As a former fixed gear newbie, the repeat topics are useful for many, and I would agree with the addition of a sticky.
I have also ridden fixed with both front and rear brakes, front only, and even brakeless. When I rode brakeless, i was riding slowly and in poor road conditions (snow) which would have prevented me from going faster anyways. I think that in such cases where the speeds are slower, riding brakeless is acceptable, especially due to the danger of a front brake in slippery conditions. I can't imagine why you'd want to avoid putting on a front brake at all though, unless it was on a bike intended exclusively for winter riding, or for a purpose-built bike like a polo bike.
Also, I have on multiple occasions been glad to have a rear brake, mostly on rough hills or when my front brake was improperly adjusted.
In many collisions involving one vehicle impacting another vehicle from behind, the operator of the vehicle in the rear is found to be at fault as he/she should keep a safe stopping distance from the vehicle in front, even in the case of sudden stops. Mitigating factors would be if the vehicle in front pulled out in front of the one in the rear, had non-functioning taillights, etc...
What a fascinating conversation.
I appreciate everyone's courtesy and mutual respect.
I think mihlbach and I agree on many points, and, if we disagree, I think we disagree on points of interpretation.Originally Posted by mihlbach
If I understand mihlbach correctly, he disagrees with my encouragement to attempt to ride brakeless with a brake; and, he disagrees with me because he thinks it important to develop front-braking skills.
I also think it important to develop front-braking skills, and especially so if one also rides a coasting bike.
I don't think of a front brake as something to shun or avoid, nor do I think of it as a crutch.
That said, I think the conscious practice of riding a fixed gear bike AS IF one does not have a front brake will bring out pleasures and skills that one might otherwise not have realized.
I wrote "Attempting to ride without using the front brake will change a rider's attitude and style, and, in the long run, will allow a rider to go faster with more safety;" to which LoRok replied:
Mihlbach responded to LoRok:Originally Posted by LoRok
Yes, I ride at a very low gear ratio (61 gear inches) and I spin at high speeds.Originally Posted by mihlbach
Stoplights included, at 61 gear inches I average almost exactly 15 mph around town, or, the equivalent of a four-minute mile.
For a goodly portion of my fixed gear riding days, I formerly rode at a very high gear ratio (82 gear inches) and, stoplights included, in those days I averaged 19.7 mph.
I have experimented A LOT with gear ratios, and I have a wall in my garage covered with chain rings and cogs of all sizes.
I also have for each chain ring and cog combination a dedicated chain of proper length.
I can quickly and easily change my gear ratio, and I have done so regularly for over five years, sometimes at a whim.
I have found that as I go up in gear inches, from 56 gear inches to 82 gear inches, it gets progressively more difficult to brake without a brake and without skidding.
At 72 gear inches and above I need a brake, or I need to skid.
I consider skidding inadequate, and I ride with expensive tires, and so a brake represents my only option, and, really, in terms of comfort and practicality, 65 gear inches corresponds to the tipping point at my age and weight (63 years and 225 lbs).
At age 25 years and at 170 lbs of weight, I think I could easily ride brakeless at 72 gear inches, but not above that without skidding.
Until recently, if I have had a long commute and time mattered, I switched to a second fixed gear bike equipped with a front brake so that I could hit and maintain high speeds over a longer period of time.
However, my youngest son has started riding fixed, and I have configured the former high speed commuter bike for him at low gear inches and with a front brake.
On my son's bike I have installed an ultra-light single-pivot brake that CANNOT put him over the handle bars (his geared bike has a dual-pivot brake capable of putting him over the bars).
I'll give him a year of riding fixed before I start suggesting he try riding brakeless with a brake.
Sadly, yes.Originally Posted by milhlbach
I think about this about once a week, especially when riding fast in order to make up for time lost somewhere else in my day.
If you ride brakeless and have an accident, the other party's lawyers will have their way with you, and without lubrication.
Something like that.Originally Posted by Nuggetross
In Judo and in a yoga-like discipline called FELDENKRAIS, one sometimes uses a CONSTRAINT in order to move beyond a former limitation.
