How To Back Down An Incline With Your Clutch

backing a motorcycle down a ramp
Backing down a steep incline or slippery slope can be intimidating when the front tire loses grip. Using a technique to emulate rear-wheel braking is the magic solution.

There are countless YouTube videos showing epic failures of riders attempting to back their motorcycles down ramps from trailers or truck beds. And I’ve personally witnessed numerous riders at motorcycle gatherings and in campsites lose it as they tried to back down damp, grassy slopes. I’ll even admit to having a very awkward moment of my own a few years back in front of dozens of my fellow riders when I nearly dominoed a row of parked BMWs because I couldn’t keep the front tire from sliding as I rolled and slid backward down a steep gravel driveway. Not pretty.

The problem presented to riders when backing down a slanted surface is that the motorcycle’s weight shifts to the rear, simultaneously lightening the front wheel. Not a problem if the rider could maintain use of the rear brake, but both feet are needed on the ground to walk the bike backward and keep it upright. That leaves the rider with only the use of the front brake to keep the machine from rolling rearward too quickly. Unfortunately, with less weight on the front end, the front brake provides very limited grip, especially the steeper and the slipperier the surface. So what’s a rider to do? Here’s the perfect technique to use in a clutch.

To simulate the use of the rear brake without actually requiring a foot on the rear brake pedal, follow these clever steps. With the bike’s transmission in first gear, turn off the engine (engine cutoff switch is simplest) and ease out the clutch lever. The engine’s compression with the engine off will hold the bike in position on the hill—no need for brakes at all! To back down the slope with complete control, slowly pull in the clutch into the friction zone. This will partially disengage the engine and transmission from the rear wheel, allowing the bike to drift backward. Control your speed with the clutch position, releasing the clutch lever slightly to slow more or squeezing it in slightly to allow more speed. With a little practice, you’ll have the confidence and control to back down virtually any angled surface like a pro. Just don’t forget to restart the engine before you attempt to pull forward again!


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