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Mountain Bike brakes - are they backwards??

Old 08-04-18, 11:12 AM
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Mountain Bike brakes - are they backwards??

Sorry, just don't know if there are different rules/techniques for mountain bike and road bikes.

Lady gave me an older Norco Arctic mountain bike / hybrid mixte frame. The brakes are set up so that the right lever works the front brake and the left lever works the rear brake. I asked her and she said BITD when she bought it she was told that mountain bikes are "different than road bikes" and this was the right way for mountain bikes to be set up. I looked u[p photos of similar bikes on line and only saw the right /rear, left/front configurations I am used to. It seems in Europe some had right front braking but not over here. I think it might be awkward for someone who is used to one system having to switch braking styles when changing bikes. I was going to switch them to what I know as "normal" but thought I'd ask here in case I am making a mistake
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Old 08-04-18, 11:15 AM
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For me, right lever, front brake is the correct way.
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Old 08-04-18, 11:18 AM
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No, mountain bikes are set up to the same standard as any other bikes. However, I recall reading in some MTB magazine in the 90's about some mountain bike racer who came from a motocross (motorcycle) background who always had his levers set up the opposite way because he was used to that - i guess motocross bikes are like that. So it's not unheard of to have mountain bikes set up backwards. But it's not normal.
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Old 08-04-18, 11:18 AM
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There's no carved in stone normal. Some have more weakness in one hand and you want the front brake in your strongest hand.
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Old 08-04-18, 11:34 AM
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They're pretty much all set up like that over here in the uk, whatever type of bike too! front brake is on the right, same as motorcycles
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Old 08-04-18, 12:06 PM
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Go ahead and put hook whichever lever to whichever brake you want.
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Old 08-04-18, 12:07 PM
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Canada , adopting British Moto style? May be a Royal decree behind it,
Crown Commision..

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Old 08-04-18, 12:30 PM
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Thanks to all for replying.

I should have said that the bike is not a keeper, it's too small for me. My worry is that I will pass it on to someone who will get jammed up, though perhaps I am over thinking it. I guess an option is to wait and speak with next owner and ask a preference and simply hook cables up then....
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Old 08-04-18, 12:36 PM
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There are some ”common” reasons for setting a bike up with another brake ”handedness” than what’s considered the norm:
- importing the bike, or the brakes from a different market
- motorcyclists preferring to stay with what they’re used to
- personal preference

But I’ve never heard of ”this is a MTB” as a reason for a different brake handedness.
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Old 08-04-18, 12:54 PM
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A year ago I was pounding it hard up a hill. Lights changed... not so much of an emergency stop... but suddenly I found myself doing a somersault.

It puzzled me about what happened. Part of it was that I had poor body position powering it up the hill, standing with forward mass.

However, I also discovered that I had goofed and done Right/Front. I had rotated bike use some, so all of my other bikes are configured Right/Rear. And, I typically drag the rear brake a bit harder than the front.

Anyway, since, I have chosen to rewire that bike to conform to the rest of my bikes.
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Old 08-05-18, 09:23 AM
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England, Japan, Australia and other locations that drive on the left side of the road tend (but not always) set up bikes with right front/left rear braking.

Many department store bikes in the 1960s imported from Japan came that way.
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Old 08-05-18, 09:31 AM
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Originally Posted by robo View Post
No, mountain bikes are set up to the same standard as any other bikes. However, I recall reading in some MTB magazine in the 90's about some mountain bike racer who came from a motocross (motorcycle) background who always had his levers set up the opposite way because he was used to that - i guess motocross bikes are like that. So it's not unheard of to have mountain bikes set up backwards. But it's not normal.
Motorcycles are like that because the clutch is on the left. Bicycles are set up with the front on the left because people are afraid of going over the bars if they brake too hard so the (mostly) dominate right hand is used for the weaker brake. That's the "normal" set up. But it's easy to swap if the brakes are mechanical. All you have to do it move the cables around.
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Old 08-05-18, 09:41 AM
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And cyclo-cross racing , to be able to slow down to the right speed ,
just before jumping a barrier, shouldering your bike, to run with it,
with both feet on the left side of the bike , only 1 on the pedal .

rear brake on left side has advantages..

I used that on my laiden touring bike .. It was useful when ..
I had a really steep hill, so , with the rear brake lever nearest me ,
while using my '2 feet gear'
I could hold it to keep the bike from rolling back down hill while I rested, a bit.





...
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Old 08-05-18, 09:43 AM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
Motorcycles are like that because the clutch is on the left. Bicycles are set up with the front on the left because people are afraid of going over the bars if they brake too hard so the (mostly) dominate right hand is used for the weaker brake. That's the "normal" set up. But it's easy to swap if the brakes are mechanical. All you have to do it move the cables around.
I don't think a pseduo "dominance" matters. It comes down to what you are used to and muscle memory. It's not like in the big scheme of things brakes are designed to compensate for some random difference in ability between a random persons individual difference in hand strength. Like you said.. You have two places for two brakes to go, pick one. It's not like there are a lot of left handers in the US or right handers in the UK/EU/Asia flipping over their bars.

