Braking Basics: Part Two
Last week we shared tips to help riders improve their braking technique (remember here) to ride more smoothly, more in control, and with more confidence. We talked about how to use both brakes safely, how to set up your cockpit for one-finger braking, the ready riding position, and more.
Now let's build on those fundamentals with some tips on timing and other ways to further refine your braking technique.
1) Brake before corners: Check your speed before you enter a turn so you don't have to grab a fistful of brakes in the middle, which can cause you to skid or lose control. Reducing your speed before going into the corner allows you to navigate the corner more confidently, and focus on a safe exit.
2) Brake before technical sections: When the trail gets spicy, momentum is your friend. Too much speed over rocks, roots, and the like, however, can send you out of control. But braking in the middle of a rock garden can kill your momentum enough that your wheels get hung up rather than rolling smoothly over obstacles. Checking your speed before you roll into techy sections will help you stay in control while maintaining enough momentum to clear the rough stuff.
3) Ride, don't slide: A locked wheel is a skidding wheel. And, a wheel that skids and slides is a wheel you have little control over. Prevent skidding by modulating your brakes —and modern disc brakes make this easy! Think of your brakes as less of an on/off switch, and more of a dimmer switch with a range of power. Rather than grabbing the lever and pulling it hard, practice squeezing it gently until you feel the pads engage. Over time, you will learn how much pressure is needed to slow and stop with control in different situations, and less skidding will also prevent damage to the trail.
4) Release the death grip: When things get rough, the tendency is to grip the bars tightly, which causes your whole upper body to tense up. This stress can also make us reach for the brakes when we don't necessarily need to. Relaxing your hands will help your whole body stay loose, which helps you ride more in control, and you'll be less likely to grab the brakes out of fear.
Bonus: Smile! It will help you stay relaxed and remind you that mountain biking is fun, even when it's a little scary and stressful.
Click here for more advanced braking techniques.