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Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

Rear brakes

Old 10-19-10, 09:03 AM
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Rear brakes

May be this is a silly question, but I have to ask.

Once I started riding I used only rear breaks, "because breaking with front will cause you go over the bars" you know. Then I have read Sheldon about the proper breaking and started use only the front breaks. Since then I do not remember I ever needed the breaks on the rear. Even when I had broken wheel at a century ride, I was able to manage without rear breaks at all, because my wheel was not true, and I had to remove breaks to get to service.

I feel quite ok without rear breaks, or maybe I am too slow.

So, I just wondering, why do the bikes are having rear breaks? How often do you use them and in what situation?
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Old 10-19-10, 09:17 AM
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IMO the rear brake is almost worthless. It's that almost part though that makes them worth having. For one reason, if your front brake cable snaps (very rare I know) then you will at least be able to slow down. Rear brakes can take the edge off your speed but that's about all they are good for. Stopping occurs on the front brake.
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Old 10-19-10, 09:22 AM
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Rear brake will not stop you on high speed descent.
You will stop faster and more controlled using both.
If you use just the rear, or the rear too strongly, it will lock and skid and cause stability/handling issues. Don't do this.
Shift weight back, and brake harder with the front, you will not go over the bars. e.g. like with a car 60/40, or 70/30 split.

In a peloton, I might trim speed slightly using rear.
Rear is good backup if you blow a spoke in the front, wheel out of tru and front brake worthless, or front cable snaps, etc.
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Old 10-19-10, 09:22 AM
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I use the rear brake to make minor adjustments in speed, especially as an alternative to the front brake on an extended descent. I use the front brake when I need to stop immediately!

Personally, I try to get all of my breaking done before I leave the house...
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Old 10-19-10, 09:25 AM
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rear brakes are good for "settling the bike", in certain handling situations. a hard thing to describe, but also used with motorcycles. you know it when you do it. applying the brake in certain cornering (and straight line) situations changes the shift of energy in the bike and can help if done properly.

sorry, pretty vague I know. I don't have the words to describe it intellectually.
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Old 10-19-10, 09:32 AM
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Maximum braking occurs on the front wheel due to physics. The idea of flipping over you handle bars is what actually gives your front brake all the power. As your bike stops at its contact points front an back wheel, the center of mass (you) wants to keep going forward and since it is above the axle on the front wheel it likes to go forward and up, but this also causes your front wheel to be driven down into the pavement more increasing the grip between the front tire and the road and decrease the rear until you lose contact on the back and you have 100/0 split but still fairly effective braking, until you flip over. That said I have flipped a couple of bikes but always because of the front wheel getting stuck in some way, never from braking.
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Old 10-19-10, 09:34 AM
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The rear brake is useful in really slippery situations, gravel, wet grass, snow etc when is should be your main brake, because using the front in those situations is almost gauranteed to lock it up and cause a fall.

But yes, I am a sound proponent of ONLY using the front brake in good conditions. Locking up the rear is too easy and will instantly give you very little control, and the rear provides almost no stopping power.

To those that advocate using both front and rear, if you practice using both brakes, then when you are in an emergency situation, you will use both and risk locking the rear when you can least afford to, in an emergency.
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Old 10-19-10, 09:36 AM
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If Sheldon suggested only using the front brake,

He (very seldom Sheldon) was wrong. More likely he was pointing out the fact that your front brake (when both brakes are applied equally) has the majority of transffered enery going through it.

Both brakes are valid. And when you're out on the road & have forgotten to flip the quick release opener for the front, the rear can be very valid.
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Old 10-19-10, 09:38 AM
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FYI, I was taught "don't ever use the front brake or you'll endo," too. It took a while to undo that bad habit.

Originally Posted by Gege-Bubu
So, I just wondering, why do the bikes are having rear breaks? How often do you use them and in what situation?
Something happened to my front brake; I think I dorked it up when I put the fenders on. ( We're talking about my commuter, not my sexy road bike. ) I went out for a spin, and then ran a stop sign without meaning to. Actually, I was able to do about 15 mph pulling the front brake as hard as I could. The rear brake got me home safely, and I wound up hiking that day instead of cycling ... or being in the hospital.
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Old 10-19-10, 09:40 AM
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I have experimented using the front only, rear only and both brakes. I'm pretty sure that I can stop faster by dragging my feet than by using the rear only.
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Old 10-19-10, 09:46 AM
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You know it's funny. I started thinking about this. I pretty much only use the front brake but on mountain bike descents I almost exclusively use the rear brake except for sudden hard turns that require a big speed adjustment.
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Old 10-19-10, 09:51 AM
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Originally Posted by Gege-Bubu
So, I just wondering, why do the bikes are having rear breaks? How often do you use them and in what situation?
Try coming down a 16% grade at 35+ mph into a hairpin turn, , when rider + bike = 210 pounds.
You won't be asking why bikes have brakes on both wheels.
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Old 10-19-10, 09:56 AM
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Originally Posted by Shimagnolo
Try coming down a 16% grade at 35+ mph into a hairpin turn, , when rider + bike = 210 pounds.
You won't be asking why bikes have brakes on both wheels.
I would think that the steeper the descent then even less of the rear brake is working. I could be wrong.
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Old 10-19-10, 09:56 AM
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Using the front and rear brake together does not give you increased braking power over a properly adjusted front brake. Since the rear wheel will lose friction and not provide any additional braking power over the front.

