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How to make a clean hill start

Making a hill start on a motorcycle can be a daunting proposition for new riders. With no handbrake to fall back on, it is world's apart from the simplicity of four wheels and, for some, can spoil an otherwise pleasant riding experience.

MCN recently spoke to Ria Malone, 54, from Cambridgeshire. Ria rides a BMW F700GS and passed her test in November, recently riding a 1000-mile Spanish tour, with another trip already planned. However, despite already covering so many miles, Ria has a fear of making hill-starts.

"I had a bad experience trying to exit a junction on a steep hill in tricky conditions and it’s led to a fear of needing to do hill-starts," Ria said.

Step 1: You've got to stop and start again

Always prepare to make a decisive stop at junctions, so that you stop cleanly in the right place without panicking.

Ria was so concerned by stopping at a junction where she’d have to make a hill-start that she was rolling up to junctions very slowly, hoping to create an opportunity where she could pull out without stopping at all.

Step 2: Get it stopped securely

Apply the rear brake once stopped

Stop in first gear with your left foot down, enabling you to hold the bike securely on the back brake at the junction.

We set out to try and make sure Ria would do this, as avoiding stopping was making her unduly nervous and hesitant at junctions.

Step 3: Make sure you have a system on junction approach

Once securely stopped, re-evaluate the junction to spot your exit, without having to worry about road position, gear, or brakes.

It's also important to set an appropriate speed up to the junction and you should always plan to stop in first gear with your left foot down, holding the bike secure on the back brake.

This makes each hill-start a defined move, ensuring a stable stopped position and that your right hand is free to control only the throttle.

Step 4: Pull away positively

Ensure you use enough throttle to make a clean stall-free start. Uphill starts require a lot more throttle and clutch slip.

Ria’s lack of confidence meant that, once stopped, she was too tentative on the throttle when pulling away. This made her bike feel less stable - risking the chance of stalling on junctions, and meant joining traffic flow was not as safe as it could be. We worked on using more throttle to ensure a clean pull-away.

Step 5: Make it clean

As the clutch engages the back end will dip. Gently release the rear brake as you add throttle to pull away smoothly.

'The fear has melted away'

"It was absolutely brilliant learning how to approach hill-starts properly. Mark was so patient with me, and I felt really confident working through the system, so it didn’t feel nerve-racking.

"I realised after talking to Mark that I didn’t have any set actions for what I was doing when approaching a junction or hill-start. When Mark asked which foot I put down when I stopped, I didn’t know.

Ria is more confident now

"Now I have a set system in my head, I know before I stop that I’m going to put my left foot down so that I can hold the bike on the back brake, leaving my right hand free to concentrate on the throttle.

"I was so preoccupied by the fear of doing a hill-start that I wasn’t making positive stops, and would even try to avoid them, but I definitely feel that the fear has melted away.

"Now I have the system in place, I can stop and pull away again with confidence."

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