brake and clutch and the same time, you're pretty much only steering with the palms of your hands. One pot hole and you could be off.
Some people argue that you can't pull hard enough with two fingers on the brake in an emergency stop. Unless you're a 90 year old granny with arthritis on a 1930's Harley, I doubt that.
I can emergency stop with one finger.
Grabbing fistfuls if likely to low side you anyway.
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