TOTW: Keep your wrist flat to avoid throttle problems

The riding tips on these pages are my personal opinion about matters related to motorcycle riding. They are not the official position of any organization, and are for your consideration only. They are not hard and fast rules, they should not necessarily be applied in all circumstances, and they should not be applied without thinking. Always use your judgement and take all current safety factors into account while riding. You are responsible for your riding, not anyone else (especially me). These tips were originally published by a motorcycle riding course, called “Tip of the Week” (the reason for the TOTW in the titles).

What’s the problem?

Slight variations in how you position your wrists and arms can have a significant impact on your safety and comfort while riding. In particular, untrained riders have a tendency to “Cock their wrists,” riding with their wrists slightly bent, and the “Point” of their wrists higher than the lines of their forearms. This seemingly minor point can have serious side effects on your riding.

You have a problem with your wrist position if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • When you are accelerating, the bike sometimes feels like it is trying to run away with you, accelerating harder than you had in mind.
  • If you have to brake hard, such as in an emergency situation, you sometimes find yourself stopped, with the clutch in, and the engine racing at high speed.
  • You have trouble keeping a constant, smooth throttle while steering around corners.
  • Your wrists and arms ache after relatively short journeys.

What are the causes?

If your bike sometimes feels like it is trying to run away while you are accelerating, you have your wrist bent, and higher than the line of your forearm. It’s best to visualise this problem while sitting on your bike, with the engine off. Hold the throttle with your right hand, and cock your wrist so that it’s quite high above the throttle. Now imagine what happens when you are accelerating. As the acceleration pushes you backward in your seat, the backward pressure will straighten your wrist slightly, which forces you to roll on more throttle, against your will. This additional acceleration pushes you back still further, forcing you to roll on even more throttle. The situation “feeds on itself” and can be quite frightening, especially for new riders.
This same incorrect wrist position causes the problem of a racing engine after a hard braking manoeuvre. Again, sit on your bike with the engine stopped. Hold the throttle with your right hand, with your wrist very high. Now, watch what happens if you quickly grab the front brake lever and squeeze.
Chances are, as you applied pressure with your fingers, your thumb rolled down the inside of the throttle grip, rolling it on while you were braking. You will end up stopped, with the brakes firmly applied, and with the “Crotch” of your thumb and forefinger firmly pressed against the throttle tube, holding it open. This throttle locking was a common problem experienced by students first learning emergency braking in our courses.

A similar analysis may explain why you have trouble maintaining smooth throttle settings while steering around corners. As you move the handlebars, you are unconsciously changing the angle of your cocked wrist, changing your throttle setting.

Finally, incorrect wrist position is often associated with another error: leaning forward and supporting your upper body weight on your wrists. This will give you sore wrists and sore arms very quickly.

By the way, the photos above have exaggerated the wrist bend to help you see the problem. But even a very slight bend, like this, can cause the problems we have been discussing.


The solution to all these problems is the same, and simple. Keep your wrists straight, in line with your forearm, not cocked. Also, keep your arm bent slightly at the elbow, so your forearm is roughly parallel with the ground. Small motions as the bike moves under you, and as you corner, should be absorbed into your relaxed elbows, not transmitted into your wrists. Don’t lean on your wrists to support your body weight. Instead, use your thigh and hip muscles to hold yourself up.
With your wrist flat, you cannot accidentally role on more throttle while accelerating. You will have to reach a little farther with your fingers to apply the front brakes, but you will be less likely to roll the throttle on with your thumb. If your hands are so small, or your bike so large, that you can’t reach your brake lever from a proper wrist position, check if your brake lever position is adjustable (many are). If it isn’t, talk to your service establishment. There are many ways to modify your front brake lever position, and this problem needs to be fixed.

Photos on this page show a bare hand so you can see the wrist position. Never ride a motorcycle without gloves.


  1. So what do you do if on the track when coming out of the corner you find your wrist is bent all the way down and you can’t still can’t reach max throttle? I hold the throttle correctly because I have had whiskey throttle myself a few times before.

  2. I have also just found this article extremely helpful I just got my first Harley Sportster and couldn’t work out what went wrong and why I dropped my bike lucky on grass no damaged but hurt my wrist as I couldn’t reach brake and realised my wrist was in wrong position and excellerated too much and down I went.
    Thank you so much

  3. …..and this is why I crashed twice on my first mx track day, if only I’d read this article before! I suffer from bad arm pump, feeling that the bike is running away especially when crossing the crest of a hill. Thanks, life saving advice, my bruised ribs can rejoice!

  4. Thanks for the reminder! I took the motorcycle safety course on a Susuki 125 and am now trying to master my own Harley Sportster 1200! HUGE difference in power, but that doesn’t even matter. It’s my wrist being elevated that is causing all my problems. I know this, yet I keep doing it wrong. I’m still in parking lots practicing, so here I go again.

  5. I just took an MFC beginner’s course and kept running into this problem, which is exacerbated by having an ill fitting bike that they provide. Then, there’s no time in these courses for individual corrective instruction, and so you carry the early flaws of throttle and friction zone control into every exercise. Very frustrating. I decided to pay for a private course to go through all this at my pace because if you don’t master these basics, every other exercise is pointless.

    Thanks for the tip. I also realize I need to adjust the brake proximity to the throttle on my own bike – something you can’t do in these classes where it’s the luck of the draw on which bike you get.

  6. Thanks – very helpful. Couldn’t figure out how to stop the throttle opening when using the front brake. Now I know. Excellent advice.

  7. Wish I had read this Saturday……this explains why I over accelerated and the bike raised up and I almost lost control…..makes plenty sense when I read this article. I was asking myself why did i involuntarily accelerate so hard…..i now understand is the movement of my body and wrist position contributed to it…thanks for this article

  8. New rider here. I found myself unintentionally rolling on the throttle from time to time and this article was helpful. One thing not mentioned that helped me was changing the position of my levers. The brake lever on my motorcycle was a bit too high causing me to cock my wrist and roll on the throttle with my thumb as I squeezed the front brake. Adjusting the angle of the lever more downward helped me keep my wrist straight.

  9. Excellent article, thanks. I tend to ride off covering the front brake with the two fingers nearest the thumb, and this appears to be causing the initial incorrect wrist cock.

  10. Thanks, I’ve been having trouble controlling the throttle when turning, nearly got wiped out by a van on first lessen. Will definitely take onboard your advice. (Wish I’d found this site earlier)


  11. I have experienced this problem somewhat when using the brake lever not because my wrist is cocked, but because my forearm is not level with the bike. My elbow is too high because it is a sport bike and I am sitting too upright for the bar height. It seems to me I have better throttle control when I lean more forward and get my forearm level. I also am a newbie.

  12. I just did first day of motorcycle course and had this problem all day. Will hopefully be better tomorrow.
    Thanks for the help!

  13. I’m a beginner and have experienced these problems. Thanks a lot for your valuable tips!

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