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.
mtn. biking 101
2. If possible, try to find a shop that will let you demo the bike on real dirt. Five minutes in a parking lot won't cut it. You wouldn't buy a car without a real world test drive, and a bike should be no different.
3. Don't belive the hype. Just because your favorite rider or best friend rides a certain bike, that doesn't mean that's the best one for you. Have an open mind and be realistic about your needs and ability.
Results 1 to 13 of 13
  1. #1
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Nov 2012
    Posts
    21

    A seemingly stupid question about braking

    Ok so I am coming into this sport from a motorcycle road racing background. On a motorcycle most of your braking is done using the front brakes. What I remember as a child is that on a bicycle most of your braking gets done using the rear brakes. My experience with bikes as a child though were all rigid frame and I am looking at buying a hardtail MTB so it will be the first bicycle that I have ridden with any kind of suspension.

    My question is this; on a hardtail MTB is most of the braking done using just the front, rear, or both brakes evenly.

    Also as I am getting into MTB riding because I think it looks fun plus I feel that it will keep me in shape in the off season and I am still on two wheels. I would like to set up the controls to be as close to a motorcycle as possible. I know that I cant have foot brakes and shifters but if for example I am told that the rear brakes are used primarily I would mount that control on the right handle bar (front brakes on motorcycle) because that is what I am used to going for when braking. As for the shifter I was figuring of mounting that on the left handle bar as it is still on the left side of my body and in essence I use my left hand for a clutch on a motorcycle so it should be similar I would think.

    Any and all advise is welcome and I do apologize if this seems like a stupid question but please try and understand my concern.

  2. #2
    Ski N Bike Tech
    Reputation: SkiNBike's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Posts
    88
    Your greatest stoping power is going to come from your front brake.

    I use my rear brake just to bleed off some speed.

    Some people use only their rear brakes. As a mechanic, I've seen it with my own eyes and then have to explain to customers that's why they go through 2 to 3 sets of brake pads a season.

    My brother-in-law came from motocross and he is used to the braking you are. His bike has mechanical discs and we just swapped his cable around so he could brake in the same manner that he was used to. I've also done this swap on hydraulics. A lot of European customers like to have this done.

  3. #3
    No Stranger to danger....
    Reputation: Tone's's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Posts
    5,531
    Not a stupid question at all OP.
    Skinbike summed it up well, i use the front break for most of my stopping power but incorporate the back at the same time.
    And you can set up your bike how ever you like, my right hand works the front brake how most MX bikes are run down here, ive heard you do it the other way there so what ever floats your boat, theres no hard n fast rule bro, cheers n hope you enjoy the MTB bike.....
    Dont ever let the truth get in the way of a funny story....

  4. #4
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Nov 2012
    Posts
    21
    Thanks to the both of you for the quick replys and both of you basically confirmed my notions of what would be best.

    This is why I asked the question because mechanically it makes sense to me that you would still want to use the front brake primarily on a suspended bike because as you brake the weight transfers forward and that suspension can account for that forward transfer and keep the wheels planted on the ground. I suppose on a rigid frame bike the issue is that when you brake using the front the weight still wants to transfer but there is no suspension to absorb that energy so it rotates around the front axle as a pivot point causing an endo.

    I suppose my next question would be then how/where I should mount the rear brake control. I would like it to be on my right side if possible to keep things similar to the motorcycle (right foot controls rear brakes) Is there such a thing as a thumb brake control? If there was then I could use the lever for the front brakes and then the thumb control fro the rear when needed. Any thoughts on that?

    Thanks again to everyone.

  5. #5
    No Stranger to danger....
    Reputation: Tone's's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Posts
    5,531
    Quote Originally Posted by surfingsk8r View Post
    Thanks to the both of you for the quick replys and both of you basically confirmed my notions of what would be best.

    This is why I asked the question because mechanically it makes sense to me that you would still want to use the front brake primarily on a suspended bike because as you brake the weight transfers forward and that suspension can account for that forward transfer and keep the wheels planted on the ground. I suppose on a rigid frame bike the issue is that when you brake using the front the weight still wants to transfer but there is no suspension to absorb that energy so it rotates around the front axle as a pivot point causing an endo.

