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  1. #1
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    Proper bracking on steep hills

    I've been biking for almost 3 years now and consider myself AM / XC. There are a lot of east coast-type technical trails around by me with a lot of loose rocks and roots and steep slopes.

    I've been told different things, but how much do you guys use your front brakes on these kind of descents? I find that when I brake on the front tire, it tends to skip around and deflect off course. The rear brake / tire doesn't have enough grip to slow the bike and usually starts skidding and sliding.

    Would you guys care on giving me some pointers on braking for this type of downhill terrain? Thanks in advance for the info

  2. #2
    Get Down Do you
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    Braking is power is split this way 70% from front 30% from rear. Learn to use both and control your braking without locking either. A locked Tire gives no control. Think of trying to Mimic ABS for your bike. And if you have to lock or if you do lock, let up on the brake a little, a rolling tire is where you will have the most control.
    Progression is fine just remember to respect your roots.



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  3. #3
    achiever
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    The vast majority of your braking power is from your front brake. That said, the harder you're on the fronts, the less traction you have available for traction while turning. So, use both brakes but put less pressure on the rear to prevent a skid and if your downhill involves a corner, get as much speed scrubbed before initiating the turn as possible, let off the front brake a bit and continue giving steady pressure to the rear and you'll be fine.

    Another thing to remember is to loosen your grip on the bars and let the suspension do it's job without negative input from you. If you've got a death grip on the bars and brakes, you'll be bouncing off course all the time.

    A good book to read is Mastering Mountain Bike Skills by Brian Lopes and Lee McCormack.

    Red

  4. #4
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    The general consensus is DO NOT BRAKE ON STEEPS.

  5. #5
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    I found that the best the best thing for me is to start the decend at a speed comfortable for me to control the bike. Then I feather the front brake as I feel I am losing control of the bike. Having a lighter grip on the bars help too. I found that it is easier to desend buy just guiding the bars as the bike will roll over many obstacles then you think. I only use the rear brake when I am getting to a turn and I feather the front and rear brake together, which will help me reduce my speed closer to the turn and therefore getting a faster time. Everyone has their own techique which they have developed, so just ride and find out which one is yours.

    -Paul
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  6. #6
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    Great info

    Keep it coming

    I'm definitely a klutz and would like to improve my skill. I will definitely check out that book, it looks informative.

    Quote Originally Posted by MaddSquirrel
    The general consensus is DO NOT BRAKE ON STEEPS.
    I realize that the bike handles much better when the tires roll without braking, but if I didn't use brakes on some of the steep stuff I ride on, I'd be breaking my shoulder (again) on rocks.

    Sometimes, you have to brake because you don't have a nice smooth base to roll through.

  7. #7
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    I usually keep one finger on the front brake and two on the rear--and try not to use either. I have also learned that the looser I hold onto the bars, I can go faster and actually gain more control. The real trick, at least for me, was when I disciplined myself to STOP looking at the ground immediately in front of me. The farther ahead I started looking, the faster and safer I became. Remember, the bike wants to go straight and stay upright.
    If its a real steep downhill, i might drag a little rear brake--but never, ever touch the front. Endo's can be painful.

    Also, don't be afraid to drop off the rear of the seat so as to lower your center of gravity. That made a bit difference for me, at least.

  8. #8
    Get Down Do you
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    To add to my original post and to concrete what some others said. You want to brake before a technical section so you don't have to brake going into it. I personally like carrying a lot of corner speed ( a throw back to my motorcycle days) but I know where the apex is and how to hit it at speed and I brake going up to the turn so I am at perfect speed thru the turn.

    The biggest thing that I have derived from your second post is that it seems you are Hamfisted on the brakes grabbing a handful rather than using a light touch to feather yourself thru the sections. The lighter you become with the brakes the better you will be you can scrubb off speed while still not locking up the rear of front and causing the suspension to pack up. It just takes practice.
    Progression is fine just remember to respect your roots.



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    Its not one thing really.

    You have to learn to balance the bike first, its the balance that gives you clue about how hard to brake and which brake to use. If you are flying down a steepish decent which has some gnarly bits, then you might want to brake on the smoother bits pretty hard and then get off them when you reach the harder bits. You might need to stand up if your going fast on less steep surfaces and just use the back brake. It varies from surface to surface and from angle to angle.

  10. #10
    local trails rider
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    Try to stay away from brakes in the most tricky spots. Brake more where the ground is smooth and grippy.

