How do you hold the throttle?

Tattoo throttle hand

Surely how you hold the motorcycle throttle should be simple and straightforward, but it’s not.

Everyone agrees you should have a relaxed grip and never use the throttle to hold on to the bike. “Throttling” the throttle will lead to jerky acceleration over bumps and after some time it will cramp your hand.

However, there is a deep divide between those who say you should wrap your four fingers and thumb around the throttle and those that suggest one or two fingers should be constantly resting on the brake lever for emergency application.

Fingers wrapped around the throttle
Fingers wrapped around the throttle

Most riders are taught to grip with all four fingers and to keep their wrist as straight a position as possible. They are also taught to release the throttle and use all fingers when applying the brake.

The reasons are that the rider will then avoid accidental acceleration while braking, have more power and control over the brakes and not lock up the front brake with a panic grab on the lever.

Those are all fair points, especially for beginners.

However, is it the best way to continue to ride?

Some claim that the split-second delay in taking your fingers off the throttle and reaching out for the brake could be crucial in an emergency such as a kangaroo hopping out unexpectedly in front of you.

They argue that one or two fingers resting on the brake cuts down response times, although the four-fingers brigade say it leads to panic braking.

Fingers wresting on the brake lever and around the throttle
Fingers resting on the brake lever and around the throttle

If you believe the two-finger theory, which is used by many racers, then make sure your front brake has a light action that can be activated by just one or two fingers and there is plenty of initial disc bite.

Another reason more experienced riders use one or two fingers on the brake and the others on the throttle is so they can blip the throttle on downshifts.

This matches engine speed to wheel speed and prevents dangerous rear-wheel lock-up. I notice that Kawasaki and KTM are introducing slipper clutches to avoid this problem on their learner bikes.Throttle

While that is a good safety device, at some stage riders do need to learn this downshift technique and it requires having one or two fingers resting on the brake lever to activate brakes and throttle together.

There are several other reasons why resting a couple of fingers on the brake may be a good idea.

One is to avoid cramp on a long trip. It forces your hand to relax.

Another is on bumpy roads as the fingers on the brake lever tend to steady sudden hand movements which can contribute to jerky acceleration.

New riders should stick to what they are taught, but they should eventually learn how to downshift with throttle and brake.

Then it’s a case of doing whatever feels most comfortable for you, or perhaps varying your style to suit the circumstances.

Throttle
Wrong on three counts!

Final points about gripping the throttle: Leave your thumb under the throttle, not resting on top as this gives no control; keep your wrist straight; and don’t grip too close to the inside or outside of the throttle as this can cause it to stick as your hand rubs against the fixed part.

How do you grip the throttle?

19 Comments

  1. On a somewhat related topic, would the same reasoning apply to having your foot in a position so that it can immediately hit the rear break which is not possible if my toes are on the foot pegs (often recommended) rather than the arch of my foot.

  2. I use both 2 fingers on the break and 4 fingers on the grip at different times.
    2 fingers only when very confident I won’t need full breaking power. That’s because going into a roundabout braking lightly with rear and 2 fingers I needed to emergency brake when a car pulled in front of me. You can’t change from 2 to 4 fingers in an emergency – you are braking full with 2 fingers and that is no where near what you’d get with 4 and your brain won’t let you stop breaking with 2 in order to switch to 4.
    Think very carefully about using 2 fingers in traffic – that’s where you’re most likely to need 4!
    Thats just my experience, although it happened only once in over 100,000 kms commuting daily in Sydney – but you only need to die once!

  3. Horses for courses. Variety is the spice of life. Blessed are the flexible for they shall not break/brake. Pardon the pun.
    I hover my break lever alot. I am constantly adjusting my grip, re assessing each and every moment. On an enduro ride, I stand pretty well all the time unless excellent flat, forestry corner or pre hill climb. It becomes habit to stay standing after a while..but that’s another drill all together. I prefer and have a dirt bike habit of standing on front of feet. It pyschologically keeps me ‘on my toes’,& aware. My mindset definately tends to relax too much sitting down, with a slower imminency for counteraction, even if it is just forethought, the brain is always pending quick change. Back to the grip thing, it is definately a blended combination of hands, peripheral & forward eye, stance coordination. It is really good to be flexible in thought. But great to have a well practiced steadfast ‘norm’ to begin. Apologies for the off tangent rant, but you can’t have one without the other.

  4. There’s no need to blip the throttle other than you think it sounds cool. If you have to do it it means you’re using the engine to slow you down not the brakes.

    1. Or your clutch cable broke.
      I’ve ridden a bike from north Sydney to Hornsby in peak hour traffic without a clutch not fun especially when you have to wait at traffic lights.

    2. Hmmm. I assume from this that you never down shift when you’re leaning or on a slippery surface? Blipping the throttle competently (and this requires a lot of practice but not a lot of revs) is the only way you can safely change down with a conventional transmission /clutch in a low traction situation. I would have to be riding pretty close to the edge not to change down through a corner if I needed to. Blipping the throttle on a motorcycle isn’t about being cool, it’s just another survival skill.

