Trail Braking and Throttle…

Forums Champ U Champ U General Discussion Trail Braking and Throttle…

  • This topic has 14 replies, 5 voices, and was last updated 9 months ago by VICTOR HOLTREMAN.
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      I am a returning rider after 40 years. I took my local MSF in November 2022 and took the ChampU online course as well.

      I understand and try to apply trail braking to my street riding on my local country roads. I always have two fingers at least touching the brake lever, so throttling down allows my fingers to wrap around the lever a bit to add brake pressur. Since I learned at ChampU that we don’t want to rely on engine braking as we approach a corner, the question in my mind is that when Nick says “neutral” throttle as we approach and use light braking to manage our comfort in the turn, what exactly is “neutral”?

      Does that mean keeping the throttle where it is as we approach and add the trail brake technique, or begin to throttle down as we approach (at this point we’re engine braking!) as we add the trail brake technique? Also, do we implement trail braking even when we are approaching a curve at slower speeds just to be consistent?

      I read somewhere that when Nick and his wife go out for their daily rides, they trail brake in every corner/curve, so I’d guess it’s not speed dependent, but I thought I’d ask.

      I plan to take ChampU a second time now that I have some miles under my tires.

      Thanks in advance for your help!


        Came back here to see if anyone responded. Not yet!

        In reading my question above, I am not sure I am fully explaining myself. When I approach a corner on my local country roads, I naturally ease up on the throttle, but I am unsure if I need to go to zero throttle, then determine if that’s sufficient, and then trail brake to my comfort level. It seems to me that when I go to what seems to be a “neutral” throttle (not letting up, not increasing) when approaching a curve, but just that front brake into the mix that this might be what “trail braking” is about. Not sure!

        Again, I hope someone reads this!
        Thanks for your patience with this noob!

        Ole Dønnestad

          I was here trying to ask a question, but I’ll try to answers yours, and maybe that helps me too.

          Only use the brakes when you have zero throttle. Neutral throttle is the amount of throttle input that is needed to not engine brake, and not accelerate, coasting under engine load ?

          My questions is related: Can I just use engine braking to load the front tire? I ride a Hypermotard 1100, and that is gobs of engine brake. Adding a few points of brake as well results in a lot of decel for street riding, and that means that I have to brake very late, or have a too high entry speed for my personal finance.


            Thanks for the reply! Maybe we can figure this out.

            First, to your question about using engine breaking as the primary way to load the front tire, I’ve learned that while engine breaking can be used to contribute to loading the tire, engine breaking is not as precisely controllable as your front brake. Nick is pretty emphatic on that point. According to Nick, proper use of the front brake allows a rider to precisely dial-in that 1%, 3% or 5% (or so) braking when trail braking. I hope that helps!

            The “zero throttle” and “neutral throttle” as applied to trail braking is still unclear, given what ChampU teaches. It’s kind of subtle, but it appears to be a point that a number of riders ask – I am just not finding the final answer yet. Here’s what I’ve learned from Nick and Company…

            – Zero throttle is when you roll-off 100% – to zero
            – Neutral throttle is when you maintain speed, but do not roll-on or roll-off throttle – it’s neutral

            But, this still doesn’t answer my question! If what you are saying is the way to go, going to zero throttle when trail braking would mean that I have used 100% of my engine braking potential – which I know is going to introduce waaayy too much braking forces entering each turn on the road.

            I *think* trail braking, in subtle detail, is the following:

            – Roll-off throttle and introduce the slightest front brake when approaching a turn.
            – Determine a reasonable entry speed provided by a “neutral throttle” (less throttle than before, not zero, and keep it there) while adjusting that front brake a bit.
            – Use the front brake to make any minor adjustments as you hold neutral throttle moving through the corner. Still, you have not rolled-off the throttle to zero. The front brake gets you to the speed you are comfortable with.
            – Trail-off the front brake when you see the exit, as you begin to add throttle beyond neutral to pull out of the curve.

            At least, that’s my best guess. I am in learning mode, for sure.

            Stan Stowards


                Great video – thanks for sharing! I am aware of the fact that a rider should not increase throttle and apply front brake at the same time – not a good idea. But interestingly enough, if understand what is said in the video, I should only ever apply the front brake only when the throttle has been rolled off to zero. Doing so, means that as I approach a corner, before that front brake is applied I need to go to zero on the throttle, thereby applying 100% of my engine braking potential, and then I can apply the brake. This just doesn’t make any sense to me, and Nick is clear that engine braking is not a totally controllable force compared to trail braking.

                It seems that the concept of “neutral throttle” comes into play when trail braking – where you apply the front brake to a lower position on the throttle as you approach a corner, and this throttle level will be maintained throughout the corner with a bit of front brake that gets trailed-off as you see the exit.

