Posted on August 01 2016

There are several schools of thought on the best braking practices so we'll look briefly at a couple. "Skids are for Kids" - Firstly, almost every new rider enjoys locking up the rear wheel and flicking the bike through a turn.

The term 'Skids are for Kids' is not a complimentary term in the world of MTB.It's fun, looks cool and you'll lose respect from experienced riders every time you do it. Why? Cause it's the slow way around a corner and it damages the track. Heavy rain finds any depression in the trail and will erode it out or sit in it making a mud puddle. Either way it spells problems for everyone else using the trail. Don't do it.  People spend a lot of time building and maintaining the trails, as well trying to convince the councils and rangers to give us more trails and every skid makes that a little bit harder.

Watch the better, faster riders, smooth is the key. Brake before the corner and then roll through it. A turning wheel has more traction than a wheel under brake force. More rear, or more front brake? - This is where opinions differ. Briefly the dynamics of it are simple. When you brake the weight of yourself and bike shift forward which necessitates using more front brake. The same happens in cars which is why they often have front disk brakes and rear drum brakes. Those that have both front and rear disk brakes have the braking biased to the front to stop rear wheel skidding (which usually turns a car around) and to account for that transfer in weight under heavy braking. Bikes are similar even if it is to a lesser degree. By using more front brake than rear, you lessen the chance of locking the rear wheel and having it flick the bike's rear out wide which slows you up causing you to use more energy to accelerate again, increases your chances of falling off and digs up the trail. This is something that takes practice and is probably not achievable by most new riders until they have some experience behind them. If you think you can do it then go ahead. However, as most new riders tend to fear going over the handlebars or loosing the front wheel due to locking up, they are going to use more rear braking then front. Many experienced riders tend to pull both brakes on together but use the front brake to keep the rear brake from locking the wheel up. They keep an even pressure on the rear brake while modulating my front brake as needed more or less stopping power. By shifting your body rearwards a bit under braking you can place more weight over the rear wheel making it less likely it will lock up.

To practice braking smoothly, get out on the fire road that way if you do stuff up you’re not damaging any trails. Build up a solid amount of speed on a slight down hill (fast running pace) then pick a spot and try and slow as quickly as possible without locking up the brakes, make sure you’re in a low attack position, remember No human pendulums, as you brake harder push your weight back in proportion to the amount of brake applied. Learn to modulate your brakes, brake smoothly, don’t jab your brakes, if your rear wheel locks up back it off a little then ease it back on again, if you practice this often your brain will slowly learn the difference between your front and rear brakes and it will become a voluntary action. To progress practice on steeper looser fire roads, remember as soon as that wheel locks up back off the brakes and ease back on again, the steeper the terrain the more you push back.


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