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Singlespeed & Fixed Gear "I still feel that variable gears are only for people over forty-five. Isn't it better to triumph by the strength of your muscles than by the artifice of a derailer? We are getting soft...As for me, give me a fixed gear!"-- Henri Desgrange (31 January 1865 - 16 August 1940)

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Old 10-22-09, 11:11 AM   #1
RW Cook
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front brake - back brake?

I'd like to hear peoples thoughts on a single brake - front vs back on a SS. I have a back brake only on mine with the paranoid thought of locking up the front and sailing over the bars. I am willing to lock up the back and replace a $20 tire. This is suburban use typically less than 20 mph and a kid or poorly managed dog crossing my path.
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Old 10-22-09, 11:15 AM   #2
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I suggest you get a foam mat or something and practice trying to brake yourself over the handlebars.

You have to be really unfamiliar with your bike for that to happen.



That said... a rear brake is probably good enough for you. It has less stopping power than a front brake but most casual cyclists get by just fine using nothing but their rear.
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Old 10-22-09, 11:16 AM   #3
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You should definitely have two brakes if you're running ss, and just LEARN how to use a front brake. You need to be shifting your weight rearward on the bike if you're going to be heavily engaging the front brake to avoid flipping over. A front brake, when used properly, has much more stopping power than just a rear brake. Also, brake hard, but don't lock the wheels. Brakes are going to be a far more efficient way of stopping than skidding will be (skidding is just fun, on a fixed gear), as long as you use them correctly.
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Old 10-22-09, 11:25 AM   #4
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I have found that it isn't that easy to bring yourself over the handlebars. I use the front brake on my fg on a regular basis, and have braked relatively hard on occasions. Just practice and you should be fine.
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Old 10-22-09, 11:26 AM   #5
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You should definitely have two brakes if you're running ss, and just LEARN how to use a front brake. You need to be shifting your weight rearward on the bike if you're going to be heavily engaging the front brake to avoid flipping over. A front brake, when used properly, has much more stopping power than just a rear brake. Also, brake hard, but don't lock the wheels. Brakes are going to be a far more efficient way of stopping than skidding will be (skidding is just fun, on a fixed gear), as long as you use them correctly.
This. Really bad things can happen even at 20 mph, so you should have 2 brakes. But use the front.
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Old 10-22-09, 11:30 AM   #6
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Oh btw read this... http://sheldonbrown.com/brakturn.html
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Old 10-22-09, 11:34 AM   #7
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learn to use a combination of squeezing your front brake and coming off your saddle
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Old 10-22-09, 11:39 AM   #8
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i always find it funny how a lot of my friends will have to replace their rear brake pads while their front ones look brand new.
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Old 10-22-09, 11:46 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RW Cook View Post
I'd like to hear peoples thoughts on a single brake - front vs back on a SS. I have a back brake only on mine with the paranoid thought of locking up the front and sailing over the bars. I am willing to lock up the back and replace a $20 tire. This is suburban use typically less than 20 mph and a kid or poorly managed dog crossing my path.
here is another paranoid thought: how about locking your rear wheel, skidding into a car that suddenly stopped in front of you, hitting it with your front wheel, sailing over the bars and on top of that bending a fork... think this thought over and over again and it might convince you to get a front brake

What I meant to say is you can not stop fast with rear brake only.
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Old 10-22-09, 11:50 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by mrvile View Post
Yes, definitely read this, and also switch your front brake lever for right hand use (unless you are a lefty) for better control like Sheldon says, I do. Although all my freewheeling bikes, be they SS, multi derailleur, internal hub etc. have front and rear brakes, I only use the front brake under normal good traction conditions, and the rear is there only for when conditions get slippery. Oh, and yes, I once did manage to lock up the front wheel and endo the bars, but that was 42 years ago.
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Old 10-23-09, 09:40 AM   #11
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i always find it funny how a lot of my friends will have to replace their rear brake pads while their front ones look brand new.
this.
I recently got a 80s peugeot from a friend who unfortunately is leaving the country. Her rear brakes were used to a point where it doesn't even brake properly and the front one looks just brand new.

anyway. I also think that on a SS, you should have two brakes. Even if u don't use one of them, just for added security reasons. You never know when u need it. Can't hurt.
But I do see a lot of ppl on my commute recently that I thought they were riding a FG since I don't see a rear brake behind them and then I see them coasting. Is that a new trend now? One brake on a SS?
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Old 10-23-09, 09:51 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by mrvile View Post
THIS


I read this when I started out riding and it has become instinctual to scoot my butt back when I brake hard. I've avoided collisions because I could slam the front brake and not flip over. I almost never use the rear brake anyway, it's only good for checking my speed and alternating brakes on long/steep descents.

