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Learning how to keep off the brakes

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Learning how to keep off the brakes

Old 10-09-19, 10:00 PM
  #1  
NoWhammies
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Learning how to keep off the brakes

Still new to mountain biking. I can probably count on two hands the number of times I've been out riding. Tonight I did my most challenging ride yet. The ride was a lot of fun.

I did notice though that throughout all of my rides I'm dragging the rear brake for a lot of the downhill. And even then, I'm keeping my finger on the front brake, dragging it frequently.

Tonight I fell and the reason for the fall was because I slowed my momentum so much so that I couldn't roll over the drop. Then I grabbed the front brake and rear of the bike lifted off the ground. I was able to unclip from the bike and plant both feet but still. I came to going over/falling down. Is there a secret/tip to trust the bike and keeping good momentum, but not so much that I'm flying over drops and whatnot?

Thank you.
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Old 10-10-19, 06:15 AM
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Since you are so new I think what you are hoping;
  1. Will come with more experience
  2. Can be helped by riding with more experienced riders
  3. could be improved by checking out this website - Ryan Leech great stuff and worth the investment.
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Old 10-10-19, 06:53 AM
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Skills come with time and learning, get some instruction/ ride with better riders. Go with elbow and knee pads. G Form works for me there. Get to know your bike, try some panic stops, practice your wheelies/ ledge ups. Bunny hops? Try riding on a 4" curb.
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Old 10-10-19, 07:19 AM
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Best way to stay off the brakes is to not pull the lever. Not sure if you are asking WHEN to brake, or how to stop braking when you know you shouldn’t be.

I think the problem some riders run into is that their brain sees the brake lever as a safety lever.... you pull on it when things get scary or uncertain. They make a dangerous situation stop.

But that is not what they are, and sometimes they make scary situations more dangerous.

Maybe you need to think of brakes as what they are and what they do: they make it harder for your bike to roll over stuff, pitch your weight forward, and usually make your tires more likely to break traction. Oh, and they also slow you down.

While some advocate always having a finger “covering” the brake lever, if you find you are unintentionally dragging the brakes a lot due to nervousness, put your finger back on the bar when you are not using them, at least until your brain gets OK with the bike rolling downhill freely. If you feel you are going too fast, brake hard enough to actually slow down enough so that you can let go of the brakes again for a bit. It is generally better to brake harder intermittently (and doing so where conditions are best, like on a smoother and less loose section) than dragging the brakes over everything..

And for any obstacle, be it a drop, root, or rock, or loose section, brake before or after, but not while you are going over it.

When coming up to a drop, you need to decide if you are going to roll it, launch it, or walk it. Stop and check it out first if you need to.

Assuming for now you are going to either roll it or walk it, you have to decide before you start rolling down it, and stick with it.
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Old 10-10-19, 09:04 AM
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Helps to keep in a medium gear too... so when you do stop you aren't seized up.

I've settled on flat pedals... for now... I tend to change it up every couple of years
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Old 10-10-19, 09:44 AM
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Yeah, skills will come with time. I get that. I just don't want to get in to bad habits and then have a difficult time breaking them.

The suggestion for lessons is a good one. There are a couple of mtb schools out here and I plan on signing up for a class. Unfortunately all of their group lessons are over for the season. I can sign up for a private lesson, but they are a bit on the costly side. Plus I need to approach the lesson with a goal. By that I mean I need to tell them/ask them about learning a skill. And there are so many skills I need to learn. Picking a clean line (learned that the hard way yesterday). Braking. Bunny hops. How to ride high on the berms. Etc. The list seems endless.