If one tries to ride brakeless with a brake, he has given himself a constraint for the purposes of growth.
And, he has set himself up for some fun, as well.
I've quoted mihlbach out of context, and it may confuse the issue.Originally Posted by mihlbach
That said, as a matter of principle, or as a constraint, I do not go faster downhill than I go up the same hill in the other direction.
Please note that even though I purposely slow down going down hill, I still average 15 mph, day in and day out (nights too).
When tempted to really spin myself to warp nine going downhill in a residential neighborhood, I imagine a small child stepping out from behind a car at the last second.
Yes: once one moves speed to the top of the priority list, a front brake becomes necessary.Originally Posted by mihlbach
A fixed gear bike has a relevantly and relatively reduced ability to decelerate, without a front brake, only at higher gear ratios.Originally Posted by mihlbach
Given mihlbach's reasonable and understandable priorities, he might NEVER want to "constrain" himself; and, therefore, he might always want a front brake.
For ME, the other advantages and pleasures of riding a fixed gear bike more than compensate for the high open-road speeds of a conventional geared bike.
I ride in a suburban-urban environment with street traffic, and I like the added agility, control and acceleration that I feel a fixed gear bike gives me.
I also like the artistic, mechanical and philosophical minimalism of a fixed gear bike, as well as the fact that I can put together a bike with much better components and at less weight for the dollar.
Scotland brings us to perhaps my favorite part of these types of conversations, and also, perhaps, the most difficult aspect to discuss with meaningfulness and respect.Originally Posted by Scotland Yard
Analogies only touch reality but briefly, and then they go their separate ways.
Nonetheless, imagine walking on a one foot wide painted line on the pavement.
Now, imagine walking on top of a one foot wide wall.
Make that a one foot wide wall, one foot high...six feet high...18 feet high...54 feet high...300 feet high.
Walking that one foot wide line becomes more and more difficult the higher one goes, but only in the mind.
Before I ever rode brakeless, I rode brakeless with a brake for a year.
I waited for a year to go by without me using my brake, and then I considered riding without a brake.
I will tell you that riding without a brake got my attention, and it keeps my attention.
I ride significantly differently, both internally, in my mind, and externally, on the road, without a brake compared to how I ride with a brake.
I like what riding brakeless (with or without a brake) does to me, inside.
I once applied for a job that seems dangerous to the casual observer, and not without reason.
The prospective employer had each candidate for the job interviewed twice by two different psychologists, specifically to find out WHY each candidate wanted the job (someone might want the job for the wrong or unsafe reasons).
I said that the demands of the job changed my internal state, and I liked the relative peace and quiet.
I got the job.
The process of riding a fixed gear bike, safely, without a brake, requires a different mind set; and, some people find this mind set pleasant and conducive to personal growth, both as a person and as a bike rider.
One can experience almost all of the benefits of riding brakeless, but with a brake, if he chooses to approach this practice as a wholesome discipline.
I think of it as riding a two-wheeled unicycle.
What really happened was. As I ride down a 2mile route down 5th Avenue (if u live in nyc u'll know it's pretty hectic), I made sure to stay close to the left-most lane of the street between the parked cars and the traffic. The black limo in front of me seems unable to decide if he wanted to stay on the leftmost lane (where i'm on) and the one to the right. He made indecisive snake-like route for about 3 blocks, to which I figured I'll just stay behind in a distance and let him decide what he wanted to do. Then he made an attempt to go to the right lane again. In the middle of an intersection, the right lane slowed almost to a stop in traffic, so I figure I'll stick to my lane (the left) and keep going. Except he decided he'll come back to the left lane. The left lane is all empty, I expected after all this driving behavior he's trying to avoid traffic and get to wherever he's going, but having just drove out of the intersection, he came to an immediate stop, double parked. You are correct. I should've used better judgement. Maybe I should've pulled my brakes in the middle of an intersection when he decided to come back to the left lane for the last time. But I think sudden stop, parked right after an intersection where pedestrians cross the street and cars make a turn, especially double parking is the motorist's fault, not mine.
