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The Toad
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MSF instructors are not infallible. An instructor told us at an MSF class that cars can brake faster than motorcycles and that you cannot use your brakes at all while in a turn. Both are patently false. The class was otherwise excellent and I learned some good things even though I'd been riding some 30 years before I took it.



When taking instruction you must always remember to use your own judgement. Not everything taught is necessarily true. Some courses of study are mostly crap. Anyone who has taken Economics or Psychology should know this.
 

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Super Duper Mod Man
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Just like in any sport, people are more efficient and more comfortable deviating from the norm at times. There is a "textbook" way to do everything, but I'd say do what you feel the most comfortable doing. Maybe for the MSF guy, covering the break wouldn't work, but for you it might. I wonder why he wouldn't suggest doing what you personally feel most comfortable with in the first place. We are not robots. Practice what comes naturally and dont' worry about it.
 

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I'd be leary of taking advice from someone who thinks viscosity will affect the travel of your brake lever from off to full on. Where did this guy get this from? There is no engineering basis for

this comment.



The viscosity *could* change, but it is highly unlikely that the change would be measurable, and if it did, it is most likely due to water or corrosion particles mixed with the brake fluid.



A change in viscosity will affect the rate at which one could squeeze the brake, but not how far one could squeeze the brake.



What will affect lever travel is the compressibility of the fluid, which is only going to happen should air be introduced into the system or if you're braking hard enough to boil the brake fluid (or the moisture absorbed by the brake fluid). But, in a "covering" situation, the brakes won't be that hot.



In nutty urban environments, I cover 'cause I know somenoe's going to do something stupid. It happens all the time. If you're comfortable covering, I'd do it.

 

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Not knowing the types of bike involved, I'd think if the instructor was familiar only with bikes equipped with crappy brakes, he may opine that a two finger cover is pretty useless.



Between my FXR and my Sprint(s); the two finger cover on the FXR (one disc) was good for response only. It took all four fingers to get a good braking effort. Two fingers on the Sprint's brake is plenty effective.



A somewhat related topic I've not seen in this forum is the adjustment of the brake and clutch levers for the particular rider. The levers should be rotated on the handles so they fall naturally to hand. That is, the rider should not need to lift fingers or twist wrists to reach the levers. My Sprint doesn't allow much adjustment, but the Harley had quite a bit. If your levers are too high, it is very tiring on the wrists and hands.
 

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Hmmm, I wonder if this is the same MSF instructor who advised another MOron that ABS for bikes was All Bull *****?



Actually, I know their logic behind not covering the front brake. It gives you another half second not to F up in a panic situation! Conversly, it also gets you one half second closer to someone else who just F'ed up causing the situation.



Saying that, I cover the front brake on the Harley quite often, due to the nature of Harley brakes and the weight of the bikes, on the Beemer, I don't because it has ABS and the way you apply brakes on a bike with ABS is diametrically opposed to everything you have ever been tought about braking on a bike....



Changing viscosity making changes in brake lever travel, now that IS All Bull *****.....poor maintenance and excessive brake pad wear (ok, that is redundant) will make that change but not a change in viscosity. Methinks this particular MSF instructor needs to learn a little more about fluid dynamics in a closed space....



Unfortunatly I have lost a lot of faith in the MSF program since a lot of states (including mine) have gone commercial with it. I tend to trust dedicated volunteers a lot better than corporations, but that is just me. If any of the Evergreen folks are MOrons, please don't take that too personally...



BIgJames
 

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Hello, interesting concept from a msf instructor. I can't imagine what was going on in his mind, let alone his facial expressions when he was unloading this B.O.C. on you.



Take it with a grain of thought for that's what it was. I use my two fingers to cover the front brake when I feel I need to. Braked in a corner a time or two over the last 30 years and still here to talk about it. I think that you need to pay attention to your surroundings while propelling your flesh and bones at 70 mph (or faster) over asphalt with a line of paint to seperate you and that 2500 kg cage coming at you on the phone, combing the hair, reading the newspaper, eating a whopper, spanking a kid, and having sex while behind the wheel of their reinforced volvo.
 

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As my riding is 90% urban commuting I could not imagine not covering the brake. I don't care how well you are scanning/percieving/reacting, cagers are only a couple feet away and will take you out. I feel really wierd and vulnerable when I don't cover it.



