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Stoplight Safety: Neutral or First?

Stoplight Safety: First Gear or Neutral?

79256 Views 114 Replies 93 Participants Last post by  Jmacd62
I've read in training manuals that it is a good idea to shift the motorcyle into first gear at a stoplight so that if an emergency were to occure you would be able to hit the throttle and move out of the way.

I've read in these forums about people who have had the clutch cable suddenly snap while sitting at a light in gear and the bike jerked unexpectedly creating a risky situation.

I have been shifting into first gear at stop lights, but I see most people shift into neutral, and then get into gear when the light goes green.

Which is more safe?
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Depends on if you are stopped going up hill or down hill as to which brake you hold, if you hold one at all.
You always want a brake applied, in a car or on a bike. If someone hits your vehicle from behind you do not want to end up in cross traffic.
WHERE are you gonna go?
It will be really good to have that planned out in advance.

Even the sidewalk may be a good choice in some circumstances.
Yep. Always have an escape route. Meaning stop so you can quickly move if need be from that "texting" idiot coming up behind you.
You always want a brake applied, in a car or on a bike. If someone hits your vehicle from behind you do not want to end up in cross traffic.
The only reason we hold a brake here is because it lights the brake light. It is so flat here that you can watch your dog run away for three days. I am always watching my rear when stopped, and usually holding a finger on the brake lever, but there is also always an out to safety too. If I get reared by a texter, there is no way the little brakes and light weight of a bike are going to keep it from going wherever the car directs it to go. But it is no doubt a good idea to hold a brake anyway.
If cars are stopped behind me and the sequence still has a ways to go before I need to take off, neutral. Also take into account hand cramps, jacket adjustments, etc., sometimes need to be in neutral to take care of those tasks.

If cars not stopped behind me, or I am going to take off relatively soon after stopping, 1st.
I'm with nvielbig - neutral if I am going to be waiting or after a car behind me comes to a complete stop - but always have the brake light on. I am usually riding with a sidecar so having an escape route isn't usually possible.
I will wait holding the clutch if it's a short light, or I'm the only one there and I'm worried about someone coming up behind me. Once I'm feeling secure with a car or two behind me I'll put it in neutral, at which point of course the light will immediately turn green :)
I'm flexible myself. There is never one way or the other. But do agree with above about only going to neutral if there is a stopped car behind you. But I do stay in gear before they get stopped in case I need to squirt away because they aren't going to stop. So watch the mirrors closely. But I don't do that every time. So sometimes I'm in first waiting. It normally has to do with how long I've been riding. If I'm tired I go to neutral more often. But fresh in the morning I tend to stay in gear just waiting for that ONE person that isn't going to stop.
The reason first gear is on the bottom of the shift pattern is because you should wait in first.

There are a lot of good tips in this thread, such as stretching a little while in neutral if there's someone behind you, using that vehicle as protection.

Don't worry about your clutch cable breaking while doing this. You don't worry about suddenly developing a brake line leak while holding your car at a stop light with the brake, do you?
There is no "depends".

Safety, and advanced rider techniques dictate 1st gear, right foot on brake, left foot down.

If you disagree, go take an advanced rider course.
What a load of ****, some bikes don't like to sit in first gear 'cause of the clutch getting warm, and what's the point if you're going to be there a while. So it depends! It depends on the bike, how you feel i.e. needing a stretch, how long you're going to sit there.

Most of us around here don't need a course to learn to ride, I'm not even sure if we have them.
If a bike's clutch is getting warm sitting in gear then it needs to be adjusted, it should fully release if it's working properly

My opinion is that in gear is the normal way to wait for the maximum amount of safety, there are exceptions such as when you have a few cars stopped behind you and the wait will be long, then it's relatively safe to go to neutral but that's not the normal situation most of the time.

Anyone ANYWHERE will benefit from taking riding courses, no matter if you've been riding 20 years or 20 days there is always some new technique to learn or skill to refine and practice. They must be offered somewhere in your area..look into it, you might learn something.


What a load of ****, some bikes don't like to sit in first gear 'cause of the clutch getting warm, and what's the point if you're going to be there a while. So it depends! It depends on the bike, how you feel i.e. needing a stretch, how long you're going to sit there.

Most of us around here don't need a course to learn to ride, I'm not even sure if we have them.
I always keep it in 1st gear, just to get out of there if neccessary. No exceptions. My FJR has a hydraulic clutch which operates effortless. But bikes with cable operated clutch can be hard to keep uncoupled for longer periods of time. In this case try a replacement cable with Teflon coating.
this thread is getting too complicated. the DANGER at stop lights is the possibility of getting rear-ended. that is your real risk. there are a lot of cages out there who are not paying attention. Therefore, when you come to a stop, keep the bike in gear (use the clutch) and check your mirrors very carefully. Make this a habit ... make sure you watch that car behind you, and verify that he's going to stop. If the car does NOT slow down, quickly dodge into the gap between the cars in front of you. If you are the first person in line, MOVE! go around the corner, or do something. Don't get rear-ended.

If I know that I am SAFE from behind, I often drop the transmission into neutral. Just because the traffic lights here in LA can take a long time before they go GREEN. it's a long wait.

I just heard a story from a guy in Canada where this happened. The car behind him would have sandwiched his bike, Fortunately, he was paying attention and saved himself.

good luck!
dT
If you are sitting at a relight, and you see someone in your mirrors who appears to not be stopping very quickly, and may smash into you, you will be happy you are in first, ready to take off.
If you are too weak to hold the clutch in, you need to get a workout program to strengthen your left hand. Maybe find something that doesn't use a clutch.
First gear for lights I don't know or lights that I Know that are shorts. For lights I know are very long I put it in neutral. Nothing like accidently slipping off the clutch while looking around and having your bike lurch forward because it is popped. But I always keep my hand on the brake so I didn't drop my bike.
Catch 22(murphys version)
If there is any chance of me letting out on the clutch at a light(I have only ridden on the highways a few times)
It will happen when I didn't shift out of gear.
I like to think I have control of the entire motorcycle when I ride, and sometimes that means using the clutch.
IF I feel like my clutch hand is weak, I shift into neutral, and coast to the light. IF my clutch hand is feeling good, I might leave it in gear. I take off better from neutral when I have to get moving from a stop.

I have to say. learn to ride, do what the conditions say do.

dumpollquestion #636 no one does the same thing everytime, its just not proper riding technique
We teach to downshift to first before the stop and remain in 1st gear unless the vehicle behind you has stopped (shield). I watch the mirrors and flash my brake light for approaching vehicles; the flashing brake light should get their attention. If not, I can GO!

But, just as importantly, I wait a couple of seconds when the light turns green or the vehicle in front of me takes off. People do run red lights and waiting that couple of seconds after the vehicle in front takes off establishes my following distance.

Ride safe, always!
Curt
I think the main reason that people shift into neutral at a stop is that they have a Harley with a stiff hydrolic (?) clutch, and it's easier on their hand to have it in neutral than holding the clutch in. I'm for the 'safety' idea, though, of leaving the bike in 1st gear, just in case.
My Harley has a cable, the Yammie a hydraulic. Both have aftermarket stiff clutches. I hold both of them in at a light.
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