Braking – Stopping distances


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Last Updated: 25th August 2020

Motorcycle Stopping distance

This is the distance your motorcycle travels from the moment you realise you must brake to the moment your machine stops.

Always ride so that you can stop safely within the distance you can see to be clear.

Motorcycle braking CBT

Stopping distance depends on

  • How fast you’re going
  • Whether you’re travelling uphill, on the level or downhill
  • Health
  • Time of day
  • Alcohol or drugs

Stopping distance divides into ‘thinking distance’ and braking distance.

Thinking distance is from the point where you see the hazard to the point where you brake. This distance will vary from rider to rider according to their reaction times.

An alert and fit rider needs 0.75 of a second thinking time. That means that at 50 mph you’ll travel 15 metres (about 50 feet) before you begin to brake.

The following stopping distance chart shows typical CAR stopping distances. The Highway Code points out that a motorcyclist should increase these distances

Motorcycle braking distance chart

Source – Highway Code

For further information on motorcycle stopping distances, see the following resources: (the first one is particularly good)

Motorcycle Braking distance

‘Braking distance’ is from the point where you begin to brake to the point where you stop.

Braking distance depends upon

  • Road conditions
  • Tyre condition
  • Brake efficiency
  • Suspension efficiency
  • Load. It takes longer to stop if you’re carrying a passenger
  • Rider ability

Most of all, braking distance varies with speed. At 30 mph your braking distance will be 14 metres (about 45 feet) while at 70 mph that distance will increase to 75 metres (about 245 feet). That’s just over double the speed but more than five times the braking distance.

How to Brake

Many motorcycle riders are, quite wrongly, afraid to use the front brake. This is usually because of what they learnt as cyclists. On a motorcycle

  • You must normally use both brakes
  • The front brake is the more powerful of the two brakes and the most important when stopping a motorcycle

To stop most effectively in good road and weather conditions

  • Apply the front brake a fraction of a second before you apply the rear brake
  • Apply greater pressure to the front brake

Applying greater pressure to the front brake gives the best stopping power in good conditions because

  • The combined weight of the machine and rider is thrown forward
  • The front tyre is pressed more firmly on the road, giving a better grip

In wet or slippery conditions you need to apply a more equal pressure to both front and rear brakes

It takes much longer to stop by using only one brake. But at very low speeds (walking pace) using only the rear brake gives smoother control.

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