Maybe in suburbia?
 

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Well do you drive with your left foot on the brake pedal, seems like a similar argument to me?? IMHO you should be covering your brakes only when it looks like you may need them (scanning the impending action).



Brake fluid gets old, but it is the fact that it absorbes water that makes it less effective, he probaly meant this but is not mechanically inclined enough to put his thoughts to words....
 

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Mine said the same thing about not braking in a turn.



However, mine actually recommended covering the brake at all times, because it would slightly reduce reaction time. Strange that the author's teacher recommended the exact opposite.
 

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I am an MSF instructor and we "encourage" new riders to not cover their front brake when practicing on the range. Most new riders have a tendency to "when in doubt brake" even when leaning in a turn, and the method we try and instill in them is to slow to an appropriate entry speed *before* the turn, so they can throttle through the turn.



However, once beyond the basics (day 1), we also talk about strategies one can use when riding out on the street. One of these strategies is "to shorten reaction time when approaching a high risk area (i.e. an intersection), one may decide to cover the brakes and shift down for better throttle response".



Since you were taking the class for "experienced" riders, I'm surprised that you had the debate at all, as the same "street strategies" are taught in both classes (basic & experienced).



As for the 2 vs. 4 finger debate, we stress that to survive out on the streets, it's critical that a rider "know" their own bike. If this means that it takes only 1 finger on the front brake to get sufficient stopping power (or all 4 fingers), that's fine.



In the end, there are facts, stats, and methods that I am REQUIRED to relay to students when conducting an MSF course. My riding experience also comes into play when questions or discussions turn to "personal preferences". I try and relay things that have worked for me in the past, as well as those things that are recommended by the MSF and supported by studies and/or statistics. If someone is resistant, I just say, "Try it, it might work better for you and keep you out of an accident someday."



At the end of all of my classes, however, I do stress that any rider (from the newbie to the 30-year veteran) needs to continually practice and learn, and that you can never know it all or be too proficient.



Ride safe.
 

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Absolutely--it feels weird not to cover the brake. I always cover (two fingers is plenty on modern bikes) and it's become ingrained.



If I'm on a long freeway trip and don't cover the brake for a couple of miles to give my right hand a change of position, I find myself automatically going back to two fingers as soon as I stop thinking about it.



In CLASS, Reg Pridmore told us to cover the brake, and told us that two fingers was his preferred way to go. Two fingers means that you still have a grip on the throttle, and can roll right onto the brake with a minimum reaction time. No well-maintained modern bike is going to pinch your fingers with the lever.



It's worth noting that there was also a session at CLASS where we were practicing smooth, hard, application of the brakes. Slamming 'em on is never a good idea unless you've got ABS.
 

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First of all, it sounds as if the instructor is not into maintainance of the motorcycle, as a first line of defence against accidents and problems on the road, that in my opinion is a very big mistake, second, yes, you should be scanning, perceiving and alert, and when the situation arises or when in heavy traffic, lots of driveways etc, you should cover the brake. That technique will save you precious seconds in an emergency, and might be the difference between making it home or to the hospital or worse! As far as not being able to exercise good throtle control while covering the brake, that boils down to practice, it is very doable if you include that in your list of things to practice over and over again.

That statement he made to you about using that technique only on race tracks, I don't buy it, I have never raced a motorcycle, but I have done many performance and racing schools, and done many track days at different tracks all over the country, and have never had an instructor mention that to the class, ever.

Now, I'm sure that you learned many good things in that MSF class, but I suggest that you should take a Reg Pridmore school (CLASS) to complement what you learned there, and to learn the concept of, awareness, concentration, smoothness and consistency that is so important both on the track and the street, good luck!
 

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I second what fujinator has to say. I'm also and instructor and I don't recall there being a set rule about covering but we do stress 4 fingers, at least while they are learning.



This instructor was injecting their own opinion (or experience) into the debate but probably should have been more clear in elucidating it as such. I have no problems giving my two cents to the students but I try to make it very clear that I'm speaking as a motorcyclist and not as an instructor. Some of us don't always make that distinction.



