Rear Brake Tips With Mike Lafferty

Story By Chris Denison · Photos By Adam Booth

Eight-time National Enduro Champion Mike Lafferty knows a thing or two about control. And as a master of tight terrain, Lafferty cannot talk about control without mentioning his unique rear brake setup preferences and techniques. Now in his 20th and final year of racing—and returning to the KTM brand after three years on a Husaberg—Lafferty brings you a few braking pointers, as well as some great tips for beginners who want to get more comfortable with their back binders.

Run It Low

“I’m big on running my rear brake pedal really, really low. Being an East Coast woods rider, I sit down a lot on the trail. When I go for the rear brake I don’t want to have to move my foot at all; I want to have my foot already resting on the pedal so that I can react quickly. This setup is not the greatest for big downhill sections, but if you’re sitting down during a tight trail section, you’re probably already on the brakes most of the time anyway. By running the pedal super low and having a bit of play in it, I can get on the rear brake more quickly and with better control than I can with a higher/sharper setup.”

Let It Drag

“One of the other benefits of my low rear brake setup is that it gives me the ability to drag the rear brake all the time. I don’t know if it’s the greatest technique out there, but what works for me when I’m on the gas is to also be using the rear brake, too. I do this because it’s important (and also faster) to keep the rpm up and to be able to hold the throttle on, even if you’re slowing down slightly. There’s always something in the trail—a log, a root, a rock, whatever—and if it feels like I need to slow down a little bit, the bike tracks better when I modulate the brake while staying on the gas. Also, if the bike gets out of shape I simply use the throttle and the brake together to hold the back end down and bring the rear end back to where I want it to go.”

Practice Makes Perfect

“Beginner riders should actively work to become more comfortable with their rear brakes. One great way to do this is to play around and practice using your brake to bring the front end back to the ground after a wheelie. I would find a place that allows you to go slightly uphill so that you can play with a steeper angle. Start off doing small wheelies in first gear, and once you conquer first, start trying them in second. Keep your foot on the rear brake at all times, and smoothly apply the back brake to bring the front end down after it comes up. I keep my fingers on the clutch, and as I hit the brake I use the clutch to keep the bike running. Start off small and just keep playing with brake, clutch, brake, clutch, brake, clutch as much as you can. Focus on being smooth and controlled, and this will make you a better rider!”

Want More?

Even if you can't follow Mike on the trail for long, you can still follow him on Instagram at @mikelafferty22.