1. The most important thing about buying a new bike is to make sure it fits. The only way you'll know if the bike is right for you is to size up the bike and make sure that the bike's geometry matches your body's geometry. Ask questions and do some research.
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  1. #1
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    Feathering the brakes

    Hi,

    I am pretty new to mtbking and, because english is not my first language, I have one stupid question: what does feathering the brakes mean???? I am trying to improve going downhill and everything I read about the subject mentions feathering the brakes.

    Thanks a lot in advance and my apologies for the newbie question.
    A climb is really just a flat piece of road that points up. A headwind is a climb that you can't see. So it's all flat road, really.

  2. #2
    bi-winning
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    Quote Originally Posted by dbblackdiamond
    Hi,

    I am pretty new to mtbking and, because english is not my first language, I have one stupid question: what does feathering the brakes mean???? I am trying to improve going downhill and everything I read about the subject mentions feathering the brakes.

    Thanks a lot in advance and my apologies for the newbie question.
    A feather is very light...

    Using that idea, feathering the brakes means braking very lightly. Not necessarily steadily, it could be light on/off as needed.
    When under pressure, your level of performance will sink to your level of preparation.


    Shorthills Cycling Club

  3. #3
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    Thanks a lot rkj__, but going by your definition, how do you control your speed? If you use the brakes constantly, then doesn't that qualify as riding the brakes? I have tried using just a light touch, but it doesn't slow my down.

    The way I have been using my brakes is a succession of hard brake/off brake. That works well if the trail is hard and smooth, but on pebble or mud or loose ground it doesn't work to well.

    Thanks a lot.
    A climb is really just a flat piece of road that points up. A headwind is a climb that you can't see. So it's all flat road, really.

  4. #4
    Don't worry, be happy!
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    Quote Originally Posted by dbblackdiamond
    .

    The way I have been using my brakes is a succession of hard brake/off brake. That works well if the trail is hard and smooth, but on pebble or mud or loose ground it doesn't work to well.

    Thanks a lot.
    exactly - feathering, or modualting, is what you do instead of hard braking. You should be using your front brake more than your back brake, and this is why you do not want to brake hard. Hard front brake = endo. Also, your front brake is most of your braking power, it's about 60% of the stopping power to the back brakes' 40%.

    here are some things you can do:

    -use just one or two fingers on your brakes.

    -practice brake skills. Find a steep grade, and control your speed using only your front brake, but do not lock the brake, just see how slow you can go w ithout stopping. Now, do the same thing using both brakes: again, do not lock them up but see how slow you can go.

    formica
    Last edited by formica; 05-29-2006 at 01:33 PM.

  5. #5
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    Thanks a lot Formica for your reply. It really helps. The one thing I am still struggling with is: how is that different from riding the brakes?
    A climb is really just a flat piece of road that points up. A headwind is a climb that you can't see. So it's all flat road, really.

  6. #6
    Don't worry, be happy!
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    ( I sure hope you can translate all this ok!!)

    Think about pumping the brakes vs.just standing on them. When you are driving on ice, do you pump them gently, or just hit them hard? Which way gives you more control?
    Same idea, sort of.

  7. #7
    Going for a ride......
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    Who would have thought that braking could be so complicated!
    I'm a newb to alot of terminology like yourself.
    My thought is that riding the brakes is having them constantly "on" as opposed to on & off, on and off. Skilled riders obvoiusly fly down hills much faster than newbs, I guess at that skill level we tend to need to brake harder to get to the speed we are comfortable with.

    Perhaps feathering is applying the brakes just enough to control your speed but not so much that it's considered as hard braking and has negative effect on the bike handling?
    energetix



  8. #8
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    I hear you energetix. That's why I like going up: the only thing you need is a good pair of legs and lungs.

    Thanks a lot all for your input.
    A climb is really just a flat piece of road that points up. A headwind is a climb that you can't see. So it's all flat road, really.

  9. #9
    Know any good trails?
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    As your skills get better, this whole thing gets easier.

    In a nutshell, use one or two fingers to control your brakes.

    About 80% of your power comes from the front brake. Basically, I ignore my back brake, unless I absolutely have to have it (then, I use the front first, and then add the back...)

    When you DO brake, brake with authority (take your speed down), then get off the brakes.

    Now here's the most important thing to remember at all times: You must learn how momentum and gravity are going to come into play when you hit those brakes. Shift back, push back on the bars, keep your knees and elbows bent, hold your grips as lightly as you can, and ride it, baby, ride it!
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  10. #10
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    You already know how to feather the brakes

    If you are making it down any steep or gradual hill at all then you are already feathering the brakes. When you get better then you are probably going to use the brakes more effectively and then go faster. It's all about learning to ride faster.
    If you're not falling, then you're not riding fast enough!
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  11. #11
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    Another note

    Learn to feather the rear brake also. This is particularly usefull in controlling downhill speeds, especially if the terrain is technical. Feathering the rear brake also allows the front wheel to roll freely when you hit an obstacle such as rocks, roots, etc. If you use the front brake when you are going through technical sections two things could happen. First, if you panic and grab a handful of front brake, you go over the bars. If you grab a handful of rear brake and slide, the consequences may not be as severe. Secondly, the front tire is more likely to clear through the obstacles cleanly if you are not braking up front. You may still need to slow down, but not so much as you lose the momentum to carry you through the section. This can be done effectively by feathering the less powerful rear brake.

    just my 2 cents.

    Bob
    'If Wal-Mart sold parachutes, who would jump?' Frank Havnoonian (quoting his father) Drexel Hill Cyclery

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Call_me_Clyde
    Learn to feather the rear brake also. This is particularly usefull in controlling downhill speeds, especially if the terrain is technical. Feathering the rear brake also allows the front wheel to roll freely when you hit an obstacle such as rocks, roots, etc. If you use the front brake when you are going through technical sections two things could happen. First, if you panic and grab a handful of front brake, you go over the bars. If you grab a handful of rear brake and slide, the consequences may not be as severe. Secondly, the front tire is more likely to clear through the obstacles cleanly if you are not braking up front. You may still need to slow down, but not so much as you lose the momentum to carry you through the section. This can be done effectively by feathering the less powerful rear brake.

    just my 2 cents.

    Bob
    Exactly why I use my back brake when going along on tech downhills. The last thing you want to do when you are trying to get yourself over some hairy patch of trail is to endo! Sorry guys, I trust my back brake more for that sort of thing! Go ahead, call me a newb...I can take it
    "Only a few find the way, some don't recognize it when they do, some don't ever want to."

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  13. #13
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    Coming from a motorsports (cars) background, I see two primary reasons to use the brakes.

    Speed control - This obviously is the primary reason for having your brakes in the first place. IMO, when you need to slow down brake as hard as you can for as little time as possible. This will obviously vary widely depending on terrain. But in my experience most of us brake too much, and not hard enough. Kind of a paradox...

    Weight transfer - This is easier to comprehend in the context of motorsports, but applies to biking in the same way. This means using the brakes to transfer weight forward, allowing for more traction. I'm still pretty much a novice at using this technique on a bike but occasionally my instinct will kick in and I'll realize I just went through that corner a little faster by feathering the brake just enough to keep that front tire from washing out.

  14. #14
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    One thing that i didnt notice as mentioned with braking is when you brake you will loose some of your ability to turn and control your bike. Feathering will help this but also be careful of your front brake when cornering. just for fun one day take a winding path and only use your front brake. Trust me you will miss some of your corners..

  15. #15
    bang
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    well you shouldn't be braking in the turns anyway! brake befor you turn (if necessary) and glide through the apex. look ahead through the turn also.

    anyhow...

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