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  1. #1
    Junior Member Elle Zed's Avatar
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    Safe to ride with only rear disc brake? (snapped my front brake cable)

    I was fiddling with my brakes and snapped the front brake cable. I really want to keep riding this week (Bike to Work Week) and take it in for repairs on the weekend. But is it safe to ride with only the rear brake? I read somewhere that it will take twice as long to stop. Anyone else have experience with this? I have disc brakes on a cyclo cross bike.

  2. #2
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    Something like 80% of the stopping power is in the front, so the 'twice as long to stop' makes theoretical sense. I'm not sure it really works that way in practice though. You aren't generally making 'panic' stops on a bike. I'd go for it with caution.

  3. #3
    rebmeM roineS JanMM's Avatar
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    Stay away from steep/long downhills.

    Replacing a brake cable is not difficult.
    http://www.pinkbike.com/news/tech-tu...ble-brake.html
    Last edited by JanMM; 10-30-12 at 09:06 PM.
    RANS V3 (steel), RANS V-Rex, RANS Screamer

  4. #4
    The Recumbent Quant cplager's Avatar
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    Hi,

    I agree with the above. Disc brake on rear doesn't help too much when most of your weight is on the front wheel. Fix the front brake.

    Cheers,
    Charles
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    Wouldn't like to stop at full speed with only a disc break.. Might get to work a LOT faster via air travel that way.. Or ambulance.

  6. #6
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    A new cable is only like $5.00 and should not take more then 10 min to fix. Just use the fred flintstone front brake. Jamb your left sneaker (converse all star hi-tops recommended) behind the front fork. Rapid slowing involved. Front wheel stops and bike rotates around front axle. Kick feet apart and flail arms and legs wildly through the air. Try to start running before you make contact with the ground. Run fast and then slide, roll and flail on the pavement while removing various bits of skin from all over your body. Remember, chicks dig scars. Or, go to you local bike co-op, lbs or bike guru to FIX THE BRAKE.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Looigi's Avatar
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    Safe is a relative term. People ride fixies without any brakes and many people have ridden bikes with only rear coaster brakes. IMO, it's less safe but you can adapt your riding to help mitigate the increased risk.

  8. #8
    Junior Member Elle Zed's Avatar
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    Thanks all. My commute involves rain and hills -> going to fix it before riding!

  9. #9
    The Recumbent Quant cplager's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Looigi View Post
    Safe is a relative term. People ride fixies without any brakes and many people have ridden bikes with only rear coaster brakes. IMO, it's less safe but you can adapt your riding to help mitigate the increased risk.
    1) You're absolutely right. People do this all the time. I personally wouldn't use a bike with only the rear brake anywhere except a flat MUP.

    2) You say this, but let me reiterate. The OP would need to relearn how to brake on this bike. When you get on a bike that is very different than what you are used to, you generally take it a bit easy until you get the feel of the bike. In this case, the OP's body thinks this is the same bike and he'll instantly feel comfortable and it will be hard to ride differently. Not impossible, but hard.

    Cheers,
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  10. #10
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    I would have few reservations about riding without a rear brake if necessary, but not without a front brake!

    In fact, I often ride with my dog and hold the leash in my right hand, leaving only my left hand for braking, and I have no problem using only my front brake. I have to reach across to shift, but that is not as big an issue.

  11. #11
    Senior Member DieselDan's Avatar
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    In a large market like Vancouver, finding a new brake cable should not be too hard. Even the cheap kits from big box stores work if installed properly. Some of those stores are open 24 hours.
    Bikes use brakes to stop.

    If your bike has breaks, don't ride it.

  12. #12
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    If I were in the same situation and could not obtain a new cable for any reason, I would take the cable out of the rear brake and use it in the front brake and ride without a rear brake until it was fixed. But if you have $3 to spare, Walmart, Canadian Tire, any bike shop, sport experts, etc... all have perfectly functional brake cables.

