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Old 11-06-09, 06:18 PM   #1
Mr. Beanz
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Q About Braking (front or back?)

First let me start of by saying I do more roadbiking than MTB'ing. So my DH skills on the MTB suck alogn with my typing! But hopefully I can get some answers on a little debate elsewhere. Maybe even improve my MTB skills since most enjoy kicking my arse on the downhills rather than offering instuction to help me improve.

My roadbiking DH skills are perfectly fine. No fear, fairly fast and outdescend most that I ride with when it comes to a 5,000 ft descent made of winding twisty roads. (GMR for those familiar with SoCal). But my techique is rarely braking. I may feather the rear brake alone before hitting a tight swithcback. I don't touch the front in the turns. Actually I don;t touch either ina turn. I may slow a bit befor e the turn but just let it flow in the turns, taking the apex then gently floating out. Avoiding the front brake helps me to keep a smooth turn and control. I surely won't hit the front knowign that that ther are sometimes paches of sand and rock in the turns. My thinking is that if I use the front brake only while hitting a patch of sand in the turn, I'm going down.

Another poster suggested to a rider "try using the front brake only" though the thread was on long descents on a roadbike. I said no way with the front brake only on long mtn descent with sandy switchbacks. I myself never use a front brake only stop in any situation. I use both evenly while shifting my weight back.

Another poster says that I am wrong and givign bad info, that using the front brake only stop is the best way to go! He says MTB forum will tell me that they use the front only on descents as the MTB'er are really the riders that must know how to brake well (something to that sort).

Now I say I won't do a front brake only stop on a 30-40 mph roadie descent on twisty roads. Or front brake into a switchback with sand.

So my MTB rides are like the graph I posted below. I do mostly climbing offroad rides. I'm in it for the uphill conditioning and not really into the DH fun of it like some or most. So I do baby it on the 26% descents not wanting to break my neck for funzies! But I could use some help as far as advice and to settle the debate.

So tell me, while descending in the dirt, sand, loose rocks, 15-26% grades, should I adopt a front brake only style? I think not but I could be wrong. I'm thinking in these conditions, steep grades, ruts, I'm going down either sliding or over the bars if I go front brake only!


My last MTB ride
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Old 11-06-09, 07:06 PM   #2
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I don't think using just one side is beneficial. A combination is better for braking. However, one obtains more braking power through the front than the rear. It's hard to brake a bad habit like braking only in the rear as it won't throw you over the bars. But, particularly downhill, you'll be able to brake harder using the front.
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Old 11-06-09, 07:43 PM   #3
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Use both brakes. Just as you've already discovered, it really depends on conditions. Try to brake harder before turning and less during turns. While turning it is better to use too much rear brake than front - a rear skid will actually help turn the bike while a front skid will likely put you on the ground. (Try not to skid anyway, it erodes the trails). If traction conditions are highly variable, hit the brakes harder in the grippier sections to scrub speed before you hit the slippery sections.

Sounds like you have a pretty good feel for it already - just ignore the idiots telling you not to use the rear brake. You might want to try experimenting with how much brake pressure it takes to skid the tires while going straight so that you can get a better feel for it. Just be careful with the front...
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Old 11-06-09, 08:02 PM   #4
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i very rarely use the rear brake on the downhill sections. just get your butt over the rear tire pick your line and use the front to control the decent.
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Old 11-06-09, 10:29 PM   #5
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a rear skid will actually help turn the bike while a front skid will likely put you on the ground.

You are absolutely right! You know ,that comment just sparked something in my memory. I saw a dude up in the mtns heading down about 3 years ago. He absolutely tore it up on the DH. I was thinking I'd see him over the edge on one of the turns he wa going so fast.

I saw him at the bottom and I said "how TF did you do that!?" He said he had lots of experience in off road motorcycles. I do remember seeing him skid the rear wheel around the turns. He said it helps to throw the rear wheel out to control the turn!..That's the fastest descending dude in the dirt that I'd ever seen. I tell ya I was shocked that he didn't fly over the edges down 300 feet.
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Old 11-06-09, 10:55 PM   #6
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we all know that on a mtb your front brake has 70% of your stopping power, however, when floating a sweet decient your not trying to stop, just to keep control of the bike, if you watch any good riding they feather the back brake and keep their butt over the rear tire.
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Old 11-07-09, 08:26 AM   #7
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Most new riders under-use the front brake (or don't use it at all) and over-use the rear. Due to weight transfer you'll probably find the front brake doing most (but often not all) of the braking. The only time I use 100% front brake is when my rear wheel is in the air (or close to it). If you're skidding your rear tire then you probably should be using less rear and more front brake. I personally find dragging the rear tire down a downhill to be bad form (and it erodes the trail).

So: get your weight over the rear, use both brakes, and search for the braking limit on both brakes. You'll likely find yourself doing much more braking with the front than the rear.
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Old 11-07-09, 08:50 AM   #8
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OP: DH road biking "skills" is an oxymoron, wouldn't ya say
Front brake-power
Rear brake-control
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Old 11-07-09, 09:39 AM   #9
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I use 60/40...skidding around a corner is just wrong, if you have seen a "pro" skid he/she was likely drifting, which doesn't use the rear brake btw. Please, if you come to whistler, do not skid...you will ruin trails. Us locals call them braking bumps and we mock the amateur style of using brakes at the wrong time. Come out here and try and follow peaty or Gracia. They don't skid unless they are screwing around.

Ok to elaborate on my 60/40. Its truly a balance based on traction. Thats the best way I can put it. You learn your terrain, understand your rubber and use the brakes based on instinct, which I find usually hits around 60% front and 40% rear. In a truly SANDY situation, I am not sure exactly what ratio but I imagine rear may be more important than usual as yo would just wash out the front, but honestly, I live in a land with dirt, rain and rock faces.

Oh and even if you use the rear, feather it. Like manual ABS (I know the irony)...Skidding is not controlling or going fast.

Enjoy, I admire roadies going downhill, at full clip, it is impressive
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Old 11-07-09, 09:45 AM   #10
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Enjoy, I admire roadies going downhill, at full clip, it is impressive
Now ya had to be all helpful and supportive while I was building up to my standard


"okay ya got me, there is some skill in DH road biking, but ma 6 y.o. has mastered it though" reply


I'm trying to set up some domino's here and ya just sneezed on 'em




Yes...OP...there is skill in it. I just wanted to add some spice before I became agreeable
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Old 11-07-09, 09:55 AM   #11
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Still doesn't mean you have to agree ...if you had kept quiet your salty response still would have gotten the response you wanted
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Old 11-07-09, 05:12 PM   #12
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Steering while the front brake is on is pretty difficult in the tech stuff, but the braking power is a fact. Feathering is critical, as is knowing when to ease off the front brakes. I agree excessive rear wheel skidding is bad form, but having the ability to slide the back end around for maneuvering is also very useful. I don't think this is a black and white issue, but I have a maxim - front brakes for stopping, back for steering - agree or disagree, its something that helped my downhill riding improve. Good luck, Mr. Beanz. Go fast, take chances.
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Old 11-07-09, 07:25 PM   #13
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Thanks of the replies. Believe me , I will be trying to apply any tips given here, I need 'em!
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