Trail Braking and Downshifting?

  • This topic has 4 replies, 3 voices, and was last updated 1 year ago by Kimberly Schmidt.
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    Kimberly Schmidt


      New rider here who just completed the New Rider course, which I loved. My question is this – when we are trail braking, aren’t we at risk of stalling because we don’t have the clutch pulled in? How much can you brake & slow the bike down without running the risk of stalling? I drove a manual car for over 10 years and if I was braking hard, the clutch was in so I could simultaneously downshift to the appropriate gear for my speed. If I tapped the brakes, I didn’t use the clutch.

      My (limited) understanding is that I should be in the appropriate gear for the turn BEFORE I enter the turn, but then if I’m braking after that, what if it drops my speed too much and then I’m slogging through, say, second gear and/or my bike stalls because I slowed down *too* much?

      Everything else covered in the course makes sense to me, but I don’t recall there being a discussion about downshifting before trail braking and/or the potential for stalling. Thanks so much for your time!

      Alex Hatfield

        As long as we’re in the correct gear and not lugging the engine too hard, we will not stall while on the brakes with the clutch lever out. We want to initiate our downshifts in the first 10% or so of braking, and ideally have the shifting done before we reach maximum lean angle.
        (PS: If we’re coming to an emergency stop, absolutely pull the clutch lever in!)

        Kimberly Schmidt

          Thank you so much! I’m sure a lot of it is just time in the seat and getting to know my particular bike, which has happened in the two months since I posted the question LOL.


            Hi Alex,

            Outside of trial and error, is there a good way to know the limits for causing a stall in a given gear? I appreciate this will be different from bike to bike, but how would you determine your safety margin with this?

            Apologies if this is a silly question, but thus technique is very new to me and the better I understand this the more confidence I will have attempting this for the first time.

            I wish you guys had live courses in my patch of the world

            Kimberly Schmidt

              I’m not sure when they will reply, but honestly I think it’s just trial and error for your particular bike. My small dual sport has super short gears. I rode an MT-07 this weekend with much longer gears and the two bikes were night and day. I’m just getting out there and doing my best, listening to and feeling my bike so I sense what gear is appropriate for what situation and how hard I can push the brakes without the bike stalling.

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