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Old 09-11-08, 12:30 PM   #1
Myqul
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What's the point of a rear brake?

I was reading on a bike site about how much more powerful the front brake is compared to the rear. So what's the point of a rear brake if this is true? Why dont we all ride around with just a front brake?
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Old 09-11-08, 12:48 PM   #2
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While it is true that the front brake does more braking, the back is also necessary to help slow you down. I think the ratio is something like 65/35 front/back. That 35% is still important.
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Old 09-11-08, 12:49 PM   #3
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For me it's the additional braking power the rear brake offers. A just in case factor......When someone pulls out in front of you suddenly, you will know what I mean.
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Old 09-11-08, 12:54 PM   #4
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So u don't flip over the handlebar? duh!
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Old 09-11-08, 01:03 PM   #5
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wicked skidz!!!
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Old 09-11-08, 01:03 PM   #6
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Per Sheldon Brown
"
When to Use The Rear Brake
Skilled cyclists use the front brake alone probably 95% of the time, but there are instances when the rear brake is preferred:
Slippery surfaces. On good, dry pavement, it is generally impossible to skid the front wheel by braking. On slippery surfaces, however it is possible to do so. It is nearly impossible to recover from a front wheel skid, so if there is a high risk of skidding, you're better off controlling your speed with the rear brake.

Bumpy surfaces. On rough surfaces, your wheels may actually bounce up into the air. If there is a chance of this, don't use the front brake. If you apply the front brake while the wheel is airborne, it will stop, and coming down on a stopped front wheel is a Very Bad Thing.

Front flat. If you have tire blowout or a sudden flat on the front wheel, you should use the rear brake alone to bring yourself to a safe stop. Braking a wheel that has a deflated tire can cause the tire to come off the rim, and is likely to cause a crash.

Broken cable...or other failure of the front brake.
Long mountain descents, when your front brake hand may get tired, or you may be at risk of overheating a rim and blowing a tire. For this situation, it is best to alternate between the front and rear brake, but not to use them both at once.

When to Use Both Brakes TogetherGenerally I advise against using both brakes at the same time. There are exceptions, however:

If the front brake is not sufficiently powerful to lift the rear wheel, the rear brake can help, but the best thing to do is to repair the front brake.
Typical rim brakes lose a great deal of their effectiveness in rainy conditions, so using them both together can reduce stopping distances.


Long or Low bicycles, such as tandems and long-wheelbase recumbents have their front braking limited by the possiblity of skidding the front wheel, since their geometry prevents lifting the rear wheel. Such bikes can stop shortest when both brakes are applied.
Tandem caution: when riding a tandem solo (no stoker on board) the rear brake becomes virtually useless due to lack of traction. The risk of fishtailing is particularly high if a solo tandem rider uses both brakes at once. This also applies to a lesser extent if the stoker is a small child. "

Skidz +1 WOOOT.
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Old 09-11-08, 02:05 PM   #7
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So you can impress chicks with cool powerslides.
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Old 09-11-08, 02:10 PM   #8
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Rear brake to bleed speed in a pace line....will take you down 2-3 MPH while still pedaling....front brake to STOP absolutely, redundancy is necessary should one fail (however unlikely) Fixed gear bikes can stop using your legs, freewheel bikes are run aways unless you can get your shoe in the tire.
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Old 09-11-08, 03:23 PM   #9
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Far be it for me to question Sheldon Brown, but I don't see what's lost by using both brakes together. He first says,

Quote:
Conventional wisdom says to use both brakes at the same time. This is probably good advice for beginners, who have not yet learned to use their brakes skillfully, but if you don't graduate past this stage, you will never be able to stop as short safely as a cyclist who has learned to use the front brake by itself.
But later, in his letter to Bike Culture, he says,

Quote:
The front brake by itself will stop a standard bicycle as fast as both brakes used together
Seems like he's implying that it is more dangerous to use both brakes together, but he doesn't say why...
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Old 09-11-08, 03:35 PM   #10
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Quote:
Seems like he's implying that it is more dangerous to use both brakes together, but he doesn't say why...
My best guess is that if you're using the front brake to it's fullest ability, the forward weight transfer will leave the rear very light, so it will lock up very easily, causing control problems.
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Old 09-11-08, 03:44 PM   #11
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My best guess is that if you're using the front brake to it's fullest ability, the forward weight transfer will leave the rear very light, so it will lock up very easily, causing control problems.
Interesting thought. I have cantis on my main bike, and they don't lock up very easily. I wonder if this advice changes depending on the type of brake?
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Old 09-11-08, 03:46 PM   #12
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Some of this information is not always stated real clearly. For example, does the front brake do more braking? It has more braking capacity, but whether it does more braking depends on how you use it. As long as you're not locking the rear wheel up, there's not really an advantage of using the front over the rear.
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Old 09-11-08, 03:57 PM   #13
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Seems like all else being equal, you'd want to use both brakes, if only to even out the wear on the rims, pads, cables and levers.

