Should I switch my brakes to moto style?


What do you think about setting up your Mtn bike brakes moto style? I started riding a Honda 250 in Dec. and I have been fortunate enough to be able to ride it twice a week. In between the days I ride the moto I’m on the mountain bikes. When I go from the moto to Mtn bike I’m fine, I feel completely comfortable however when jump from the Mtn bike to the Moto it takes me a while to get comfortable with the front brake.

It’s frustrating, I feel like I never really feel comfortable on the moto unless I ride two days in a row. I ride mostly track, Sand Hill & Club Moto and I can’t seem to get my braking done correctly before the turns.

Have you considered setting up your mtn bikes moto style? Or do you know any pros that set the bike up that way?

Thanks for all the years of good info,


Hey Leo,

By moto style, you mean front brake on the right and rear brake on the left, which is opposite the American bicycle standard.

People who drive on the left side of the road — English, Aussies, etc. — run their brakes moto style. On streets in those countries, you signal with your right hand, and your left hand stays on the rear brake. The opposite applies in the United States: signal with your left hand, right hand on the rear brake.

In my opinion, this is not an issue of control. It’s a matter of custom, consistency and habit.

Two opinions

Moto guy – My friend Jason Smith is a skilled MTB rider and a very skilled moto rider. Moto is his main thing, and he competes in trail events at a high level.

Brake style: Moto

Why: “I do run my MTB brakes moto style. I started doing this after having Nathan Rennie staying with my friend for the summer. It feels more natural once you try it.”

Why does it feel more natural? Would you switch if you only rode MTB? “I am right handed and have much more dexterity and sensitivity in my right hand which is crucial for the front brake application. Also growing up my first bike had a coaster brake by pedal and front brake on the right hand grip.”

Bike guy – My friend Brian Lopes, multi-time world MTB champion, is a skilled moto rider who competes at high level and rides with the likes of McGrath and Stewart. Bikes are his living, but moto is his true passion.

Brake style: U.S. MTB

Why: “Because I grew up with my rear brake on the right of my BMX, so that is what I know.”

Do you have problems switching between machines: “Nope.”


– It doesn’t seem to matter how you run your brakes.

– Familiarity is the key factor. Rennie grew up Aussie/moto style. Lopes grew up U.S./MTB style. They both get by.

– Run all of your bikes the same. (Duh.)

– If you ride a lot of moto and only your bikes, you might want to rock it moto style.

– If you ride other people’s bikes, stick with your local custom.

– You’re new to the moto. As much as you get to ride, you’ll eventually get used to the brakes, throttle, clutch, shifter and 200+ pounds of braaap. Realize it’s a different animal, and respect it as such.


— Lee

Also: Running brakes moto style

10 replies
  1. drew says:

    So, I’ve often wondered — when running moto-style brakes, there’s no way to swap shifting too, is there? It seems like having the right side controlling front brake and rear shifter and left side controlling rear brake and front shifter would be at least as confusing as switching back and forth between moto and MTB. But everything I know about shifting says the detents are in the shift levers and not the derailleurs, so you can’t just swap cables from left to right to match the brake setup, right? So is everyone in Europe riding with this mismatch?

    I’d also add that the convention of signaling turns with your right arm (for U.S.) is, as far as I know, based on signaling from within a car and needing to stick your arm out the window to be seen. In my experience, signaling a right turn with your left arm means nothing to most drivers and is a great way to get hit. On a bike, signal a left turn with your left arm and a right turn with your right arm if you don’t want to get smooshed. Unless, of course, you need to keep that hand on the brakes… in which case you probably should have slowed down sooner.

  2. Todd says:

    I grew up racing motocross and bought my first mountain bike about 18 months ago. I tried riding with the brakes American standard for the first little while, but found I couldn’t control the front brake very well. I really realized this when I tried to do nose wheelies – with the brakes American style, I could barely even get the back wheel off the ground and just felt really uncomfortable. So, I switch to moto style and haven’t had any regrets. Lee is right that familiarity is key. I’m sure if I had run American style for a little while longer, I would have adapted, but I didn’t want to.

    Oh, and if you do switch your brakes, remember to warn anyone who wants to ride your bike. I forgot to do that once and watched my brother in law go right over the front the first time he hit the brakes. Oops.

  3. Chris says:

    Drew, I’m Australian and I don’t think the front/rear left/right shifter/brake match-up is an issue. I don’t think about which hand I use to do what, I just instinctively do it. I’m sure you are riding instictively too so unless you have a REASON to switch brake sides (like riding moto) then I’d suggest sticking with your instinctive set-up.

  4. dylan says:

    I grew up riding and racing mtbs. Then went to a moto a few years ago. The hardest thing for me was finding the rear brake. I even tried to ride my mtb with moto style brake set-up to help think different but it really screwed things up for my pushbike riding and had to switch it back. Just ride what feels best. And keep practicing it!

  5. Richard says:

    I’m a New Zealander (moto-standard), and I agree with Todd about the warning thing. I think that all bike rental places in any country should at least have an awareness of which countries run which standard so they can inform customers from a different part of the world. My only foray into riding in the US was at Moab two years ago, and I didn’t know about this whole US/moto difference. 30 minutes into the ride (I clearly wasn’t paying much attention to bike setup!) I was thinking “Man, this slickrock doesn’t have much traction!” as the rear-end was letting go on anything pointed downwards, requiring all sorts of weird body english to maintain control. On closer inspection all was revealed and I rapidly learned US-style. I think you adjust to whatever you ride a lot (although I’ve never adjusted to Euro vs Japanese cars with the indicators on different sides!)

  6. jason smith says:

    I have had moto friends tell me to try the new hot set up which is a rekluse clutch. The rekluse has a option for turing the clutch lever into a rear brake. They swear this improves braking in extreme riding situations .

  7. leelikesbikes says:

    I’ve seen the Rekluse auto clutch in action (awesome), and I too have heard of this setup. I researched this for myself, and it appears you can run two brake levers however you like. Meaning: Your CRF450X will brake just like an Enduro.


  8. Dan says:

    I have never heard of the Rekluse’s option of turning the front lever into a Brake lever, pretty cool, considering I sometimes forget to use the rear brake on my moto (I’m still pretty new to moto). I ride moto, an Enduro, and a Demo 7…all my bikes are set up with right front brake (Moto style).

  9. Jerry says:

    I’m Canadian and switched to moto style 5 years ago and wish I had done it sooner. I’m right handed and much better control with the front brake now. Also if I blow a snot rocket, wipe sweat, grab my camelbak hose etc I do it with my right hand with my left on the bar. If I ever brake one handed it had better be the rear brake. Do it, do it now!

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