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Braking: How to Stop

Even if you’ve got a really old bike you’ll weigh considerably more than it does. The typical rider to bike weight ratio is around 6:1. It’s obvious that the position of your body on the bike has a major effect on how the whole arrangement performs. Effective weight transfer is the secret to controlled descent and stopping.

Stopping Gracefully
The secret to stopping in a hurry is focusing on your front wheel. On the flat, it accounts for about 70% of your stopping power even more when you’re heading downhill. When you hit the brakes, your effective center of mass moves forward the back wheel lifts and the front digs in. So there’s more traction up front and faster stops using the front brake. It’s a good plan to shift your weight back at the same time to avoid pitching over the handle bars.

Note: You need to ensure the bike is upright and pointing straight ahead while braking heavily, ie. not cornering. Remember to squeeze the brakes progressively rather than “slamming on the anchors.” You achieve maximum braking just before your wheels lock up (same principle as ABS on cars). Skidding is not an effective way to stop and shows your lack of skill to others.

Downhill Braking
As you descend, your center of mass shifts forward causing the back wheel to become unweighted. When you brake, your effective center of mass moves even further forward and the stopping process wants to rotate you and your bike over the front wheel. This is not a good scene and you need to compensate by keeping your body low and easing your bum off the back of the seat.

When it’s really steep you’ll end up with your stomach resting on the saddle. You’ve got it right when your back wheel stays in contact with terra firma, so the bike is stable and you avoid doing a full frontal dismount and ending up with the nickname ‘Endo’.


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