@Kapusta good advice re: don't break while going over the obstacle. I learned that the hard way too. What really bugs me is I have the skills to go over some of the obstacles. I just didn't have the confidence to be able to pull it off. Time I suppose. I can't expect to be an expert right out the gate.
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Old 10-10-19, 04:09 PM
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As everyone has said here, practice,practice,practice. It's a mind game too and sometimes I still "lose" that mind game. lol
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Old 10-10-19, 08:52 PM
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Definitely a mind game. And yeah. Practice. Good thing I'm coming in to the rainy season here where the roots and wood bridges get all wet and slick!
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Old 10-13-19, 03:00 AM
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Dial down the difficulty of what you're riding, at least for some of your rides. When you're more solidly in your comfort zone, be intentional about how you use your brakes--brake hard before turns with both brakes, try to get off them during the turn using, if necessary, only the gentlest touch of the rear to modulate speed. Build confidence slowly letting your bike run for greater distances at higher speeds. In steeper terrain with inconsistent traction, build confidence in letting your bike run over the sections with poor traction and brake harder in the sections with good traction. In some situations, it can be good to pick something that you'd be tempted to brake in that you KNOW you can ride fine, like an easier bermed turn at modest speed, without brakes and go into it with your fingers off the levers.

Be conscious of the fact that your tires can use their grip to brake, accelerate, or to change direction, and that braking will impact your traction negatively, as well as tend to bring your bike more upright.

You also just need to drill into your head that you may not brake when your wheel is not on the ground or your will be punished. Get your body weight way back and hope for the best in this case, brake afterwards.

And yeah, a lot of this will improve with just riding more.
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Old 10-14-19, 08:06 PM
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So some additional guidance please. I can dial down the difficulty a bit. There is a downhill trail near me that is fast and flowy. The trail has some berms that I can bank off, but to be honest I ride those burns on the low side. I brake going in to them and I brake while ON them. Would you call this trail easier? I can work on riding in to those berms and do laps up and down. It will work on my climbing skills. But man, it is a fast bike. The bike just flies over the hills that are built in to the trail.

I have been riding some more technical trails out my way, but I gently roll over the drops. And once I am over the drop, I pretty much apply the brakes again to slow my momentum. Again. Fear. Who knew learning new skills this late in life would be so challenging

Last edited by NoWhammies; 10-15-19 at 09:21 AM. Reason: Typo
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Old 10-14-19, 09:17 PM
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You are desperate for what they call flow on the trails.
The way to get this and not ride the brakes is to look way ahead of you down the trails.
This stops you braking hard in the turns because your brain has already registered what's
ahead and you automatically do the appropriate braking, maneuvering and gear shifting
to set yourself up for what ever's ahead.
Easier said and done to relax and do this but if you can everything flows.
If you can follow a rider who knows where the clean line is this will help.
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Old 10-15-19, 02:23 AM
  #12  
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Originally Posted by NoWhammies View Post
So some additional guidance please. I can dial down the difficulty a bit. There is a downhill trail near me that is fast and flowy. The trail has some berms that I can bank off, but to be honest I ride those burns on the low side. I brake going in to them and I brake while ON them. Would you call this trail easier? I can work on riding in to those berms and do laps up and down. It will work on my climbing skills. But man, it is a fast bike. The bike just flies over the hills that are built in to the trail.

I have been riding some more technical trails out my way, but I gently roll over the drops. And once I am over the drop, I pretty much apply the brakes again to slow my momentum. Again. Fear. How knew learning new skills this late in life would be so challenging
This is fine, and berms also allow you to maintain more traction while braking in a turn than a flat turn. You don't need to ride them without touching the brakes at all, you need to decrease your depence on dragging progressively. That said, for the sake of practice:
-Brake to a comically low speed before entering the berm.
-Keep your eye farther down the turn than you're accustomed to.
-Lightly scrub speed with your rear brake in the turn to stay comfortable.
-When you feel you can, let off the brake through the remainder of the turn.

Progressively scrub less, and get off the brake sooner. After a while, enter with a more reasonable degree of speed.

One of the challenges is that in most scenarios, keeping speed low is safer. However, you need to build the skill and comfort to let the bike run faster to deal with short sections of steep, loose terrain, cornering with limited traction, or clearing obstacles. So slowly build up your confidence in low risk scenarios. A lot of beginner riders (myself included, sometimes even today) try to keep speed down at all times. It's good to practice really slamming down the speed in places with good traction--as your riding progresses and you find yourself in more challenging terrain, you simply cannot ride some things at low speed, and it's therefor more important to be good at dumping speed when you can.