FWIW, he got out of his car and apologized.
When riding in traffic, I assume every car passing me on the left intends to turn right in front of me at the worst possible moment, and I create an escape or stopping distance, accordingly.
When I follow a car in traffic, I assume the driver will slam on his brakes without warning or cause, at the worst possible moment, and I create space for stopping or escaping, accordingly.
When I come upon a street entering from the right, I assume a car will come from right at an impossible speed and that the driver will try to hit me as an act of cruelty, and I plan space for stopping or escaping, accordingly.
Every now and then, I still get surprised by drivers and I must resort to my superior bike-riding skills in order to escape an accident.
The statistics indicate, given the number of miles I ride each year, I will have a significant accident involving some small or great injury to me, on the average of every seven years.
Nonetheless, I find my skill and awareness increasing with every day I ride.
I do not ride "ballistically," and, even on coasting bikes, I do not rely on my brakes to avoid an accident.
Even on those rare occasions when I drive an automobile, if I need to use my brakes in an emergency manner, I look to myself for the cause and not to the other driver.
Having chosen to dance with elephants, we ought to recognize the elephants will more likely step on our toes than we on theirs; and, therefore, it makes sense to pay close attention to what we do with our toes in relation to theirs.
Wow. Good thread.
I have no beef against brakeless, and most of the time I ride "as if" I were brakeless (mostly backpedaling and the occasional skip stop when going at low speeds), but I'm VERY MUCH for having a brake. My front brake already saved my ass last week, when I had a short lapse of attention, went to cross an intersection assuming i was in the clear, and ALMOST got my ass ran over by a car that seemed to come out of thin air. If I hadn't squeezed on that front brake lever I would've gotten owned... and I would have totally been at fault.
I'm not saying having a brake is an excuse to ride recklessly. I'm just saying that as a human, I'm bound to make the occasional mistake when I ride and I'm happy to have my front brake as a lifeline for those occasions.
Ken, I think what you are describing is what has been called "defensive driving", and these principles apply equally well whether you are operating an auto, motorcycle or bicycle. When I'm operating any vehicle, and that includes a bicycle, my mind is constantly engaged in my ever changing surroundings, scanning left and right, front and back, trying to stay several steps in front of future unfolding events, predicting, planning a solution such as escape routes. I try not to get boxed in to the point that I don't have any satisfactory outs. Using my brakes is the last resort for accident avoidance, since it doesn't always offer a safe result, but sometimes there is no other choice. You can only stop so fast, regardless of the braking system due to surface condtions and the limitations imposed by the laws of physics. I believe in having a front brake as a minimum on all my road bikes, whether freewheeling or not, and knowing how to use it maximally under normal conditions.
Bicycle racing, particularly track racing, has greatly enhanced my predictive and reactive skills, and I recommend that everyone who can possibly do so try mass start track racing as a means to this end. I also find that riding off road on an MTB or cross bike helps one learn how to deal with slippery conditions on a 2-wheeled vehicle. I know for sure than I'm a much better road rider as a result.
You ride defensively according to your predicting traffic-activities through your individual or collective experiences with varying reflex and some such. But you really need to be aware that the future events are still unknown variable no matter how talented or experienced you are. A little precaution go a looooong way.
That being said you need to understand people go at it from different angles and according to their needs (and one's own tastes). Some people can do it many ways other than having brakes. Some people live in uber busy urban area with extremely self-unaware pedestrians who behave erratically at the best of time. ... and remember it is your taste as you which braking method / theory you call primary and secondary.
I don't believe tracking racing expertise with predictive and reactive skill can't be count much in different situations people face outside of tracks. (they are constantly changing too) The point of racing on track is to minimize distracting variables and stimuli so that competitors can concentrate on one thing, to go fast (for relatively short fixed distances). ... I am not discounting track racer tho; they are great in just other ways.
Logically, you being such a successful rider outside track indicates you do well in other areas. Man, I envy you. People so naturally good that they don't even recognize what make em great. ... I am too noob for that.
How do i tweak my brakes so it will be good for skidding?