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Stopping your motorcycle properly takes practice

footpegs stopping

Why is stopping such a difficult thing to do correctly? After all, we do it all the time.

One of my friends recently asked me for tips on how to stop smoothly and not awkwardly.

I was stunned. It’s such a simple thing we do multiple times every time we ride that we overlook how difficult it may be for novices. Sometimes the simplest of skills we take for granted.

I’ve seen loads of examples of riders waddling up to the traffic lights or cafe stop with their legs dangling, then stopping suddenly, feet going every direction and the bike almost toppling.

There’s nothing quite as embarrassing as dropping or nearly losing your bike in front of your friends at the cafe stop.

So here are five steps to pulling off a more graceful and safe stop:

1 Footpegs

As we’ve said before, leave your feet on the footpegs until almost stopped as this gives you the most control and balance.

boots Footpegs pain - throttle wrist handlebars stopping

2 Brakes

Use both front and rear brakes when stopping. We assume this is not a panic stop, so as you near your final stopping point, gradually release pressure on the front brake. This will prevent the front wheel from awkwardly tucking and tipping the bike off balance.

3 Vision

Look at where you want to stop, but don’t stare at the spot on the ground or you will lose your balance. Keep your head up for balance like a tight-rope walker.

4 Where to stop

Choose a flat, solid surface to stop where you can put your foot down without slipping. At traffic lights, aim for the rectangular cutting in the ground as this is the wire inductor loop that detects a vehicle and trips the lights. Try to stop right over the longitudinal cut for the best effect and detection.

Stop over the cut lines

5 Left foot only

As you are about to stop, slowly move your left foot off the peg and place it on the ground as you finally stop, not before, or you will have to shuffle your foot and could lose your footing.

Practise this procedure in a quiet carpark area.

Many people slip the bike into neutral as they believe leaving the bike in gear with the clutch in will damage the clutch.

However, a motorcycle clutch is different to a car clutch, It is designed to slip at low speed without damage.

Leaving your right foot on the footpegs when stopped is also a safety procedure. If you are shunted from behind you are less likely to be pushed into traffic.

However, once stopped and the traffic behind you has stopped, you can put your right foot down for extra balance and control, especially if you have a heavy bike, a pillion or loads of luggage.


  1. One more tip. Wear proper footwear. Eventually you will macerate your toes if you wear sandals or flipflops, like the rider on the right in the picture.

  2. …”as you near your final stopping point, gradually release pressure on the front brake. “…


    The slower you go, the less front brake you need. Right at the end, in the last metre just before the bike stops, the front brake will tend to grab and pitch the bike down on to the forks and then suddenly bounce it back up with an ugly and unsettling lurch. If you have a pillion you will also get a smack in the back of the head as they pitch forward without handlebars to hang on to. Gradually releasing the front brake (and relying on the rear for the last metre) lets you glide to a smooth and controlled stop.

  3. I shouldn’t argue with the experts, but I think the most important thing when you are on a tall bike (ie loaded adventure bike) is to put the foot down on the high side of the road. This gives much more stability with holding the bike up. I’ve seen numerous people fall off because they put the low side foot down and the bike then has to lean an extra few degrees which increases the resting weight on that leg, this catches them by surprise and the bike falls. Also, I use the front brake the most as it allows both feet to be ready to touch the ground. I agree front discs may grab as the speed approaches zero, but with experience and knowing your brakes this is easily avoided.

  4. OK a number of things to mention,
    To practice stopping properly practice not stopping but going really slow and try and keep the bike up with minimal handlebar movements.
    Next go find some dirt and practice getting it wrong so you know what wrong feels like.
    Then try some of the things you may need to do in an emergency like, broadside the bike into an almost stop and power off in another direction. That one is handy for avoiding being the meat in a sandwich. Of course you will need a bike that doesn’t have abs or linked brakes to play with.

  5. Your item 5 is wrong. If we accept that on uneven terrain the choice of foot is dependent on the slope and consider the usual reasonably flat road then the right foot should be the one to go down. If you put your left foot down you have access to brakes but not gears. If you put your right foot down you have access to gears and brakes. It would seem reasonably evident that having access to gears and brakes is better than just brakes. Up until Item 5 in your list I am in agreement. So we have stopped and about to put the foot down, if we put left foot down, that is it, whatever gear we are in we stay in. So if we haven’t downshifted properly to first, then we have to swap feet and fiddle about until we can get the left foot up and change gears. If we have come to s stop in neutral, same same. If we have come to a stop in first, great, but we may wish to change briefly to neutral to stretch the left hand, adjust a screen, reset a trip meter or similar. The only thing we gain with the left foot down approach is the use of the largely superfluous rear brake, I am reasonably sure that the front brake on your bike is like mine, far more powerful than the rear. And withe the left foot down we lose the access to gears. With the right foot down we gain the redundant rear brake and lose the gear access. I see no validity at all in your “Only the left foot” contention.

    1. You clearly have no idea how to ride a motorcycle. Unless you are an complete beginner who does not downshift while at a stop, or an idiot who thinks its cool to sit in neutral at a stop light while an inattentive cager smashes into your back end because they were texting, you should have 0 need if in first gear to need gears at all, while the brakes will help balance you and prevent you from rolling back or forward the back breaks actually on an incline make this more smooth and you don’t risk hitting someone while you have to release the front break just to get the RPM’s up to take off. So no, you should always put your left down, should always be in first gear in case you need to make an emergency take off. Putting your right foot down is a very poor habit to get into, as is being in neutral or any other gear than 1st at a stop.

      1. Thanks Mr Grim. Lets look at each item

        “you are an complete beginner”
        I am not a beginner, I have ridden constantly for 40 years. I was a professional rider for a number of years, (Police Motorcyclist) and a rider licence tester for a number of years. I also raced both tarmac and dirt. And I am an instructor on advanced riding techniques. So I think I know a little bit. And you, what is your background? If you are around Brisbane I am happy to do a review of your skills with you. You sound like you need it.

        “idiot who thinks its cool to sit in neutral at a stop light” No I don’t think its cool, but I do occasionally have a need to be in neutral, eg when I need to swipe an access card to enter where my office is.

        “you should have 0 need if in first gear to need gears at all”, yeah nah, see above as just one example.

        “while the brakes will help balance you and prevent you from rolling back” YES MATE – I STILL HAVE ACCESS TO THE FRONT BRAKE.

        “back breaks actually on an incline make this more smooth and you don’t risk hitting someone while you have to release the front break just to get the RPM’s up to take off.” Aside from confusing break and brake, I Definitely don’t understand this, if you are not capable of moving off from a stop smoothly using clutch throttle and front brake then you are incompetent. I mean that sincerely, you are incompetent.

        Are you a yank, the “Cager” terminology suggests that.

        In summary, right foot down means I have access to clutch, gears and brakes, left foot down means I have access to clutch and brakes, which of these gives you the most options.

  6. One more thing I learned the hard way is to stop with handlebars square. I actually dropped my bike once because I braked while handle bar was facing slightly towards the right. Also from my experience it’s best to use only rear brakes towards the end of your braking.

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