Two Fingered Motorcycle Braking And How It Could Save Your Life

The concept of two fingered or covered braking on a motorcycle is a simple one and yet so many riders fail to employ it. Many aren’t taught the technique when learning to ride and we’ve even heard instances where riders are told not to use it because it’s dangerous (more on that later). Yet, by using two fingered braking you can reduce your stopping distance by around 14 feet (4 meters) when travelling at 60 mph. It all comes down to reaction times.

We’ve created a video on reaction time and two fingered braking which you can view below, or read on.

On a bike (or any motorized transport), total stopping distance is a function of the following:

Stopping Distance = Mental Processing Time + Physical Reaction Time + Vehicle Reaction Time

Mental processing time is the time it takes for an individual to perceive that there is something that needs to be reacted to. For example, a rider detecting a car pulling out from a driveway and deciding that they need to brake. The duration of mental processing time varies widely depending on circumstance. If you’re lane splitting in heavy traffic, your mental processing time will be quicker than if you had been riding on a quiet country road for a few hours and all of a sudden an animal runs in front of you from the bush.

Physical reaction time is the time it takes for a person to perform the muscle movement to physically react. In braking while driving a car, the physical reaction time would be the time it takes for a driver to move their foot from the accelerator and then press the brake pedal. Physical reaction time again will vary depending on the situation. Obviously, moving your foot from the accelerator to the brake is going to take longer to do than pull in the clutch lever on a bike if your hand is already on the lever.

In a study by the Promocycle Foundation which we rely heavily on for this article, they found that on average, it takes a rider 0.62 seconds to move their hand from the throttle bar and pull in the brake lever.

The third factor in stopping distance is the vehicle reaction time. Simply put, this is the time it takes for a vehicle to stop once the brakes are engaged. This time will depend on vehicle speed, tires, brake quality and road surface conditions.

So how does two fingered braking reduce stopping time? By reducing the physical time it takes to engage the brakes. Instead of having your fingers wrapped around the throttle bar, by placing your index and middle fingers on top of the brake lever you can reduce this physical reaction time by 0.15 seconds. That might not sound like much, but take a look at the graphs below:

Two Fingered Motorcycle Braking And How It Could Save Your Life

The yellow bar is the physical reaction time and we’ve used a period of 0.62 seconds. At 60 kph, you will travel 16.67 meters a second. So if you reduce physical reaction time by 0.15 seconds you in turn reduce the distance traveled by 2.5 meters. Obviously at higher speeds the more distance you’ll save – if decelerating from a speed of 100 kph you would reduce your total stopping distance down by 4.16 meters. That’s a reduction of 5 per cent in stopping distance that costs you absolutely nothing in upgrades.

Going back to what we said at the outset about how some instructors have that said two fingered braking is dangerous. This comes from the fact that on some bikes, you need to pull in the brake lever almost all the way to the throttle bar. If you were to leave your ring and pinky fingers holding the throttle bar in such circumstances you wouldn’t be able to fully depress the brake lever and therefore wouldn’t be applying all brake pressure. That’s obviously bad, but it can easily be avoided by either adjusting your levers or if your stock levers don’t after adjustment, install ones that do.

Comparison Between Normal Braking and Covered Two Fingered Braking

With your hand wrapped around the throttle, you need to physically move your fingers to the brake lever and then pull it in. If you employ two fingered or covered braking, you only need to pull the lever in.

Alternatively, don’t use two fingers, use all four of them. That’s why the term covered braking is also used. It’s not necessary to use the index and middle fingers only, it’s just what most people do because they find it comfortable. You could have all fingers wresting on top of the lever – the result is still the same reduction in your physical reaction time.

One other piece of advice is to have your fingers on top of the lever but not wrapped around it. For new riders especially, it’s all too easy to pull the brake lever in without rolling off the throttle – not a good situation to be in during an emergency braking procedure especially if the clutch isn’t pulled in.

Our recommendation is to use covered braking as much as possible, but it should be used without fail when riding in situations where you may need to stop suddenly, such as in heavy traffic. Given the distance saved, using two fingered braking might not just save you from a crash, it could save your life.

 

The Sad State of Women’s Motorcycle Gear

So you like motorcycles? Oh, but you’re a woman. Hmm, you should still get some protective gear, I suppose. You like pink and purple don’t you and the word ‘chic’ written in calligraphy on your jacket? And I’m sure you don’t mind your gear just being the same as the guys stuff but with girly names? What, you want motorcycle gear that’s specifically made for women that’s both stylish and protective? Well, too bad because this is the sad state of motorcycle gear for woman today.

Unfortunately, it’s the year 2015 and there’s still a massive gender gap between the sexes in the motorcycle industry. Motorcycles are first and foremost marketed at those of us with XY chromosomes. In nine out of ten examples, motorcycle promotional material will only show a woman on a bike if she’s the pillion.

