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What is comfort braking on motorcycles?

How could it ruin your brakes?

2018 Ducati Scrambler 1100

“Comfort braking” is a disingenuous term given to the habit of holding the front brake on when stopped, such as at traffic lights. 

And it could be ruining your front brake discs!

First, we have always recommend that when you stop, you should always put your left foot on the ground so your right foot is on the rear brake. 

There is no need to use the front brake at all, once stopped. In fact, if you are rear-ended your hand will fly off the front brake, anyway.

Another problem with holding the front brake while stopped is that it can “hot spot” the front disc or discs, if you have two.

Brake pads heat up with use, especially in traffic. If the front brake is held on, the pads sit in the one spot on the brake disc and can cause it to slightly warp.

A warped disc will decrease braking effectiveness as the pad pressure to a warped disc will modulate instead of remaining even or progressive.

Warped discs seem to be more of a problem these days because of the way modern discs are manufactured.

It can either be an issue with the suppliers of the discs or a production issue caused by motorcycle manufacturers not taking the time to temper the disc steel. (That means the disc is not put through several heat cycles to make it harder.)

These “soft discs” can warp quite quickly and rider forums are littered with claims that discs on new bikes have warped within months of purchase.

So, next time you stop, put your left foot down, leave your right foot on the rear brake and let go of the front brake.

UPDATE: Several readers have asked about the rear disc and whether you are just transferring the problem from the front disc to the back.

However, rear discs rarely get as hot. Most of the braking effort and efficacy is in the front.

In fact, on most bikes (except cruisers), the rear wheel will lift under braking, so riders tend to release the rear brake to avoid locking the wheel.

That’s why front disc brakes are usually bigger or dual discs.

Cruisers may develop hot rear brakes because of the efficacy of rear braking. They should probably just leave all brakes along when stopped on a flat surface.

    1. Hi Lou,
      Most riders don’t use the rear bake as much as the front, so it doesn’t get as hot. Also, even if you do use a lot of rear brake, most of the weight is transferred to the front of the bike so it takes on more of the stresses of stopping. That’s why there are always bigger discs on the front.

      1. Howevar, rear discs tend to be smaller and there is only one of them, so the rear brake has less surface area to lose heat and less heat sink mass to buffer the heat.
        A rear brake would also tend to see more heat from the engine and exhaust system while the front brake is out in fresh air.

        Anyway, I’ll side with dubious manufacture as the main problem.
        Metallurgy nerds feel step in here and correct me, but it’s not just about whatever heat treatment the disc gets, the mix of alloying elements in the metal has to be evenly distributed to get consistent properties throughout the disc.

        Suggesting that riders are using their brakes wrong while stationary is something a dealer might do to deny a warranty claim.

  1. Question: Wouldn’t holding the rear brake be the same thing as the front as far as wear and tear goes? And my front brake wouldn’t be nearly as hot, at a stoplight, as my rear tire would be as it gets used more.

    Your other reasons are sound (though I bet my foot comes off, too, if I get rear-ended).

    (I ride a 2016 Harley Heritage.)

    1. Hi Will B,
      Most braking effort and rider usage is on the front brake so it gets hotter.
      However, cruisers are a little different. Because of their weight, low centre of gravity and long chassis, the rear brake is more effective as the rear wheel is less likely to lift under heavy braking. Unless you’re on a hill, I’d suggest you leave the brakes alone while stopped.

  2. I have never heard the term comfort braking used in that context; it’s usually the term for unnecessary braking on entry to a corner to make yourself feel better. Using your rear brake when stopped has its benefits but the biggest issue is the additional wear and tear on the clutch when sat in first gear and if you’re nudged from behind, you’re likely to release the clutch and drive yourself into traffic. I would argue that, apart from some specific circumstances, you’re safer to hold the front brake when stationary with your right foot down and the front brake applied and I have never heard of that causing warped discs.

  3. Training schools once recommended, at lights, stop a bike length from vehicle ahead, left foot up, cover clutch lever and monitor mirrors for any vehicle approaching too fast. Distracted driver approaching, you could quickly select gear and filter to the front. After being hit once I am always ready to move.

  4. Mmm, why would a brake disk create a hotspot when the bike is motionless? It’s friction that causes the disk to heat up. No motion, No friction.
    I do agree (and it is taught in South Australia) that the correct way to wait when stopped is left foot down, right foot on rear brake, but in part that’s to ensure the rear brake light is on to increase your visibility to traffic approaching from behind.

    Is there any objective evidence to suggest that holding your bike at a stop with the front brakes on causes disk wear or is it based on heresay?

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