  13. #13
    Senior Member Monster Pete's Avatar
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    Riding with only one brake: unwise.
    Riding with only a rear brake: really unwise. The majority of your stopping power comes from the front wheel. Without a front brake, you can't stop anything like as effectively. Using just a rear brake may be ok for low-speed pottering around, but not for anything else. Replacing a cable is such a simple job there's really no excuse for not repairing the front brake. Use alternative transport, and stop by a LBS on the way home for a new cable. In a pinch, you could remove the rear brake cable and use it on the front in order to get to the bike shop.
    I've got a bike, you can ride if you like it's got a basket, a bell that rings and things to make it look good- Pink Floyd, 1967

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    Quote Originally Posted by Elle Zed View Post
    Thanks all. My commute involves rain and hills -> going to fix it before riding!
    Why would you not fix it? We're talking $5 and 10 minutes max.
    For that matter, how did you break it? I've been riding for more than 40 years, and I've never broken a cable.

  15. #15
    LBKA punkncat's Avatar
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    I cannot honestly count the years I rode BMX bikes with one, or no brakes (and yes, I realize the weight distribution is different). Where I agree with the fix it comments (as it IS so cheap and easy) I really cannot see where doing it a day or two with the proper mental preparation and caution are used. HTFU
    One Foot Less

  16. #16
    Senior Member cale's Avatar
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    Take the rear cable off and thread it onto the front. Now you have a bike with 80% braking. Next, replace rear brake cable. Credit to Monster Pete.

  17. #17
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    When you go to the shop, pick up 2 cables , one to be on hand for the pre-emptive
    replacement before the other one fails..

  18. #18
    Senior Member Monster Pete's Avatar
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    Always useful to have a spare. If you're going anywhere long distance, you can throw it in with your tools/puncture kit etc.
    I've got a bike, you can ride if you like it's got a basket, a bell that rings and things to make it look good- Pink Floyd, 1967

  19. #19
    Senior Member mtbikerinpa's Avatar
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    Front=rear cable swapping is a good idea in general. Cables fatigue at sharp bends or pinches such as the end bolt or front derailleur pull arm. To combat that fatigue(which I have broken several front derailleur cables) I periodically take the front cables out, brake or shift, and put the rears which are longer into the front positions. The new cable then goes to the rear, which is more sensitive about drag anyway.

    Also good to note, when cleaning you should always inspect for cable fraying at said points. If more than a couple strands are broken it is due to replace soon.
    Aviation Mechanic, Bike racer, Fitness Equipment Restorer

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  20. #20
    Pentapointed Member ahsposo's Avatar
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    What a bunch of Chicken Littles! Brakes are Totally Overated.

    I wouldn't worry about fixing it until the rear brake breaks. Then you really need to get your brakes fixed.

    Best of Luck to You.
    Quote Originally Posted by toddles View Post
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  21. #21
    7-speed doomsday prepper ThermionicScott's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cplager View Post
    The OP would need to relearn how to brake on this bike.
    Depends -- some folks aren't enlightened enough to use the front brake in the first place.
    Quote Originally Posted by chandltp View Post
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  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by ThermionicScott View Post
    Depends -- some folks aren't enlightened enough to use the front brake in the first place.
    When I started riding in the '70s, it was pretty commonly accepted that you should use the front brake very sparingly, if at all, because if you used it hard you'd go right over the handlebars. I was pretty surprised when I realized you could cut the stopping distance by two-thirds if you used both.

  23. #23
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    I'll finish a ride with one only one brake if I have to. In fact I have when the front pads failed on a 230km ride, I had to just limp home the last 100 with only the back. I didn't enjoy it. But it can be done. The front brake is MUCH more effective than the rear. I'd rather have the rear fail.

  24. #24
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    News flash: bicycles came with only rear coaster brakes for decades, people. Having only a rear brake does not make a bicycle an instant-death machine.

    It's not ideal but I wouldn't hesitate to ride such a bicycle if necessary.

  25. #25
    Senior Member Keith99's Avatar
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    Just something to think about.

    I'll bet the front and rear brake cables were put on at about the same time. So the remaining good cable is likely as old as the one that broke.

    Now it would still take being a bit unlucky for them to go within a week of eachother. But I sure as heck would not let it slide past the weekend. And as already mentioned I'd aviod steep or long downhills.
    Perish any man who suspects that these men either did or suffered anything unseemly.

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