Mick Doohan was the first to use a thumb lever for the rear brake in MotoGP. After him, many others have had a thumb brake installed including Valentino Rossi after he injured his leg. The thumb brake helps riders control the motorcycle specifically when they are simultaneously braking and leaning in a right turn.
In this article, we discuss why some MotoGP motorcycles have thumb brakes and how it can be advantageous over the regular pedal brake. We also discuss whether you can install a thumb brake lever for the front brakes and what advantages it might have.
We will discuss the following:
- Why some MotoGP bikes have thumb brakes
- How a thumb brake is better than a pedal brake
- Can you have a thumb brake lever for the front brakes?
Why some MotoGP bikes have thumb brakes
Thumb brake levers were first installed on MotoGP motorcycles due to difficulties some riders had with using the normal pedal brakes. Mick Doohan was the first to use a thumb brake after seriously injuring his right leg which was supposed to work the pedal for the rear brake.
After him, many others started using a thumb brake including Valentino Rossi. Many riders now see a thumb brake as a solution controlling the motorcycle easily in corners. In the video below, notice how the rider uses the thumb brake to prevent the motorcycle from lifting the front end when exiting a corner.
How a thumb brake is better than a pedal brake
Not all riders that use a thumb brake had it installed after an injury. There are some advantages to using a thumb brake. The most significant one being that a rider can easily control the rear brake when leaning into a right turn as they have to use their right foot to balance themselves on their motorcycles.
But there is also another solution to this problem of using a pedal brake in a right turn. Some or most of the motorcycles in MotoGP are fitted with a second lever underneath the clutch lever that controls the rear brake. Both solve the problem and it is more of personal preference for each rider on which setup they use.
Can you have a thumb brake lever for the front brakes?
Theoretically speaking, yes. This might even be more advantageous than using the brake lever for the front brakes.
On the normal lever system, a rider has to hold the throttle with his thumb and palm while using his fingers to pull the front brake and then remove his fingers to fully open the throttle.
With the thumb brake, the rider can wrap his fingers around the throttle and control the brake with his thumb. It should show a quicker response between braking and accelerating in corners. The only problem is that the front brakes are used very often and it could become very tiring to use a thumb brake excessively.
Besides the most obvious reasons we can think of for not using a thumb brake lever for the front brakes, there might be some safety concerns or restrictions that we are not aware of. The latest 2020 FIM GP World Championship Regulations might help you find what exactly what is expected.
Personally, I think a thumb brake lever would be helpful on both sides for the front and rear but not as replacements for the normal systems in place. Instead, they should be used along with the normal braking system when needed.
Featured image by emma.h.oakley.art on Instagram.
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