Last edited by u235; 08-05-18 at 09:48 AM.
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Old 08-05-18, 10:03 AM
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Originally Posted by u235 View Post
I don't think a pseduo "dominance" matters. It comes down to what you are used to and muscle memory. It's not like in the big scheme of things brakes are setup to compensate for some random difference in ability between a random persons individual difference in hand strength. You have two places for two brakes to go, pick one.
What we are "used" to is the front brake on the left hand. It's even a legal requirement from the CPSC

(b) Hand levers have to be on the handlebars and readily usable. The distance between middle of a hand lever and the handlebar may be no wider than 3 ½ inches (3 inches for levers on sidewalk bicycles). Unless a customer specifies otherwise, the hand lever that operates the rear brake must be on the right handlebar. The lever that operates the front brake must be on the left handlebar. A lever that operates both brakes may be on either handlebar. Please note that, if a bicycle has hand lever extensions, all tests are conducted with the extensions in place.
Most people will go with the flow and just leave the front brake on the left.

If it were just a case of "pick one", I'd expect to see much more variance in brake placement. I can count on one hand the number of right/front brake setups I've seen...and I've worked on a whole lot of bikes (about 11,000) over the last 8 years. It may be a myth that putting the front brake on the right will cause more pitch-overs but it is a powerful myth.
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Old 08-05-18, 11:03 AM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
What we are "used" to is the front brake on the left hand. It's even a legal requirement from the CPSC



Most people will go with the flow and just leave the front brake on the left.

If it were just a case of "pick one", I'd expect to see much more variance in brake placement. I can count on one hand the number of right/front brake setups I've seen...and I've worked on a whole lot of bikes (about 11,000) over the last 8 years. It may be a myth that putting the front brake on the right will cause more pitch-overs but it is a powerful myth.
As a lefty... I have no plans to switch away from left front because that is what I always used, but I don't think it would be hard to get used to. Why bother. If I was switched and selling, I'd switch it back. Back to the OP. Someone either specifically wanted it opposite or someone put it together wrong a long time ago and it just stayed that way. Like a fork on backwards
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Old 08-05-18, 01:44 PM
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The only people I have personally known that have set their brakes up right-front are those who regularly ride motorcycles, so they want the bike to have the same braking "handedness" as the motorcycle. And that's like... two people.

Every bike I've ever owned/ridden has been left-front. I could never change. Undoing this much muscle memory at my age might be impossible. Like trying to learn how to bowl with the opposite hand.
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Old 08-05-18, 06:27 PM
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When my family visited my folks a number of months ago, I borrowed one of my dad's friend's bikes for the week. It was an older Trek ZX8500 or something (a '90s aluminum MTB) and he had the brake levers reversed for the stated reason (motorcycle rider). In fact, the brake levers and shift levers were early Deore integrated ones, so not only were the brakes reversed, but the shifting was reversed as well. That's right -- he didn't run new cables -- he actually reversed and flipped the levers!

It was interesting how quickly I was able to adapt to that setup for the week. I wouldn't say that I ever got fluent with it, and there were definitely times where I wanted to grab a few sprockets on the cassette and ended up changing chain rings on the front. But I did find it pretty easy to "switch hit" for the week.
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Old 08-05-18, 06:33 PM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
It may be a myth that putting the front brake on the right will cause more pitch-overs but it is a powerful myth.
I think it may have more to do with braking stability than end-overs. With one hand off the bar (such as when signaling your intentions to traffic), I find the bike more stable decelerating with rear brake vs. front brake. I think a front tire skid/slide is more likely than someone going over the bars, and a front tire skid is much less controllable (and an almost guaranteed lay-down) than a rear tire skid. I think this may be one of the more compelling reasons for right/rear brakes in countries with right-hand traffic.
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Old 08-05-18, 09:30 PM
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On my MTBs I always mount my rear mech and rear brake on the right. (right = rear/ left = front). Part of my reasoning is the fabled "endo myth." My right hand is dominate, so I have that pulling the rear rather than the front brake.
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Old 08-06-18, 07:39 AM
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Originally Posted by u235 View Post
As a lefty... I have no plans to switch away from left front because that is what I always used, but I don't think it would be hard to get used to. Why bother. If I was switched and selling, I'd switch it back. Back to the OP. Someone either specifically wanted it opposite or someone put it together wrong a long time ago and it just stayed that way. Like a fork on backwards
I didn't say that I actually believe the myth that using your dominant hand...which for most people is the right one...on the front brake will cause endos, only that the myth exists and is likely the reason for putting the front brake on the left hand. It's an uphill battle to convince people that what they think is often wrong. I've fought a lot of uphill battles and this is one that is just too minor to worry about.

Originally Posted by DrIsotope View Post
The only people I have personally known that have set their brakes up right-front are those who regularly ride motorcycles, so they want the bike to have the same braking "handedness" as the motorcycle. And that's like... two people.

