Choosing the correct braking technique is an important part of mountain bike riding. This article discusses some basic guidelines for mountain bike braking techniques.
You may think slowing your mountain bike down is as easy as yanking on those brake levers?
But with so many different off-road riding surfaces, knowing the correct way to slow you and your prized bike or crashing out of control maybe a mere touch of the brake lever away.
Improving your mountain bike skills increases your enjoyment and safety. The more comfortable you are, the more fun you have. Plus, technique advancement allows you to tackle tougher terrain. Braking just might be the most important skill of all. Let’s learn at how to brake in different situations.
In most cases, braking should be done evenly and gradually. Both the front and rear brakes should be applied together. Never squeeze the front brake alone as you might end up flying over the handlebars. Harsh braking in general can lead to skidding and loss of control. Also, make sure your brake levers are adjusted so that your max squeeze occurs at around 50-60% of the lever throw.
How to Brake Downhill?
When it comes to braking on a descent, there are two schools of thought. Some recommend rear wheel only braking on downhills. While this might be the best choice for very steep drops, both front and rear braking improve control even going downhill.
If the rear brake alone is applied, you could end up fishtailing out of control. One way to compensate is to slide back in the saddle to put more pressure on the rear wheel for improved grab.
Downhill braking takes time to master. Try to gradually increase the level of steepness where you ride to get a feel for how much brake to grab in each situation. For example, on some downhills you might distribute your brake effort over a 30:70 front to rear wheel ratio.
The Right Way To Brake Into Turns
Ideally, you should scrub off speed before you enter any turn. Release the brakes upon entering the turn and roll through. Still, you might be required to brake mid-turn in some cases. Don’t mash the brakes or you’ll be eating rocks and dirt. Instead, feather the levers with short, soft taps. If you feel the bike start to give out from under you, let up on the brakes and regain control. Another technique is very gentle but steady pressure while you ride out the turn.
Braking in Wet Conditions
Braking in the wet or mud is similar to braking in turns. No hard mashing and light feathered taps work best. You can also apply gentle, steady pressure being alert to any signs of skidding. If you try to brake while riding over a patch of ice, make sure your dentist isn’t on vacation. Wet grass can be very dicey as well, so go easy.
The purest would say skidding simply indicates a lack of control. Still, rear wheel skidding can actually be used intentionally to whip through turns. You might get criticized for this habit as it can promote trail erosion. Some riders skid the rear wheel all the way down descents, but this is a beginner’s method. The best downhillers know control is the key to speed.
Master these different brake techniques and be confident on any trail. Anticipation is essential since you should slow down before you hit obstacles or turns.
So keep in touch and get out on the trails.
About The Author
Rod Bucton, mountain bike fanatic from Mid North Coast, New South Wales Australia…discover the shortcuts to mountain biking for beginners and while you’re at it follow Rod on Facebook or Instagram.
Like any sport, bicycling involves risk of injury and damage. By choosing to ride a bicycle, you assume the responsibility for that risk, so you need to know — and to practice — the rules of safe and responsible riding and of proper use and maintenance. Proper use and maintenance of your bicycle reduces risk of injury.