    I suppose my next question would be then how/where I should mount the rear brake control. I would like it to be on my right side if possible to keep things similar to the motorcycle (right foot controls rear brakes) Is there such a thing as a thumb brake control? If there was then I could use the lever for the front brakes and then the thumb control fro the rear when needed. Any thoughts on that?

    Thanks again to everyone.
    Mate i think your gonna have to test it out with trial n error n see how you feel
    I will be surprised if you wont like the front brake in your right hand if you are right handed.
    For me it just feels better in the right hand.
    I also think you will scrap the idea of a thumb brake if there is such a thing, ive never seen one.
    I find its real important to have that thumb wrapped around the grip, because you dont have the motor i find you put more weight on a mtb bar surprisingly enough.
    cheers
    Dont ever let the truth get in the way of a funny story....

  6. #6
    Picture Unrelated
    Reputation: zebrahum's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Posts
    5,024
    Quote Originally Posted by surfingsk8r View Post
    Thanks to the both of you for the quick replys and both of you basically confirmed my notions of what would be best.

    This is why I asked the question because mechanically it makes sense to me that you would still want to use the front brake primarily on a suspended bike because as you brake the weight transfers forward and that suspension can account for that forward transfer and keep the wheels planted on the ground. I suppose on a rigid frame bike the issue is that when you brake using the front the weight still wants to transfer but there is no suspension to absorb that energy so it rotates around the front axle as a pivot point causing an endo.

    I suppose my next question would be then how/where I should mount the rear brake control. I would like it to be on my right side if possible to keep things similar to the motorcycle (right foot controls rear brakes) Is there such a thing as a thumb brake control? If there was then I could use the lever for the front brakes and then the thumb control fro the rear when needed. Any thoughts on that?

    Thanks again to everyone.
    Mount the brake however you prefer, it's your bike! In the States bikes are set up with front brake on the left hand but numerous friends of mine have a moto background and run their brakes "moto style" with the front brake on the right.

    Some brakes are easy to swap and some are more difficult but it can be done with any brake and any brake type. I would just remind any friend of yours who grabs your bike that they might be in for a surprise if they take your bike for a spin.
    Don't you hate it when a sentence doesn't end the way you think it octopus?

  7. #7
    beater
    Reputation: evasive's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Posts
    3,623
    Generally you'd want to use both brakes evenly. Grabbing a handful of front brake is just as likely to send you over the bars on a suspended bike as on a rigid bike.

    I don't have much time on motorcycles so in my ignorance I had never considered the difference in braking technique. One thing to remember is that most motorcycles weight more than the rider, but most mountain bikes are maybe a fifth of the rider's weight. That makes the whole package a lot more top-heavy and prone to going over if you're braking with just the front brake.
    "Back off, man. I'm a scientist." - Dr. Peter Venkman

    Riding in Helena? Everything you need to know, right here.

  8. #8
    Fat-tired Roadie
    Reputation: AndrwSwitch's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Posts
    13,711
    OP - no offense to your child self, but he was wrong. Most braking power comes from the front brake on a rigid bike too. Depending on the riding surface and the speeds involved, it might not matter very much, but the same rotation phenomenon that makes rear braking less effective on motorcycles and suspended bicycles applies to rigid bikes too.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  9. #9
    banned
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Posts
    1,510
    There are no stupid questions - only stupid answers.

    I share the OP's motorcycle background - I spent over 75% of my time on an military issue MX bike 24x7 while serving in my country's armed forces (a little over 20 years ago).

    As many here have said, the front brake is pretty much like a motorcycle and has better stopping power than the rear, but unlike a motorcycle, you have to learn to feather the front brakes more than what you are used to on a motorcycle, since a bike doesn't have the rear-end weight to help keep the rear end down during braking.

    I find myself using the fronts on my bikes a lot to help me stop the bike. Like a motorcycle, you'll have to apply it progressively while also braking the rear at the same time. Too sudden and you'll likely endo.

