Starting Off on a Hill

Aug 2017

Reginald Lane, NC-E Chapter Educator


Just imagine going down a nice curvy road on a cool spring morning and you come to a stop sign or red light at the top of a hill. Once you come to a complete stop, what are your actions? Are you going to apply the front brake only, the rear brake only, or get in the friction zone ( the point at which easing out the clutch and power is beginning to be applied to the rear wheel) to hold you in place until it’s your time to go?  

Well, the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) teaches in the Basic Rider Course (BRC) to apply one brake.  So, which are you going to apply? Each one has its own challenges when it comes to starting off from a stop on a hill. Let’s discuss and cover some pros and cons.


Front brake

Pro: You can place both feet on the ground for more stability of the motorcycle, especially if you are vertically challenged.

Con: It’s kind of difficult to start off with your right hand squeezing the clutch and trying to role on the throttle. Keep in mind a little more “role on” of the throttle will be needed due to the gravitational pull from being on an incline.


Rear brake

Pro: Both hands will be around the handgrips for more positive control of the motorcycle, and it is a lot easier to get into the friction zone to start off.

Con: Only one foot on the ground so stability could be more difficult, and you will need to lean the motorcycle to the left to support the weight of it which may be hard to accomplish.

Another option that maybe possible is getting in the friction zone once you come to a complete stop. Even though it is not taught by the MSF, I personally believe it to be a good technique.


Friction zone

Pro: Both feet on the ground for stability, and both hands on the handgrips.

Con: Getting used to the friction zone on a hill is different than the friction zone on a flat road surface.

Remember, you have to combat against the gravity pulling you toward the downhill side of the road. So, more throttle role will be needed to compensate for the gravity which will put your friction zone in a different position on the handgrip as it would be on a flat surface. Learning the friction zone is something that should be practiced and perfected on a hill just as it should be on a flat surface.

So, whichever method you chose to use, it must be practiced and not shied away from because when you have to stop on a hill is not the time to wish you had practice and perfected the skill.


© Triangle Wings
Dave Winkler & Kay Kaufman
Chapter Directors