-
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Old 10-15-19, 09:26 AM
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Thank you @spokes5678 and @cpach. All very good tips. The next time I'm out on the trails (which won't be for another two weeks at a minimum) I'll log back in here and re-read what you've written. Then I'll have to remember it while I'm riding down the trials.

@cpach if I enter the berm with a comically slow speed, I will be at the bottom half of the berm. That's ok I suppose? Also, if I'm coming in to a tight berm, how am I keeping my eye further down the turn? ie. where am I looking when I can't see past the turn? Thank you.
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Old 10-15-19, 11:49 AM
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Just in general look down as far as you can, there are obvious limits to this depending on the radius of the turn. Your height in the berm will be relative to your travel speed--riding the berm high is the fastest way to get through, but it's OK to be lower in it if you're going slower. My suggestion is basically to start training to start entering turns at a speed that you need to minimally brake for.
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Old 10-15-19, 08:43 PM
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Thanks @cpach. Great suggestion re: speed to enter the berm at. Right now I'm bombing in there quick (due to how the trail is setup) and having to brake. I like the idea of entering the berm at a speed I can minimally brake for.
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Old 11-08-19, 01:19 PM
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On the trails you ride, find a decent sized root (but one you can ride over) that is perpendicular to the trail. Approach it at a low speed and note how it stops you! (or at least makes it difficult to get over). Approach it a a higher speed until you roll over it. Memory might serve to note that carrying more speed should make it easier to clear an obstacle, and allow you to brake less. Worked for a friend who had tried out (alone) a new mountain bike. When we rode the same trails, following me, they carried more speed and after the ride made the remark "I see now that some speed can be your friend". They said they tried (and cleared) more obstacles than when riding alone. It's a learning curve--on that ride, there was a difficult, root laden descent leading to a stream bed. I hesitated, but stayed off the brakes and cleared it. Don't think I'd have made it if I touched a brake, tho it took some doing-and I've ridden mtn.bikes for a while, just not lots lately.
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Old 11-08-19, 10:54 PM
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Thanks for the suggestion @freeranger. I will hopefully get out on the bike again this weekend. Life stuff has kept me off the mtb for the past couple of weeks.
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Old 11-11-19, 02:25 PM
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One of the best things I've done to improve is to practice the same section over and over again. We all tend to just ride, but find a section that's a little challenging, or maybe just a section you really enjoy, and then double back to practice that part repeatedly. Try different lines and techniques, a little more or less speed, different gearing, etc. In other words, practice.

I'm not saying spend an hour on one section, but maybe repeat a section a 5 or 6 times until you really nail it.
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Old 11-11-19, 02:36 PM
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It just might help to switch your brake cables so you don't hit the front brake too often. But you still have to be mindful of which is which. I have a front-brake habit because I'm a road rider. I have to remind myself to stay off the front brake unless it's safe when I'm off-road.
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Old 11-13-19, 05:35 PM
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Originally Posted by noglider View Post
It just might help to switch your brake cables so you don't hit the front brake too often. But you still have to be mindful of which is which. I have a front-brake habit because I'm a road rider. I have to remind myself to stay off the front brake unless it's safe when I'm off-road.
You just reminded me of my first trail ride 20yrs ago with my 12yr old son who with his bmx flew over a knoll, pulled aside to watch dad. Just as I came over it, I sucked a fly into my lungs. The reaction was an involuntary gripping of the brake triggers which at the time I had ahold of. Instant front lock and faceplant. We still laugh about it.
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Old 11-17-19, 07:13 PM
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Originally Posted by noglider View Post
It just might help to switch your brake cables so you don't hit the front brake too often. But you still have to be mindful of which is which. I have a front-brake habit because I'm a road rider. I have to remind myself to stay off the front brake unless it's safe when I'm off-road.
Actually, when off road riding you should be using your front brake more than your back brake
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Old 11-18-19, 01:00 AM
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Originally Posted by grubetown View Post
Actually, when off road riding you should be using your front brake more than your back brake
I've skidded my front wheel on loose surfaces. It doesn't end well.
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