I have to disagree that going to a more commercial system instead of volunteers has a negative effect. It is hard enough to find instructors willing to give up their weekends (also known as prime riding time) to teach. We don't get paid that much by the state and more and more states are getting rid of their programs as a way to save money. If we don't see more private companies picking up the slack then we will have an even greater shortage of training out there that we do now.
 

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Where has this MSF Instructor been doing his updates?

Here in New England, we actually teach covering your brakes as a safety method for dealing with the highly congested roadways our students regularly find themselves on.

Admittedly, covering your brakes can have a nasty consequence to new riders. That said, experienced riders can, as our MOaning correspondent said, reduce reaction time with this same technique.

I suspect that the Instructor in question has taught a bunch of beginning rider courses, but hasn't commited to the difference between beginning and experienced. His mistake, but don't make it yours.

As always, common sense prevails, so ride within the limits of your self, your motorcycle, and your environment.
 

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I like to go a step beyond "covering" the front brake in heavily trafficked areas myself. That is, I will actually keep the front brake somewhat clamped on at all times, sometimes only lightly dragging, other times with more pressure. The key to this is to use a lot of throttle; the more brake, the more throttle. The idea is to keep the rear tire spinning at all times, and therefore the engine in the meat of its powerband should evasive action be required. It's a rather difficult method to master and hard on tires and brake pads. When you smell tire smoke most of the time, you'll know you've got it right. At red lights in particular, keep that rear spinning and an eye on your mirrors, just in case. Safety first, i say.
 

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my MSF instructors also told me not to cover the front brake, for equally nonsensical reasons.



Taking more time "to assess the situation" is idiotic. When you're traveling at a lowly 30 mph (and who does?) you're still traveling about 40 feet per second. Covering the brake can mean the difference between stopping in time or T-boning that minivan that just pulled out in front of you.
 

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I'll be the 3rd instructor to pipe up. We don't see more commercial opportunities (which are a good thing) because:



1) states make it nearly impossible to start a program (I kid you not, in IL for example the 1st school had to rig up an emergency brake, (yup) and dual controls for the *ride-along* instructor. Why? because the regs were written for cars and NOBODY in the beauracracy could conceive that it was utter stupidity to hold a MC to the same rules)



2) insurance is a HUGE killer - since 9/11 the companies are charging lethal amounts for any kind of commercial driving instruction. doesn't make ANY sense but that's what they're doing



3) range space is very hard to come by



4) it's a seasonal job



5) students don't like to pay the $300+/student that is the real cost of the program because they are used to massive subsidies by the state.



Now obviously there are a few ways to make the program have an incentive. Like preventing any and all sales of vehicles, let alone titling them without proof of a MC license. That alone would kill over 50% of current operators and get their butts into a program. another is to distribute to all insurance carriers the identities of unlicensed riders. A graduated licensing scheme where the basic course allows you to own/operate a 50HP bike but an ERC is required for bigger ones. And dealers could go a long way to help, too. Like giving a free class with each bike purchase (or 50% off or something) if that person is not trained. etc.
 

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why I don't cover any more

yes and no. Others have piped up to the instructor's defense and I will as well, sorta.

When I was a new rider I too used to cover the brake. I don't any more. By riding around covering the brake you never learn to develop the quick reflexes to transition into controlled maximum braking from the grip.

Granted none of my bikes have braking the likes of the latest track tool and I can't pull out a stoppie with 1 or 2 fingers (let alone 4) but I practice my braking regularly which the great unwashed rarely ever do. When you've got your fingers hanging out there (and you have good brakes) it is easy to overreact.

As to "assess the situation", if the 1/4 second you need to get on the brakes is the difference between hitting or missing something then you're asleep at the handlebar. The distance covered blithly ignorant of the approaching hazard and NOT having already formulated a plan of action before it's needed is what gets motor vehicle operators in trouble. It's called "recognition distance"

Far and away operators (cage and bike) are eggregiously guilty of tailgaiting, failing to maintain sight-distance, failing to position themselves to have an escape route as well as give the other person an out that doesn't conflict, and failing to communicate (horns hardly ever used).

If a situation was "sudden" it was because you weren't paying attention.

If I'm going to cover the brake (and I sometimes do) it's because I fully anticipate using the brakes. And all 4 fingers (well 3.5) are out there ready to swing into action.
 
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