Last edited by hairnet; 10-23-09 at 09:57 AM.
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Old 10-23-09, 01:20 PM   #13
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I almost never use the rear brake anyway, it's only good for checking my speed and alternating brakes on long/steep descents.
Yes and: http://sheldonbrown.com/brakturn.html#rearuse
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Old 10-23-09, 02:02 PM   #14
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......it has become instinctual to scoot my butt back when I brake hard. I've avoided collisions because I could slam the front brake and not flip over.
+1.

I too do this when I use the front brake, which is always except under slippery conditions. It helps for 2 reasons: First, it forces you to stretch out, which lowers your body's center of gravity and reduces the overturning moment that wants to pivot you over the bars. Second, it moves your CG back and increases the resisting moment that keeps your rear wheel from lifting off the road. As long as the overturning moment does not exceed the resisting moment, you won't flip or have the rear come around and become unstable. It's all simple physics.
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Old 10-23-09, 02:16 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by RW Cook View Post
have a back brake only on mine with the paranoid thought of locking up the front and sailing over the bars.
But you aren't paranoid about snapping a brake cable and running into an intersection/curve/pedestrian/child/dog/cliff, overheating a rim on a long decent and blowing out, loosing most of your braking power and thus stopping distance, etc, etc, etc....

Would you drive a car with only a hand/parking brake?
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Old 10-23-09, 02:16 PM   #16
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Is that a new trend now? One brake on a SS?
Unfortunately it is.
I see it all too often and it makes me shake my head.
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Old 10-23-09, 03:45 PM   #17
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your puny hipster fingers can't brake hard enough to send you over the handlebars.
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Old 10-23-09, 04:52 PM   #18
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your puny hipster fingers can't brake hard enough to send you over the handlebars.

speaking of hispters, I bought a pair of jeans and it turned out being a bit too small for me. It's really tight around my thighs, so I decided to ride for a few hours and maybe stretch the pants. I just couldn't go very fast because they restricted my movement. How do those hipsters do it in skin tight pants?
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Old 10-23-09, 04:56 PM   #19
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You're going to wish you had both front and rear brakes during long or steep descents when running a SS. You can pick up a lot of speed coasting down hill.
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Old 10-23-09, 05:03 PM   #20
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speaking of hispters, I bought a pair of jeans and it turned out being a bit too small for me. It's really tight around my thighs, so I decided to ride for a few hours and maybe stretch the pants. I just couldn't go very fast because they restricted my movement. How do those hipsters do it in skin tight pants?
Determination. Actually I have no idea. I have a couple pairs of really tight pants (yeah I rock that sometimes too) that I wear on days that I know I'm not going to be riding, but sometimes I have to ride in those pants anyway and it always sucks.
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Old 10-23-09, 08:19 PM   #21
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... but most casual cyclists get by just fine using nothing but their rear.
This is indeed very true given the way I've seen some cyclist ride. (couldn't resist that one).
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Old 10-23-09, 09:00 PM   #22
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I'm currently riding SS with only a front brake.

It's perfectly adequate for my braking needs in a completely flat town, but it's still a temporary thing while I wait for my cog to arrive. If I was planning to ride the bike for an extended period of time as a single speed, I'd definitely add a rear brake.
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Old 10-23-09, 09:14 PM   #23
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The reality is that brakes in general are not for "us". They are for "them". "They" don't really care about "us" and therefore do not see "us". On a fixed gear bike there really is no need for a rear brake because of back pedaling pressure. Under normal circumstances, backpedaling brings a fixed to a very comfortable stop. I've found it best to drop my heels which allows for more technique to be used versus pure muscle. However, on a SS you need front and rear. It's all about avoiding "them". Rear brakes get worn out because most people, most of the time are not emergency stopping. They are controlled stopping. The rear is weaker and therefore more comfortable. The front is much more powerful. You should pro-actively practice stopping with the front brake only. You can do it anywhere. Start slow and spin yourself up to dragging the bike to a stop from essentially max speed. This process will give you an intimate relationship with your front brake thus doing away with the heebie-jeebies of using it. On a SS you really want both brakes and you really want to know the power and limitations of both. Of course, fixed riders need to do the same thing with the front brake. Oh, it doesn't hurt to have the brake lever that is very close to your hand position when riding normally. I'm not sure why people put brake levers in weird locations. Brakes are good things. They are not to be shunned and they do not somehow equal a reduced skill set. This mentality is ludicrous. Brakeless bikes are for dedicated track and trick use. Why? Because "they" aren't in these environments. It's just "us" and "we" have common sense and respect for others.
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Old 10-23-09, 09:21 PM   #24
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Braking 101 - a public service message from your Uncle Sixty.
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Old 10-24-09, 01:36 AM   #25
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Sixty Fiver,

Bravo!
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