Use the front brake and the front brake alone unless slippery conditions exist or some other mechanical reason dictates.
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Old 10-19-10, 10:02 AM
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Originally Posted by ErichM
Using the front and rear brake together does not give you increased braking power over a properly adjusted front brake. Since the rear wheel will lose friction and not provide any additional braking power over the front.

Use the front brake and the front brake alone unless slippery conditions exist or some other mechanical reason dictates.
Not so.
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Old 10-19-10, 10:07 AM
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Originally Posted by jfmckenna
I would think that the steeper the descent then even less of the rear brake is working. I could be wrong.
If the wheel has weight on it, it has braking power.
Bikes tend to have more weight on the rear wheel, and even more so in the badly-designed tall frames.
I have used a scales to measure my road bike: 2/3 weight on the rear wheel.
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Old 10-19-10, 10:11 AM
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The rear brake is nice when racing or riding with a group because you can moderate your speed without changing the relative position of your bike. I managed to mess up rear brake in a cyclocross race and didn't realize that it was not grabbing at all, which wouldn't normally be a problem, but I had to make a tight turn on a really steep grade. Needless to say, I managed to clip out leapfrog the bars while spitting the bike out behind me. Then I had to run up and get the bike again because I'd rolled all the way to the bottom of the hill. So that was an occasion where a rear brake would have been really nice.
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Old 10-19-10, 10:13 AM
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Originally Posted by Shimagnolo
If the wheel has weight on it, it has braking power.
Bikes tend to have more weight on the rear wheel, and even more so in the badly-designed tall frames.
I have used a scales to measure my road bike: 2/3 weight on the rear wheel.
The majority of that energy will be transffered to the front brake, but not all.

Use both brakes & let physics take care of the rest.
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Old 10-19-10, 10:22 AM
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Originally Posted by ErichM
Using the front and rear brake together does not give you increased braking power over a properly adjusted front brake. Since the rear wheel will lose friction and not provide any additional braking power over the front.
So can we assume you have disconnected the rear brakes on your car?
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Old 10-19-10, 10:22 AM
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Originally Posted by Pilsley
Not so.
So you're saying you can't brake hard enough on the front to lift the rear wheel? I suppose if you weren't going fast this would be true.
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Old 10-19-10, 10:27 AM
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Originally Posted by ErichM
So you're saying you can't brake hard enough on the front to lift the rear wheel? I suppose if you weren't going fast this would be true.
If you are using both brakes, the rear will be providing braking force, and you can stop quicker w/o lifting the rear.

Try driving a car with the rear brakes disabled and see if you think it can stop as quickly.
I have done this, (after vandals cut the rear brake line).
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Old 10-19-10, 10:33 AM
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Originally Posted by ErichM
Using the front and rear brake together does not give you increased braking power over a properly adjusted front brake. Since the rear wheel will lose friction and not provide any additional braking power over the front.
Of course it does. The rear wheel is still providing some braking power until the moment it leaves the ground. Not much, but it's more than zero, which means it increases braking power.

Also, you can shift your weight to your legs and push yourself backward to keep more weight over the rear wheel, which lets you pull harder on the front without going over the bars, and also helps you get a little more stopping power from the back.
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Old 10-19-10, 10:34 AM
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95% of the time I just use the front brake. The other 5% of the time I use both because it is a long and fast descent to a stop sign at the bottom and I need both brakes to stop. The only time you would really be at risk of doing an endo is if you were MTbing and jammed on the front brake while going down a very very steep hill WHILE leaning forward and over the bars.
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Old 10-19-10, 10:37 AM
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Good if you have a front tire blowout
Also they let the bike meet the frequently US state law that a brake on bike must be capable skidding a wheel on clean dry ground .
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Old 10-19-10, 10:55 AM
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For steeper roads where I am constantly on the brakes, I like having two so I can switch off instead of melting the pads off the one.
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