The secret of good control

Having the skills and experience to control your motorcycle will make you a much safer rider. Control means being able to make it go where you want, at the right speed, keep it balanced and stop effectively.

Here are some tips on how to keep good control of your motorcycle, have the correct body position and use the controls correctly. You’ll need lots of practice and training from a skilled and experienced motorcyclist. It’s a good idea to take training and refresher courses at an approved motorcycle training school.

Body position

To control the motorcycle properly, your body must be in the correct position and the controls adjusted so you can operate them easily.


To be comfortable when you ride, sit back in the seat far enough so that your elbows are slightly bent when your hands are on the handlebars. This will allow you to turn the handlebars without having to stretch.


Hold the handgrips lightly – you only want enough pressure to feel what the front wheel is doing.


Have your elbows slightly bent, but not away from your body. As well as being more comfortable, this position gives you more strength for steering.

It also allows you to hold your body back in the seat when you brake hard, and to absorb any shocks coming from the front wheel.


Keep your knees against the petrol tank. This will help you balance as the motorcycle turns.


When the motorcycle is moving, keep your feet firmly on the footrests. A firm footing will help you keep your balance.

Don’t drag your foot along the ground. If your foot catches on something, you could lose your balance.


Your back should be straight, your head and eyes up.

A good riding position should:

  • feel comfortable
  • allow you to move smoothly with the machine
  • enable you to quickly and effectively use the controls.


Learning how to turn correctly can be difficult. The best way to learn how to make good, safe turns is to get some training from a qualified riding instructor.

Lower your speed

You won’t be able to hold the turn if you enter it too quickly. This means you might cross into another lane of traffic or go off the road, or brake too hard and skid out of control.

Take care on turns

Approach turns carefully until you learn to judge how fast you can actually take a turn. Make sure you slow down before the turn and increase your speed smoothly coming out of it.


Your motorcycle has 2 brakes – the front brake for stopping and a rear brake for stability. You need both of them to stop safely.

The front brake is more powerful. It provides about 75-90 percent of your stopping power.

Progressive braking

  • Gently apply enough braking force to start the transfer of weight to the front wheel.
  • Progressively increase the force on the front brake to make full use of the front tyre gripping the road surface.
  • As the motorcycle slows, ease the brake pressure to avoid locking the front wheel. If this happens, fully release the brake immediately. Then re-apply gently and smoothly.

Braking tips

  • Use both brakes every time you slow or stop.
  • Apply the front brake slightly before the back.
  • It’s best to brake before, rather than when going through, a curve.
  • If you must brake in a curve, use both brakes gently.
  • On a slippery surface make sure the motorcycle is upright. Use both brakes gently.
  • In a quiet place, practise applying both brakes without locking the wheels. Relax your arms and remember to look where you want to go.

It’s a good idea to learn emergency braking skills from a motorcycle instructor or riding school. It may save your life.

Changing gears

There’s more to changing gears than simply getting the motorcycle to accelerate smoothly.

Crashes can happen if the gears are used incorrectly when changing down or turning.

Changing down

It’s important to change down through all the gears as you slow down or stop. This way, you have enough power to accelerate quickly if you need to.

Make sure you are going slow enough when you change into a lower gear. If you are going too fast, the motorcycle will lurch and the rear wheel may lock up. This is more likely to happen when you are:

  • going downhill, as the motorcycle will tend to pick up speed 
  • changing into first gear, as the speed range for first gear is very low on most motorcycles.

Under these conditions, you may need to use the brakes in order to slow down enough to change down safely.

Gear changes in a turn

It’s best to change gears before entering a turn, because a sudden change in power to the rear wheel can cause it to lock or spin, causing a skid.

Starting on a hill

It’s more difficult to get a motorcycle moving uphill than on flat ground. There’s always a danger of rolling backwards into something behind you.

When starting on a hill:

  • use the front brake to hold the motorcycle while you start the engine and change into first gear
  • change to the rear foot brake to hold the cycle while you operate the throttle with your right hand
  • open the throttle a little bit for more power 
  • release the clutch lever gradually – if you release it too quickly, the front wheel may come off the ground or the engine may stop, or both
  • release the foot brake quickly when the engine begins to slow down – this means the engine is taking hold
  • accelerate gently and take off as normal.