EASY DOES IT
Reduce bike speed safely and effectively with correct braking technique, says Exeter Tri’s
Learn the safest braking technique.
Aero positioning, power from the legs, pedal technique and fitness are components that make you a faster at cycling. However, it’s inevitable that, at some point, there will be some kind of hazard, junction or a corner to navigate, which involves slowing.
Sitting up, bracing the body, braking technique and timing are components that make slowing the bike more efficient and controlled. While brakes can be set up to personal preference and in accordance to your geographical location, in England, the front brake is set up on the right lever and rear on the left.
Pulling the front brake in isolation has three potential outcomes:
1) Locking the wheel and skidding. 2) Stopping the wheel and going over the handle bars. 3) Stopping very quickly.
Pulling the rear brake in isolation can result in:
1) Locking the wheel and skidding. 2) Not stopping quickly enough. 3) Gradually bringing the bike to a stop.
The chances of stopping efficiently and successfully are greatly improved if braking is done with both brakes. This depends on the road conditions and is a dynamic technique to fit the situation.
Front braking distributes weight through the arms, forks and front wheel. Rear braking distributes weight more through the back, saddle and rear wheel. Together they balance the bike while slowing down, and it’s important to be balanced when slowing the bike to ensure maximum control. Assessing the road conditions and the road ahead is key to applying the safest and most efficient way to slow the bike.
Here are my top tips for safe and efficient braking:
• In good conditions on a good surface
You can afford to apply more front brake than rear. Pull the front first and follow with the rear to balance your weight on the bike. Aim to pull with about 70 per cent effort on the front and 30 per cent on the rear.
• In wet conditions or badly surfaced road
You need to keep the brakes even. Pull the front first and match it with the rear brake, using around 50:50 distribution. Because traction can be unpredictable, be prepared to ease back off the brakes if a tyre loses traction, then modulate them gradually again.
• Be adaptable to the conditions
The percentage efforts suggested here are a guideline. Practise balancing the weight distribution by selecting the front or rear brake according to the conditions. For example, if the conditions are good and dry but there are leaves on the road it is worth assuming it is slippery and more caution is needed. In this case, brake earlier, less harshly and more evenly.
• Look ahead
Don’t leave it to the last minute to brake. Read the road ahead to assess how much slowing is needed, and how long it will take to slow. Brake early and be prepared for the slowing to take longer than expected if the tyres start to lose traction under load.
• Don’t brake in corners
If there’s a corner approaching, it’s important to brake on the straight section before it. The bike has far less traction when leaning in, as your weight is not translated directly into the ground. If you really need to shed some speed when in the corner, it’s best to feather the rear brake, as pulling the front will overcome the tyre’s ability to grip the road efficiently.