There are some things you can never forget – like how to ride a bike. But the truth is, not many know how to handle a bike well and how to brake correctly despite riding for years.
Let’s take braking for example. We all know there is a massive difference in braking while skidding down the alleyway at 10 mph and descending at 19 or 20 mph from a hill or mountain.
Unless you’ve taken classes or have raced before, chances are nobody has formally shown you the most basic of skills—like braking, probably the essential skill of all.
“People aren’t interested in practicing skills when they could be out riding. But a little technique practice goes a long way” – Josh Horowitz, former cycling coach and clinic instructor.
Here’s what you need to do to brake correctly:
Keep your weight back
When you pull the brakes to slow down, your body weight shifts over the front wheel putting all of your braking power on the front brake. This makes controlling the bike difficult making it harder to balance.
It’s best to push your weight back as you brake to keep weight on the back wheel and even out the braking forces.
When turning, keep low and stay off the brakes
If you want to reduce enough speed to make a turn, don’t hit the brakes during the turn. Follow the curve and keep your hands in the drops.
This technique will provide you good braking leverage and shifts your centre of gravity lower, thus improving your overall control. Apply pressure evenly on the brakes and shift your weight back. Then release the brakes and increase your speed through the turn.
Don’t touch the front brake while cornering
When you’re cornering you’re close to the limit of traction that your tires have. So, when you add braking force, you’re going to come close to breaking that limit and sliding the tire. A rear skid is way easier to catch than a front skid.
Keep calm, relax, let loose
Your body can’t absorb all the stopping forces if you are as tense as a pressure cooker. If your arms and shoulders are tense, you will tend to brake harder than expected. Keep your shoulders loose, elbows bent, and relax your grip on the bars. So, if you want to brake correctly, loosen up your arms and shoulders when you push the brakes.
Be careful when wet
You probably know this that it takes about three times more to stop on wet pavements than on dry surfaces. Tires have less traction on wet surfaces, so push your brakes lightly and evenly when you brake.
Most people pull the brakes too hard, which locks the wheels instantly and makes them skid or crash. So feather your brakes lightly in order to scrub your speed. You can apply more pressure if you want to, but never too hard.
High-quality tires are essential if you want to brake correctly and fast as they’ve good traction. On the road, experienced riders are often doing their general riding on 25 to 28c tires these days, at well under 100psi. Ask your local mechanic what’s best for you and your bike if you’re not too sure!