                Interestingly, I’ve seen so many videos and have read so many discussions on the topic of trail braking, some on this ChampU forum in fact, that don’t seem to get to the nitty-gritty detail, and often don’t even agree with one another.

                For me, reducing to a neutral throttle when trail braking in a corner (not rolling off to zero) makes sense and works for me. I am totally open to being corrected by the ChampU folks that visit this forum!

                Stan Stowards

                  How about if you have 1/10th of a second (hell, 1/100th, why not?) between closing throttle and applying front brake? If you practice that I suspect it’ll be problem solved, and we won’t even have to think about it again.

                  VICTOR HOLTREMAN

                    I agree with everything you said about it not being clear in the trail breaking explanation. I had the same takeaway as you, which is to keep some level of throttle at an even amount and use the front brake to bleed off speed and load the front tire.

                    So do you pull in the clutch? Let it engine brake? It really isn’t clear. And if you’re off the accelerator, once you start to loosen the grip on the brake, the bike won’t start to accelerate out of a curve. It’s confusing.

                    As I take corners, it feels to me like the bike would slow down so much that it would be too much if I’m feathering the brake while there is no throttle whatsoever.

                    • This reply was modified 10 months ago by VICTOR HOLTREMAN.

                      For anyone reading this post, it’s fine if your perspective is that trail braking is simple for you: come to a curve, bring the throttle to zero, add some brake, see the exit, ease off brakes, add throttle. I get it.

                      Interestingly, there is more to it for some of us, evidence of which is all the posts on this forum and all the other moto-related forums/subs seeking clarification in different settings.

                      But from my admittedly noobish perspective, there’s more to it in my setting, things like your pace entering and riding through corners for instance, engine-braking behavior of your specific bike, and other things. I don’t want to go back over all the points I made above, but my experience is not good when I just bring the throttle to zero approaching a curve and then try to add brake to what little speed I have left.

                      Maybe Nick or another Instructor will provide a bit of a dialog to get to the bottom of what I, and so many others, are not completely sure about.

                      VICTOR HOLTREMAN

                        Yes, from what I’ve seen online, it seems that while going through a corner and trail braking one should keep a small amount of throttle (maintenance level) in order to maintain speed and forward motion.

                        Would definitely be nice to hear an instructor chime in on this.

                        Stan Stowards

                          The message from YCRS is perfectly clear. From 2:10, for example.

                          Braking Practice – Section 1

                          But if you’re happy with speed and direction approaching the corner, then there’s no reason to use the brake. “Brake when you’re nervous.”
                          I like to practice rolling off the throttle and working on my 1% hand. If I end up slower than I wanted to be, it doesn’t matter, I’ll try again next corner.

                          I can’t see what the benefit would be to having the throttle open while on the front brake, and I also don’t know what other people’s bad experiences are of being off the throttle coming into a corner. But if there’s good argument for it, I’m interested in hearing it.

                          • This reply was modified 10 months ago by Stan Stowards.
                          • This reply was modified 10 months ago by Stan Stowards.

                            Hey Stan,
                            Thanks for your continued interest in helping me out here. You are right, and I appreciate the reference back to the video from ChampU.

                            What has become abundantly clear to me as I ride on country roads, is that I am not going particularly fast to begin with, bringing the throttle to zero brings my bike to a crawl as I enter a curve and adding just a little brake pressure makes that worse. Your reminder that we go to the brakes when nervous and stay on them until we are comfortable doesn’t really apply as much to a noob rider like me as I am nervous/cautious in every (slow) turn. 🙂

                            This has been an interesting learning experience for me, and I appreciate that. It’s likely that as I continue to grow as a rider and can more confidently enter curves at a higher speed, then trail braking will become a critical skill to have.

                            Thanks again!

                            Justine Bicknell

                              Hi Billy,

                              You said exactly what I was going to say. I tried trail braking yesterday and had alot of issues with my speed being way too slow, and causing me to be in the wrong gear to exit the turn because of it. If you are a nervous new rider like me you are probably already taking turns slow enough to not need the brakes, and only need to cover them with two fingers instead. But perhaps with practice, this will give me the confidence to be going faster up to the point I need to brake before the turn.



                                Hi Justine,

                                I was out yesterday on twisty country roads here in Northern Maryland working on precisely this. What a blast. Here’s a point that entered the mix as I was settling in around curves.

                                I too often used to be in too low a gear, making engine braking much more of an intrusive thing. I noticed that staying in 4th allowed me to shut (or nearly shut) the throttle around the curve, allowing for that 1-2% of brake to be added. My smaller displacement bike had no issues pulling out of the curve torque-wise. Altogether this makes for a much more controlled and therefore less nervous experience.

                                Hope this helps.

                                VICTOR HOLTREMAN


                                  Interesting. I tend to downshift right before a curve, so I also get a lot of engine braking when I roll off the throttle. Maybe I need to stay in the higher gear as a near a turn.

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