Which Foot? The Hendon Shuffle - Question and Answer (updated March
Q When I did my DAS I was told that I should always stop in the
Safety Position - that is with the left leg down and the right foot
on the rear brake. But I was told by an IAM observer that I should
stop with the right foot down and the left foot ready to change
gear. Which is correct?
A A good question. The Safety Position has been taught by
generations of CSM trained CBT/DAS instructors whose approach is
that anything other than left foot down is 100% wrong. Some IAM
groups do encourage the right foot down approach and some IAM
observers are equally vehement about this. Just to complete the
confusion, the DSA's own 'Motorcycling Manual' (page 64) says:
"with the clutch lever still pulled in
use your left foot to move the gear lever
selector to neutral
release the clutch lever
place both feet on the ground"
So who is right? Well, the only answer must be "none of them"! There
are certain circumstances when each of the three methods have value.
Q I've heard about something called the Hendon Shuffle. What is it?
A Well, it's not a North London card sharping technique. It's
something taught to trainees at the Hendon Police school which
involves a right foot down, left foot up, change gear, left foot
down, right foot up to cover brake to get out of gear at a
standstill and the same procedure to get back into gear. The theory
is that you are always covering a brake all the time you are
stationary. It's something many experienced riders dispense with.
Q So what are the advantages and disadvantages of each?
A Assuming a standard left foot gear change, right foot brake...
Left leg down:
+ hill starts are much easier using the back
+ allows the use of the rear brake for improved
stability and slow speed control, for instance when coming to a
standstill or filtering at walking pace where you might have to stop
suddenly, or descending a steep hill
+ allows you to show a brake light, improving
visibility to traffic behind
+ holding the bike on the rear brake possibly
reduces the risk of losing control if you are hit at low speed from
- you have to do the 'Hendon Shuffle' to get out
of gear and back in to gear - rather tedious and often unnecessary,
and in certain circumstances where you may need to move of smartly
(eg if you have filtered to the front of a queue) potentially
Right leg down
+ you can get in and out of gear easily
+ you can gently hold the front brake for the
visibility effect of the brake light
- you can't use the back brake so have to rely on
the front brake only when coming to a halt, reducing stability and
control when the bike is least stable
- hill starts are much more difficult using the
- unless you are holding the front brake, a
gentle tap from behind will send the bike shooting out from
underneath you as you WILL put your footdown to recover balance
Of course if you ride an old British bike, you'll have to reverse
Q I never need to put the right/left foot down
A The most important thing is to weigh up the advantages and
disadvantages in each individual situation you find yourself and
definitely not to get anal about one or the other.
Certainly the left foot down thing should not become a rule - yes,
holding the bike on the rear brake is useful on a slope but it's
often pointless on the flat, and there are other occasions when the
left foot down is equally pointless - for instance when waiting at a
pelican crossing - you know the lights are going to change in a
couple of seconds so there is no point in worrying about changing in
and out of gear, you can select 1st gear as you roll to a halt and
just hold it on the clutch.
Q This is a silly discussion - I want to make sure the bike doesn't
fall over, not mess around with brakes and gears
A To a great extent I agree. What both arguments tend to overlook is
the reason your put your foot down in the first place - it's there
to support the weight of the bike. All other advantages and
disadvantages are irrelevant if the bike is now lying on top of you.
Many times you would be better advised to put the right foot down to
support the bike. For example, when the camber works against you
where the rider is particularly short, the bike particularly high or
the camber exceptionally steep. Of course on the continent or in the
USA the camber would work in the opposite direction so you would
have to put the left foot down to support the bike.
Where the surface is poor or oily I will put down which ever foot
looks like it has the better grip.
Sometimes you simply need maximum stability when stationary. Strong
side winds and when carrying a passenger or a heavy load spring to
mind as times when I would probably have both feet on the ground.
So I do whatever makes sense to me at the time. Incidentally,
despite what you might have been taught at the time, you will not
fail the DSA test for not using the Safety Position - the examiner
is far more interested in the way you manage your gear changes and
braking, and the overall control, then the precise nature of which
foot you put down.
Q OK, one final question. Now I have a better idea about which foot
to put down when I stop, what about foot position when I'm riding?
Where should I keep my feet on the pegs?
A This is another question that comes up over and again. And like
most questions, you'll hear a variety of answers from different
people, all of whom insist they are correct.
My point of view is that you should ask yourself what do you need
your feet to do next.
If you are on a stretch of road where you don't need to do anything
with the controls then you can put your feet wherever they are
comfortable. I tend to move them around on the pegs from tip to to
instep on a long run up a motorway.
If you are riding a bumpy bit of road, then putting the weight
through the balls of your feet can allow you to lift some weight off
the seat thus using your legs as active suspension and giving the
suspnsion an easier time. Similarly when cornering, feet on the
balls can give a bit of extra feedback and if you are really getting
on with it, you can weight the pegs to aid steering.
But what about if you are likely to need the gears or rear brake?
Well, then it makes sense to have feet where you can use the
controls without having to move them - for instance when riding in
traffic, using slow control, or approaching a bend, I've got my
instep on the peg. The time saved can make a lot of difference, not
least on slow control - if you have to move your foot to use the
rear brake, you're far more likely to stamp on it than caress it.
However, this position with the feet on the instep is often
criticised because on a bike without much ground clearance, or when
leaning over a long way, there is a risk of your toes hitting the
ground. In this case, I try to remember to get my toes out from
under the gear lever in particular and onto the balls of my feet -
I've inadvertently hit a false neutral when the toe of my boot hit
the road and loaded the gear lever.