Getting stuck at a traffic signal or stop sign is frustrating enough, but it’s made even more frustrating if that traffic signal is on a hill. For some, having to come to a complete stop on a hill and then get smoothly started is more than frustrating though; it’s downright scary. It is in these situations that the rider’s control actions are put to the test, and if you are not able to cover the brakes, smoothly disengage the clutch and apply the throttle, you can easily be thrown off balance; worse, the bike could stall and you could drop it.
As with any stop, when you come to a stop on a hill, your primary concern is with making sure you have the clutch fully engaged and the throttle closed. On a steep grade however, there is the obvious risk of rolling backwards, and as such, it is important to make sure that you apply and maintain pressure to the brakes even after you come to a complete stop. Since your right hand will be used to apply the throttle when it comes time to get underway, it is easiest to use the rear brake to hold your position on the hill. With the bike at a standstill, the best way to then maintain your balance is to take your left foot and plant it firmly to the ground. As soon as you are ready to get rolling again, begin to disengage the clutch slowly until you feel the friction zone; it is in this area that you will just slightly feel the bike want to creep forward. As you do this, you can begin to apply a little throttle. Continue to disengage the clutch, and you will begin to feel it work against the rear brake. It is at this point that you can release the brake and apply the throttle as necessary to move forward.
If you are forced to use your...
If you are forced to use your right foot to maintain balance and are unable to use the rear brake, you will need to use the front brake to hold the bike, while simultaneously applying throttle to get underway.
As you already probably know, no two hillsides or streets are the same, and there will come a time when to your left is a patch of gravel or object that won’t provide stable footing. If you find yourself in this predicament, you will need to apply the front brake and use your right foot to maintain balance. This technique will require more skill, and in turn, more practice because it forces you to use your right hand to both keep pressure on the brake and apply the throttle.
As such, before you find yourself facing a steep grade, practice your control actions on flat ground. As you become more and more comfortable with releasing the brake, disengaging the clutch and applying the throttle simultaneously, begin moving to sections of road that have more of an incline.
It’s not all about what you do once you have come to a standstill though; what you do prior to coming to a stop is very important as well. Given that your extremities are busy covering the other controls, you will find it difficult to search the gearbox as you sit at an incline, which is why it is important to make sure you are in the proper gear some distance before your stopping point. If you are in a gear too tall, you will be forced to rev your engine to a higher rpm and slip the clutch longer as you proceed to drive up the hill, even if you don’t come to a complete stop. And if you are unable to keep the rpm up, you run an even greater risk of stalling your bike as you begin your ascent.