Re­duce bike speed safely and ef­fec­tively with cor­rect brak­ing tech­nique, says Ex­eter Tri’s

Triathlon Plus - - Contents - Pete Wilby

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.

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