If Sheldon's point is: You can't be afraid of the front brake. then it's hard to argue with that.
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Old 09-11-08, 03:57 PM   #14
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Rear brakes allows for a bit more smoothly-modulated power to be applied. Result is shorter stopping distances compared to front-only.
As mentioned, rear brakes are the ONLY ones that should be applied in a tight paceline (while continuing to "softpedal" to absorb the Slinky-effect) on group rides.
Skillfull riders in the middle part of a paceline can even compensate for mistakes made by riders in front of them by using this technique to slightly slow the pace.
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Old 09-11-08, 03:59 PM   #15
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Some of this information is not always stated real clearly. For example, does the front brake do more braking? It has more braking capacity, but whether it does more braking depends on how you use it. As long as you're not locking the rear wheel up, there's not really an advantage of using the front over the rear.
My own experience is that I can stop much quicker, and with less effort, using the front brake alone than the rear brake alone (with no skidding, and no locking of the wheel). So in that sense, yeah, there's a big advantage to using the front over the rear.

I typically use both, but I know that most of the braking is occurring in the front.
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Old 09-11-08, 04:41 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by hines drive View Post
If Sheldon's point is: You can't be afraid of the front brake. then it's hard to argue with that.
As with many things we can use a tool (in this case the brakes) more effectively if we truly understand the principals that apply than we can if we simply take someones wrote statement without understanding the reasons behind it.

I'm a true admirer of SB and use his website regularly! When I don't understand or accept what is stated I want to know why. What is the difference between what led me to my opinion and what led him to his opinion? Since I have great respect and admiration for SB I believe he knows more than I and has many years of experience to back it up. And that's worth a lot.

That being said, I don't think the real point is 'arguing' with what he said but rather discussing it to aide us all in better understanding so that we can better apply the principals and do a better job at, in this case, braking. When I (re)began biking later in my life I learned from SB to use my front and rear brake more effectively and got over the childhood admonition to 'never use the front brake' which was likely taught by someone who mis-applied the usage of the front brake and gripped it mercilessly while speeding down a hill, flew over the handlebar and lived to declare "Front brakes is bad! Don't use 'em."
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Old 09-11-08, 06:32 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Myqul View Post
I was reading on a bike site about how much more powerful the front brake is compared to the rear. So what's the point of a rear brake if this is true? Why dont we all ride around with just a front brake?
You've never cycled in Wales have you?
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Old 09-11-08, 08:17 PM   #18
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You want to see the point of the reat brake? Try stopping downhill during slick conditions and you'll quickly find out.
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Old 09-11-08, 08:23 PM   #19
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You want to see the point of the reat brake? Try stopping downhill during slick conditions and you'll quickly find out.
I would think that it's easier to lock the front wheel and send you flying in dry conditions. When it's wet, you'll brake more slowly as the pads slide on the wet rims, making an endo less likely.

Of course, I'm not about to conduct any experiments...
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Old 09-11-08, 09:09 PM   #20
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You want to see the point of the reat brake? Try stopping downhill during slick conditions and you'll quickly find out.
I was about to say this. Also when you're just trying to regulate your speed rather than stop (i.e. when you need to slow down for curves when you're on a 40mph+ descent) using both brakes definitely gives you better control than just one.
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Old 09-11-08, 10:17 PM   #21
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In non emergencies, I use both brakes so I don't have to squeeze so hard.
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Old 09-11-08, 10:31 PM   #22
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If your front brake is effective enough and your front tire has enough traction that you can cause the rear wheel to lift off the road, you can't stop any faster than that. Under any other circumstances, using both brakes will stop you faster than either one alone.
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Old 09-11-08, 11:20 PM   #23
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I tested this on my ride tonight. On dry pavement/asphalt, using both brakes unquestionably gave me more power and better modulation (and therefore, better control) under normal braking conditions.

All of this talk of locking up brakes and "stopping faster than that!" doesn't jibe with my riding style, I guess. I get the impression we are talking about some kind of an emergency maneuver rather than a method of controlling speed under normal conditions.
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Old 09-11-08, 11:33 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by hines drive View Post
I tested this on my ride tonight. On dry pavement/asphalt, using both brakes unquestionably gave me more power and better modulation (and therefore, better control) under normal braking conditions.

All of this talk of locking up brakes and "stopping faster than that!" doesn't jibe with my riding style, I guess. I get the impression we are talking about some kind of an emergency maneuver rather than a method of controlling speed under normal conditions.

Did you do these tests on hills? If so, what sort of hills?
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Old 09-11-08, 11:37 PM   #25
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I was reading on a bike site about how much more powerful the front brake is compared to the rear. So what's the point of a rear brake if this is true? Why dont we all ride around with just a front brake?
Something I haven't yet seen mentioned:

You are accelerating down a 6% grade on a VERY busy highway with no paved berm. At 40 mph your bike goes into a high-speed shimmy. Are you going to apply the brake to the front wheel which is wildy swinging left and right?

This happened to me twice this summer, before I replaced the fork with a new one with less rake.
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