      1. Blipping the throttle allows the gears to match speed and saves a little wear and tear and also helps prevent missed gears. There may be other reasons for it but being able to change gears while in a bend on a slippery surface is not one of them! You should be in the right gear before you start to lean as you are braking for the bend. In fact even in the dry you should have everything done before you start to lean. Changing gears while leaning is dangerous, there are numerous things that can go wrong a tank slapper is just one of the things that I’ve actually had happen to me when I was only a few years into riding.

        1. Al. Yes, blipping the throttle does save wear and tear but, as far as I am concerned, that is secondary to the main benefit gained in placing less stress on the rear tyre and therefore allowing me to choose the gear I want, when I want, in most situations, without the fear of a lock up and loss of traction. Sure, in a perfect world I might be in the right gear with the braking done before I sweep gracefully into the perfect corner but, in the real world, you sometimes don’t know what is around the corner or even in the middle of the corner until you get there. Are you saying that you don’t need the skills to change the decisions and actions you made prior to entering the corner? Al, you seem to have missed that I said ‘if I need to’. I spend most of my riding time on country back roads in northern NSW. Many of them well recognised ‘bike’ roads. No matter how many times I travel a road it is never the same as the last time. All I know is that I would rather have this useful skill than not, whether I use it or not. Who knows, my next bike may have a slipper clutch but I bet I’ll still blip. It’s what does it for me. What you choose is up to you.

          1. Sorry you misunderstand what I was getting at, I blip the throttle all the time it’s definitely a useful skill to have especially when a clutch cable snaps. Being smooth and soft on the tyres during a gear change especially in the wet etc is an obvious benefit especially if you have to change gears in a bend, but most bikes have a fairly wide rev range and you’d need to be seriously under powered to have to go down a gear in a bend unless you chose a way too high a gear to start with. So my comment was about making sure you get it right before you enter a bend so you don’t need to change gears not that you should never change gears in a bend. But really you shouldn’t you should practice the skill of getting it right to start with not correcting halfway through, I’m still practicing and I doubt I’ll ever get it right 🙂

  5. Blipping the throttle and emergency stops don’t mix nor do you need to do it when coming to a stop you can simply hold the clutch in an shift down feeling and judging which gear you should be in as you slow. The only reason for changing down as you slow is A so you are in the correct gear when you stop to move off again and be you might have to get on the throttle when the idiot on the phone behind you doesn’t stop. I’ve had a few emergency stop situations where I haven’t had time nor the processing capacity needed to change gear and have wound up having to quickly shift down while stationary or coasting.
    If you haven’t seen a bike flip head over heals jump on to YouTube and search for it, in most of those incidents the rider had to stop in a hurry but they didn’t prepare for the stop and their weight was too far forward etc and possibly they had two fingers on the brakes so they reacted too fast.

  6. I use a combination of 2 or 4 fingers on the throttle depending on circumstances, in traffic I nearly always have two fingers resting lightly on the brake, out on the open road I mostly have all fingers on the throttle. I also make extensive use of cruise control when riding in open country so I can change my hold slightly because my fingers do cramp up or ache from arthritis (didn’t have it when I was younger, lol) so I often change my grip around to keep a firm hold of the bike without worrying about the throttle so much.
    The beauty of modern bikes are so many but on mine the main two relating to controls is the light touch needed to use the front brakes and the availability of cruise control. Oh, and self canceling blinkers is also great.

  7. Sorry for the post dig, the other thing I remember that we were told is that using 4 fingers on the brake will help to stop your fingers being crushed between the lever / grip if you happen to clip something with the brake / it breaks.

  8. Given that I broke my right index finger in a bike accident October 2014, I have no option but to use the 2-finger resting method as my index finger does not bend “all the way” anymore. However that is how I have ridden for the past 30 years anyway, so it has also been my preferred option.

  9. There are no hard and fast rules on issues like this. There are many variables including how, when, where and what bike you ride as well as the size and strength of the riders hands. Some people may be adamant that there is a correct way but they are only demonstrating their lack in diversity of experience. Sports bike riders may favour having two fingers on the brake lever at all times but they mostly only ride on good roads in good weather and their bikes have powerful brakes. Those of us who ride on all roads (including unsealed) and in adverse weather may find that a loss of traction, pothole or obstacle on the road can cause the bike to flick violently and it takes a firm grip on the bars to stop you from being flung off the bike or having the bars ripped from your hands. In some things you shouldn’t compare racing to road riding. Race track conditions are constant and predictable. The best advice on this issue is to do whichever you feel comfortable with.

    1. Exactly! As I say: “It’s a case of doing whatever feels most comfortable for you, or perhaps varying your style to suit the circumstances.”
      But it’s a good idea to learn the varied ways to hold the throttle.

  10. What is suitable for racing is not always suitable for use on the road. Racers only use the brakes for slowing down, not stopping. Race bikes also tend to have more powerful brakes. On the road it might be necessary to come to a full stop. Not only does using only two fingers reduce the available amount of power for squeezing the brake lever, but the other two fingers can get jammed behind the brake lever, preventing full application of brakes.

  11. I mainly commute to/from work. When there isn’t any traffic around I usually have all 4 on the throttle, however use two for braking/blip/downshift. When I get more into the city, I always have two resting on the brake lever.

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