Every bike I've ever owned/ridden has been left-front. I could never change. Undoing this much muscle memory at my age might be impossible. Like trying to learn how to bowl with the opposite hand.
First, I don't believe in "muscle memory". My brain controls my muscles not the other way around. As for learning how to do things with your nondominant hand, it's easier then you think. I am right handed but I've taught myself how to throw a yoyo left handed and how to fly cast left handed...it comes in handy when you have a lot of brush on your right side.

I've even learned how to bowl left handed. One of my coworkers broke her right hand before a company bowling party and, in solidarity, I bowled left handed with her. I even managed to bowl several strikes left handed...well at least 3 in 4 games. That's about as many as I'd bowl right handed. I'm not very good at left handed bowling but I'm not very good a bowling in general. The curious thing that I noticed was how my hip and shoulder hurt from using it differently.

Originally Posted by hokiefyd View Post
I think it may have more to do with braking stability than end-overs. With one hand off the bar (such as when signaling your intentions to traffic), I find the bike more stable decelerating with rear brake vs. front brake. I think a front tire skid/slide is more likely than someone going over the bars, and a front tire skid is much less controllable (and an almost guaranteed lay-down) than a rear tire skid. I think this may be one of the more compelling reasons for right/rear brakes in countries with right-hand traffic.
Front tires on bicycles don't skid on dry pavement. You can't develop enough stopping power in the brakes to overcome the friction between the tire and a dry road surface. The bicycle and rider rotate around the center of mass over the front wheel before the front wheel will skid. In other words, you go over the bars.
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Old 08-06-18, 07:49 AM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
First, I don't believe in "muscle memory". My brain controls my muscles not the other way around. As for learning how to do things with your nondominant hand, it's easier then you think. I am right handed but I've taught myself how to throw a yoyo left handed and how to fly cast left handed...it comes in handy when you have a lot of brush on your right side.

I've even learned how to bowl left handed. One of my coworkers broke her right hand before a company bowling party and, in solidarity, I bowled left handed with her. I even managed to bowl several strikes left handed...well at least 3 in 4 games. That's about as many as I'd bowl right handed. I'm not very good at left handed bowling but I'm not very good a bowling in general. The curious thing that I noticed was how my hip and shoulder hurt from using it differently.
Muscle memory doesn't exist in the muscle, it exists in the brain, and it is a very real thing. If it wasn't, you would be able to hop right on this and just pedal away:

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Old 08-06-18, 09:02 AM
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Originally Posted by DrIsotope View Post
Muscle memory doesn't exist in the muscle, it exists in the brain, and it is a very real thing. If it wasn't, you would be able to hop right on this and just pedal away:
That's just motor functions and learning. If "muscle memory" existed the way that most people think about it, the guy in the video should have been able to hop on the bike at around 5:13 in the video and just started riding. He was obviously struggling at doing something that he had learned before but he should have been able to access his "muscle memory" to just ride away if "muscle memory" really exists. He had to "think" about how to ride a normal bike again, just as he had to "think" about how to ride a bike with reverse steering.

But, most of the time I've heard people talk about "muscle memory" they act like if it is something that exists in the physical muscle. Weight lifters, for example, tend to think of it as the way the muscle reacts to training, not the way the brain controls the muscle. In other words, not as a memory of a motor function but some nebulous thing that exists in the cells of the muscle.
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Old 08-06-18, 10:24 AM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
Front tires on bicycles don't skid on dry pavement. You can't develop enough stopping power in the brakes to overcome the friction between the tire and a dry road surface. The bicycle and rider rotate around the center of mass over the front wheel before the front wheel will skid. In other words, you go over the bars.
There are a variety of situations where a front tire could skid, such as when on anything other than dry pavement; perhaps an unpaved road shoulder, a road gutter with wet leaves, wet paint stripes or wet metal grates, etc. Road shoulders are more likely to have uneven pavement (road camber) and you may also be navigating around obstacles such as parked cars, sewer grates, or other road furniture. I imagine that adding a turning component would increase the chances for a skid, especially if the tire is already on a wet surface. I think these types of situations are compelling scenarios for braking with the rear brake if only one brake is used (such as when signaling to other traffic).
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Old 08-06-18, 12:06 PM
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Originally Posted by DrIsotope View Post
Muscle memory doesn't exist in the muscle, it exists in the brain, and it is a very real thing. If it wasn't, you would be able to hop right on this and just pedal away:
Getting off topic but I see it both ways... The muscle memory is the ability to pull and modulate the brake with your hand(s). You can already do that with both hands, you learned that motion and do it now. It is just mental from that point and remembering WHICH handle to pull, your hands know how. That is far different from trying to ride that contraption which requires a complete relearn. We could all hop on a coaster brake bike and it would take no time at all to get used to it, it might take a bit to get used to a fixie though. I am a lefty but over time for whatever reasons I learned to do of things right handed like scissors, golf (but putt lefty), no goofy ski/board, computer mouse, wipe by butt, hold a tablet/smartphone/remote control right handed etc. I threw "wipe butt" in there not really as a joke, I had surgery on my right hand in the past and realized I can't really wipe left handed. Try it sometime. Switching to something different with those is much different then just swapping brake cables. They are complete relearn.

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