And yet, according to the Motorcycle Industry Council 2012 Statistics Annual, women made up almost 25 per cent of riders in the United States, or 6.7 million individuals. That’s an increase of nearly 35 per cent from 2003 making women the fastest growing demographic in the industry.

Compared to three or even five years ago, the range of motorcycle gear for women is leaps and bounds better. But when you start from a low base it’s not hard to make big gains. We took a look at the offerings Revzilla to see the range available to women today and it isn’t exactly great – and that’s no criticism of Revzilla as they’re actually one of, if not the best online retailer when it comes to women’s gear:

The Sad State of Women's Motorcycle Gear

So men’s products outnumber women’s at a ratio of nearly 3 to 1. But those numbers don’t tell the full picture. Firstly, within those products men have a far greater choice of color and design per product. Take for example the Dainese Air-Flux Textile Jacket – available in 5 different colors for the guys and 3 for the girls. Or the Alpinestars Jaws leather jacket where for men you can choose from 7 color combinations compared to 2 for women. Revzilla and a few other online stores are best case scenarios too – many other online motorcycle stores have far less range on sale for women (or in stock) and if you go into a bricks and mortar store, well, good luck with that.

The most common complaints we hear from women when it comes to motorcycle gear however isn’t so much the total number of products available or what colors they are, it’s actually finding something that fits. Pants are often too long and don’t cater to the fact that on average, women are shorter than men. Fit for jackets is often problematic too, as many times the manufacturer markets a jacket as a women’s just because they sell it in smaller sizes, not taking into account the difference in circumference of either the upper arm or chest. The jacket also runs short at the midriff, exposing women’s stomachs to abrasion injuries far more than men.

Here’s a perfect example of fit. Below is a comparison shot of the Dainese Racing Leather Jacket for both men and women. Being a race cut, it should fit tightly and snug for aerodynamics and also for safety – you want the armor sitting tight against your body so it doesn’t move around in an accident. These shots aren’t something we’ve done up – they are the official promotional shots from Dainese. The man’s jacket is exactly as it should be – snug (but not suffocating) on the body, tailored and cut to an average man’s shape. The photo of the woman modelling the jacket almost look like she’s a child wearing her parent’s clothes that are five sizes too big. It’s bulky, it’s billowing and it most certainly is not properly fitted. It’d almost be amusing if it wasn’t so serious.

And if you need further evidence that men in the motorcycle gear industry have no idea, take a look at some of the names for these gloves from Speed and Strength: Women’s Cat Out’a Hell Gloves, Women’s Sinfully Sweet Gloves and this last one I promise I’m not making up – Speed and Strength Women’s Wicked Garden Gloves. Sure, the name of the men’s gloves aren’t exactly intellectual either, but examples like Trial by Fire and Stars and Stripes don’t sound quite as condescending as Wicked Garden gloves.

We haven’t mentioned helmets yet because this is probably the biggest issue for women when it comes to gear. Again using Revzilla as an example, if you break the helmets up between male and female, you’ll get 685 choices for men and only 47 for women. Revzilla state the following on their Women’s Helmets page:

Every brand we carry (except for Schuberth) manufactures and sizes their helmets the same for both men and women, the only differentiating factor being that they have utilized a graphic more appealing to women then men.

Again, no criticism of Revzilla as they’re only the retailer, but that is categorically bullcrap.

A helmet is the single most important piece of safety equipment you can wear while riding a motorcycle and for manufactures to take the view that close enough is good enough for protecting women’s skulls is abysmal. Sure, the difference between men’s and women’s heads isn’t as significant as say the difference in size or shape of their chests, but there’s difference enough that women should be properly catered for.

The major differences between male and female skulls include:

  • Male skulls are larger than female skulls
  • In males, the forehead is slightly sloping or receding while for females it is vertical
  • Male skulls are longer, chin is bigger and protrudes further forehead. The female skulls is more rounded and the jaws mandible and maxilla are smaller
  • Above the orbits (eye sockets), the male cranium tends to have “blunt” superior margins and larger supraorbital (brow) ridges. The female cranium tends to have “sharp” superior margins of the orbits and no discernible supraorbital ridges

Comparison Male Female Skull

Of all the major helmet brands, Schuberth is the only one that we’re aware of that specifically makes helmets for women with their C3 Pro and C3 Lady. It’s not like they had to go to a great deal of trouble either, they merely had to modify the padding of the helmet to better accommodate the forehead and jawline for women. A breakthrough in engineering!

So what hope is there for women? There’s some because a few brands are at least trying. Alpinestars launched its Stella range for women back in 2009 and while it still doesn’t come near the offerings for men, the styles and fit are at least designed with women in mind. Another brand that actively caters to women is none other than Harley-Davidson who for a long time have advertised to women and have a good range of clothing, plus women only events and even bike accessories. No other motorcycle brand currently comes close the HD when it comes to catering to women which given it’s macho image, should shame every other motorcycle manufacturer in existence.