  11. #11
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    Thanks for the great info guys,

    I usually brake with one finger only, unless it's an extended downhill and my hand starts cramping, then I switch to two fingers.

    I do have a bad habit of being tense and over-braking. I've tried to relax my arms and it definitely helps. On the super steep stuff, I have problems keeping my arms relaxed and bent because the majority of my weight is on my arms (even with the seat dropped significantly).

    There's this one extended downhill we do that pretty much is a creek bed....Constant braking and praying. It's one of those trails where I keep saying "Wow, I'm still descending!"

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bubba74
    Thanks for the great info guys,

    I usually brake with one finger only, unless it's an extended downhill and my hand starts cramping, then I switch to two fingers.

    I do have a bad habit of being tense and over-braking. I've tried to relax my arms and it definitely helps. On the super steep stuff, I have problems keeping my arms relaxed and bent because the majority of my weight is on my arms (even with the seat dropped significantly).

    There's this one extended downhill we do that pretty much is a creek bed....Constant braking and praying. It's one of those trails where I keep saying "Wow, I'm still descending!"
    Are you staying seated during steep descents? If you are, stand up and get your butt over the back tire, it will make a huge difference in how fast you can go and how hard you can pull on the front brake without and OTB excursion. This will also give your back tire some more traction. You should really check out that book, I'm very happy I bought it, my riding has taken a big jump forward after reading it.
    Quote Originally Posted by Owler
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  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by BikinAggie
    Are you staying seated during steep descents? If you are, stand up and get your butt over the back tire, it will make a huge difference in how fast you can go and how hard you can pull on the front brake without and OTB excursion. This will also give your back tire some more traction. You should really check out that book, I'm very happy I bought it, my riding has taken a big jump forward after reading it.

    No, I'm DEFINITELY off the seat and over the rear tire. I lower the seat so it doesn't get in the way. I have more of a problem when braking with the front tire skipping to the side of a root or rock. Then I loose my balance and BOOM hehe.

    I definitely will check that book out

  14. #14
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    +10 on never allowing your wheels to skid on technical descents, it's just loss of control.

    Different brake, tire, trail tread, weight balance, all contribute to whether or not you can do significant braking w/o skidding. Sometimes going to a larger volume tire, sometimes a stickier compound, sometimes nothing helps (then entering with the right low speed and moving through with very light braking is the only choice).

    I do believe in keeping speed control in as many situations as possible, we're just safer that way and more safe to other trail users.

  15. #15
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    Anticipation is the key to braking. Where ever your eyes are currently focused on the trail try to look up another 5 feet. when that is comfortable look up antoher 5 feet. Knowing what is comming and what you are going to do will really help with your braking. You really dont want to be braking at all in a turn. (i realize this is not realistic all the time) Scrub speed before you get there, make your turn and excellerate thru the turn. Always be looking where you want to be going, not where you are. The best way to end up in the bush at the end of a turn, it to stare at it the whole time. (i know my spelling sucks)

  16. #16
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    this is a great thread!!!

  17. #17
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    It also looks like there may be hesitation when you choose a line. My advice is to pick a line and confidently run it - with just the right amount of speed. You'll get better at choosing the best line and hopefully won't be "skipping" into the wrong places!

    Quote Originally Posted by Bubba74
    No, I'm DEFINITELY off the seat and over the rear tire. I lower the seat so it doesn't get in the way. I have more of a problem when braking with the front tire skipping to the side of a root or rock. Then I loose my balance and BOOM hehe.

    I definitely will check that book out

  18. #18
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    Update...

    I tried some of the things you guys suggested last night on a ride and it made a huge difference. I was a lot more gentle on the brakes, I tried to keep my body and arms more relaxed, and I focused my eyes 10 feet ahead of me instead of right at my front tire. Wow, it definitely helped. I felt I had a lot more control.

    One thing I found a little difficult was trying to keep my arms relaxed while applying brakes. It's almost a natural tendency for my forearms and upper arm to tighten up when I squeeze my hand. Well, I guess practice makes perfect

    Thanks!

