USING YOUR BRAKES EFFECTIVELY
Lots of people jump right into trying to learn the fancy stuff on mountain bikes when they should practice some of the basics first. One of those is learning how to use your brakes effectively. If you get into the good habits from the beginning, those habits will pay you well as your experience increases.
THE FRONT BRAKE
The front brake becomes the most important when heading downhill. It’s common to see beginners who are afraid of the front brake. If you are not making the most of your front brake, you are not making the most of your bike’s stopping power. Another common mistake I see is riders not applying the front brake firmly. They will drag the front brake which ends up wearing the pads and causing heat – this means the front brakes won’t be there to work for you when you really need them.
BRAKE IS ABOUT WEIGHT
The reason why the front brake is so important going downhill is that when the brakes are applied, weight transfers forward. This means your front wheel gets more weight than your rear wheel. The steeper the grade, the more important the front brake becomes. You will find no matter how hard you put on the rear brakes, your wheel will only slide.
PRACTICE YOUR SKILLS
The art of using your front brake comes down to managing weight transfer. You will need to get skilled at moving your weight towards the rear of your bike while keeping your centre of gravity as low as possible. To lower your centre of gravity, keep your cranks straight with your knees bent and lower your centre of gravity with your hips.
Don’t forget to remain loose on the bike. It is a beginner mistake to brace oneself against the handlebars. Whatever you do, don’t lock your arms. Keep them nice and loose.
If you are one that has avoided the front brake it is time to start using it. The best place to start is on a grassy slope. Once you get your skills up, you can start moving to areas with more traction keeping in mind all the tips above. Remember, applying your brakes with force doesn’t mean you should slam on the lever either.
After building your confidence on a surface with high traction, you can move on to dirt. This is where you will really build your skills and learn how to use your front brake with true finesse.
DEALING WITH CORNERS
Corners are always tricky. They are even trickier if you are trying to brake while taking them. The idea is to do all of your braking before you reach the corner. If you’ve done the heavy braking before the corner and still need to reduce speed during the corner you can use your rear brakes to drop some of the inertia. The trick to great cornering, as with all vehicles, is to avoid entering the corner hot.
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