What sticks out most is how much of a lost opportunity the motorcycle industry has had with women. A prime example of how wrong they got it is if you compare it to surfing. Back in 1990, Quicksilver launched Roxy, a surf brand aimed solely at women in the then heavily male dominated sport. Fast forward to today and women now make up 30 per cent of all surfers in Australia and 33 in the United States, but that will change dramatically because with the younger demographics it’s closer to 50/50. Go into any surf shop and half the range will cater for women. Sure, surfwear is more a style than motorcycle gear which is for protection, but why couldn’t it be both too?

As is stands, the gap will probably be filled by niche players like Allstate and Roland Sands Designs. Kickstarters are launching for women’s gear and accessories. But sadly, as long as the actual motorcycle manufacturers continue to ignore the female demographic, apparel and gear brands will continue to follow suit and sadly women will be left with less choice and potentially be less protected.

The Sad State of Women's Motorcycle Gear

 

Riding at 150mph (241 kph) Without a Helmet

Now, we most certainly don’t condone this behavior. Going at such speeds on public roads is irresponsible and we’re also not really comfortable with anyone doing so without a helmet. But it does provide for interesting footage of what your face looks like at such silly speeds. Fortunately for the rider, no bees/rocks/birds were present during the run.

 

5 Of The Best 5 Star Rated Helmets

If you’ve read our article from last week you’ll know that an expensive helmet doesn’t automatically make it a good helmet. But are all 5 star rated helmets created equal? In this article we look at what we think are the five best 5 star rated helmets, both budget and premium. Money might not buy you extra safety in the case of some helmets, but it can buy you comfort, quality and features.

Nitro Aikido – From $139.95

Given its rock bottom price the Nitro Aikido is one helmet that just can’t be ignored. If you want good head protection at the cheapest price then the Nitro Aikido is the helmet for you. And despite the cheap price, the majority of rider feedback is that it’s a decent all around helmet.

Positives:

  • Value for money
  • Comfortable
  • Aerodynamic. Minimal drag when turning the head at higher speeds
  • Misting/Fogging clears up quickly when at speed
  • Removable liner

Negatives:

  • Noisy – earplugs are a must
  • With vents open there is a fair bit of turbulence inside the helmet
  • Average to poor vision. The eye slot is shortened on the ends, cutting off peripheral vision and requiring the rider to turn their head more than other helmets.
  • Pinlock compatible but does not include a Pinlock insert

Nitro Aikido Five Best 5 Star Rated Helmets

Caberg Vox – From $125

Caberg is a helmet manufacturer you’ve probably never heard of which is a real shame – they have six helmets rated at 5 stars by SHARP and the most expensive is only £145 ($226). The Caberg Vox can actually be purchased at some online retailers for only $125 which actually makes it cheaper than the Nitro Aikido.

Positives:

  • Possibly the cheapest 5 star helmet you can buy
  • Built in sun visor
  • Removable liners

Negatives:

  • Average ventilation
  • Sun visor is prone to fogging
  • Average noise

Caberg Box Five Best 5 Star Rated Helmets

Shoei Qwest – From $366.99

Even though most helmets all look the same, Shoei somehow just manages to make their lids look that much better.  And while the Shoei Qwest is one of Shoei’s cheaper helmets, it still pretty much has all the features you’d want.

Positives:

  • Very lightweight
  • Very quiet

Negatives:

  • Some fogging of the visor when stationary
  • Venting not as good as the Shark Race R Pro or AGV Corsa

Shoei Qwest Five Best 5 Star Rated Helmets

Shark Race R – From $599.95

The top of the line helmet from Shark, it combines lightweight materials, race track aerodynamics and minimal wind noise in a highly attractive package. Shark might not have the same brand credentials as Arai or Shoei, but they make helmets just as good.

Positives

  • Minimal wind noise
  • Excellent ventilation
  • Lightweight
  • Comfortable
  • Almost as good as the AGV Corsa, but $200 cheaper

Negatives

  • Slight fogging in humid conditions
  • Padding tight around the cheeks

Shark Race R Pro Five Best 5 Star Rated Helmets

AGV Corsa – From $799.95

The most expensive helmet featured here at a RRP of $799.95, which means for the price you could buy around 6 Caberg Vox’s. But that’s the same as saying you could buy a dozen Toyota Camry’s for the same price as a Porsche 911. You get what you pay for and while the AGV Corsa has the same 5 star safety rating as the other helmets here, it’s leaps and bounds ahead in quality and other features compared to some of them.

Positives:

  • Excellent ventilation
  • Lightweight
  • Anti-lift rear spoiler (that dislodges in a crash)
  • Expanded eyeport for improved visability

Negatives:

  • Price
  • Better suited to the track than the street

AGV Corsa Five Best 5 Star Rated Helmets