  19. #19
    Bicyclochondriac.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bubba74
    One thing I found a little difficult was trying to keep my arms relaxed while applying brakes. It's almost a natural tendency for my forearms and upper arm to tighten up when I squeeze my hand. Well, I guess practice makes perfect

    Thanks!
    Yeah, that is the hard part: Relaxing your arms while braking. Riding a rigid fork on my ss made me think hard about that one. What I came up with is this: It's not really possible for me to truley relax my forearms and brake at the same time, because that's where your finger muscles are. I also don't follow the "loose grip" advise. My grip is the same as always, and realistically it needs to get a LITTLE tighter if the bars are being jerked around. What DOES need to be loose are my elbows and shoulders. When I started focusing on loosening up my biceps and triceps, while maintaining a good grip on the bars, I was able to get both a firm grip on the bar as well as the flexibility needed to absorb impacts and deflections on the front wheel.

    To this end, if I have to brake in a really rough section, I try to have as little of my weight on the bars as possible. This does two things. First, it is easier to relax my arms if they are not supporting weight, and second, it shifts more of my weight to the rear so I can get more traction there and therefore need less braking in the front. The only trick is that if I then need to make a turn or set up for a drop I need to get my weight forward again. If the section was pretty steep then I may have been pretty far back on the bike and the shift forward is a real conscious effort, and it's something I'm still trying to get better at.

    The whole "don't brake on the steep/rough sections" philosophy is fine when there is a good run out, smooth section, or other light at the end of the tunnel, but sometimes you are in a steep, gnarly section and you simple cannot afford to be picking up much speed. While less-is-better in regards to braking on rough sections, it is good to learn how to deal with braking and moving slow through these section for when that is called for.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by BikinAggie
    Are you staying seated during steep descents? If you are, stand up and get your butt over the back tire, it will make a huge difference in how fast you can go and how hard you can pull on the front brake without and OTB excursion. This will also give your back tire some more traction. You should really check out that book, I'm very happy I bought it, my riding has taken a big jump forward after reading it.
    Defiitely stand during a descent but IMO keep your weight centered on the bike for all but the real short, super steep descents. IMO, When you put your weight too far over the back tire, you remove too much weight from the front tire and this can cause loss of traction and a loss of steering. Lower the seat if it is in the way...Getting your butt so far back does nothing for traction unless you can actually put weight on the seat. Otherwise you are just directing your weight down to the BB at a more angular direction. That equates to less downward force and less traction.
    I see alot of people whose technique is to get as far back on the bike as possible and their position gets hunched. They practically rub their a*s on the rear tire. This is very poor technique IMO. Try this test. Go down a steep section unclipped. Go slow and get real far back on the bike. Now put a foot down and try to stop. What should happen is the rear tire will lift up under your. That's more or less what is happening when you put your weight too far back.

    Maintain an agressive position and have good weight on the front tire for traction and try to keep your back tire from sliding. If your back tire is sliding you are not putting enough braking pressure on your front.
    Last edited by wormvine; 07-13-2007 at 08:12 AM.

  21. #21
    lurkio
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    I think there ought to be more bracking, braking is overrated

  22. #22
    ZEN RIDER!
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    I usually brake before the shoot, but still maintain some speed. If need be I will pulse my brakes a little if I feel I am gaining to much speed. For the most part speed is your friend as it helps you maintain forward momentum. Hitching on a shoot due to low speed has always been disaster for me. Lessons learned the hard way
    Life in every breath

  23. #23
    I already rode that
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    Alot of good advice here but unless one actually see's the type of downhill hes riding its hard to give any good advice on how to brake effectively. As braking one way for that section might not be the best for another.

    Theres this one steep downhill I know that you have to get way behind the seat, if you dont your going over the bars. Thats on a bike with the seatpost extended with it dropped it would be easier as you dont have to go so far back but depends if you are hitting the roots or trying to go around them (which makes the section harder).
    Riding F/S since oct 94'

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by si,s
    I think there ought to be more bracking, braking is overrated

    I'm probably one of the most conscientious people on the net in regards to proper spelling and grammar on internet forums. The ONE time I misspelled a title that I can't edit, and someone had to bring it up

  25. #25
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    great thread... picking up lots of good info here. Keep it coming!

    I found that here in Alaska, there are some very gnarly descents that you can't just bomb. Or at least, I'm not comfortable with it. I've always heard that you aren't supposed to ride the breaks going down, but this adds some new perspective. I definitely do a lot of what is mentioned here, already, such as the pre-scrub, etc., but still, some hills get you going FAST and when there are a lot of roots and rocks, and it turns technical quick, it's nice to lower the speed.
    Does sliding back over the tire increase or decrease speed?

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