Effective braking is an essential skill for any mountain biker to learn. When you know how to brake correctly at the right time and effectively, you can ride safer and faster.
If you want to go fast on your mountain bike, you’ve got to brake properly. No matter whether you’re a marathon rider or a downhiller. The ability to brake effectively and at the right time is one of the skills that sets the best technical riders in the world apart from the rest of us puzzlers. The later and harder you can brake, the longer you’re going fast for. This skill is so crucial that there are companies developing technology to help you learn better braking.
Effective braking technique is an often overlooked skill in the mountain biking world. Getting your braking done efficiently and at the right time can be a game changer for finding speed on the trail but also for staying confident and in control. If you’re looking for a few tips on how to improve your braking, check out the video or article below!
Brake Lever Setup Tips
- Your brake levers need to be easy to reach the you are in a descending position.
- When you pull your brake levers, you should to be able to reach maximum power without obstruction by the grip or your other fingers.
- A larger brake rotor will cool down better and give you more power (that is relevant at both the front and rear wheel). Bigger people and aggressive descenders should go big on their rotors!
- 4 Piston callipers will generally give more power and better modulation
Body Position When Braking
Getting low on the bike and shifting your centre of mass backwards allows you to brake harder without feeling like you’ll go over the bars. If you’re standing tall, or have your weight biased forward while trying to brake hard, you may soon be greeting the earth very intimately with your face. The more aggressive the braking that you are performing, the lower and further back you should have your weight. That being said, you’ll always need some kind of weight on the front wheel for traction. That leads onto the front and rear brake bias.
Front or Back Brake?
When you pull the brake levers, the deceleration will try to shift your weight forwards and thus put more weight on the front wheel which generally means more traction there. Given this, your front brake is the most important for decelerating your bike as fast as possible. When braking effectively, you’ll be using both levers but with more force on the front brake lever, ideally not to let either wheel start skidding.
When To Drag Your Brakes, And When Not To
So should you be dragging your brakes? Sometimes it is necessary to remain in control but it is generally accepted that one should either be off the brakes or using them with decided purpose. I know dragging the brakes makes you feel safe but this isn’t necessarily the time to be trying to feel the warm fuzzies and it may ultimately reduce control and safety for the following reasons. Braking hinders your tires ability to grip in a corner and also prevents your bike from rolling through terrain efficiently. Not a vibe. Your tires will corner best and your suspension perform ideally when the brakes are not affe ting the wheel. Do your best to pick a good braking point on the trail where you can get traction, do all the braking you’ll need for the corner or technical section and then refrain from dragging your brakes through the corner or technical feature.
When Not To Brake!
With that in mind, when should one not brake? The rules of thumb here as follows, not during a corner, not on slippery root or on extreme off cambers if at all avoidable (both are due to risk of sliding out), and not in rough sections of trail because you want the bike rolling as efficiently as possible.
Drills To Practice Better Braking
Wondering how to practice improving your braking? Here are a couple easy drills.
Mark a point on the ground where you will start braking and roll towards it with some speed. Proceed to stop as soon after the mark as possible.
- Think about your weight distribution. Lower and rearwards for more aggressive braking.
- Progression in this drill is reducing the distance needed to stop.
- Try the same thing but with just your front brake and then just your rear brake to see the effectiveness of each.
- Try some small endos / stoppies. This will teach you about modulating the front brake and also get you familiar with how much power is too much and how to control the situation when you start pitching over the front to your doom.
Take some time to digest those concepts and then grab you bicycle and give it a whack! Take it easy and make small progressions. These are the kinds of things that even the best mountain bike racers in the world will spend time working on and thus it would make sense that you do the same if you want to improve!