    Some brake lever assemblies are better than others when it comes to flipping left and right controls. Not sure about the Shimanos but my Avids flip over easily, although I have them set up traditional and not MX style. I don't feel it's that much of an adjustment since you'll be braking with both hands, since you should have pretty good control of the left clutch lever. Try it out and see - flip it if you don't like it.

    -S

  10. #10
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Nov 2012
    Posts
    21
    Quote Originally Posted by AndrwSwitch View Post
    OP - no offense to your child self, but he was wrong. Most braking power comes from the front brake on a rigid bike too. Depending on the riding surface and the speeds involved, it might not matter very much, but the same rotation phenomenon that makes rear braking less effective on motorcycles and suspended bicycles applies to rigid bikes too.
    Haha, none taken I can see just as easily how the front would provide more stopping power but as a child I experienced that using the front brakes wasn't necessary to slowdown most of the time and would rarely use it because I had landed on my head a time or two playing around.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tone's
    Mate i think your gonna have to test it out with trial n error n see how you feel
    I will be surprised if you wont like the front brake in your right hand if you are right handed.
    For me it just feels better in the right hand.
    I also think you will scrap the idea of a thumb brake if there is such a thing, ive never seen one.
    I find its real important to have that thumb wrapped around the grip, because you dont have the motor i find you put more weight on a mtb bar surprisingly enough.
    cheers
    I think you and I are actually saying the same thing I DO want the front brake in my right hand as for the thumb brake I can see how on a bicycle it may be not a good idea due to grip issues but when road racing your grip is very very light so I didnt really think that through when I came up with it.

    Quote Originally Posted by evasive
    Generally you'd want to use both brakes evenly. Grabbing a handful of front brake is just as likely to send you over the bars on a suspended bike as on a rigid bike.

    I don't have much time on motorcycles so in my ignorance I had never considered the difference in braking technique. One thing to remember is that most motorcycles weight more than the rider, but most mountain bikes are maybe a fifth of the rider's weight. That makes the whole package a lot more top-heavy and prone to going over if you're braking with just the front brake.
    This is a good point and at one time I was actually trying to figure out if it was plausible to have both brakes ties into one lever using some sort of proportioning valve to meter the pressure differently between the front and rear but not only would that be complicated but it would add a lot of weight to the bike. Motorcycle braking is also delicate but due to suspension and weight that is shift-able (your body) you can actually brake with severe force using only the front brake. In fact if you were to look up some photos of MotoGP riders (the best in the world) you would see that while braking they are keeping the back wheel mm's above the ground as that is the maximum they can brake for a corner without loosing control.

    To the rest of you I think I am going to start by switching the controls around so that the front brake is with my right hand and the rear brake is with my left hand. Should I come up with the need for anything more Ill be sure to post up any ideas or solution I might have so that others can benefit from my experience.

    Thanks again to everyone for their input it is greatly appreciated.

  11. #11
    mtbr member
    Reputation: JoePAz's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Posts
    2,130
    How much brake you use depends on they type of braking you need. For higher speed braking the front works the best. It slows things down the most of for the reasons you state. However in low speed or steep descents you tend to want more rear brake. The reason is that if you use too much front brake it can stop and send you over the bars. If the rear locks you can manage that slide a little. I have never seen a good front brake side controlled. So you need to watch the front braking. So with two separate brakes you can manage the brake bias from front to rear as the conditions change. For example if you are dropping off a step you want to release the front brake while controlling speed with rear. That way when front end drops off you don't lock it up and fly over the bars.
    Joe
    2003 KHS Alite 4000 26" Hardtail - XC, All mountain, blah blah blah.. I just ride.

  12. #12
    Kitty! Kitty! Kitty!
    Reputation: GelatiCruiser's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Posts
    1,014
    I tend to favor my rear brake on speedier runs and my front on techier stuff. I try to be very judicious with the front because I'm new(ish) to trail riding and it throws me off balance if I hit it too much. Still probably do 60 front and 40 rear.

  13. #13
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Posts
    2,613
    Modern mountain bikes have amazing stopping power provided you learn to use both brakes. If you need to stop quick at high speed, grab a bunch of both brakes and shift your weight back. I've done quite a few OTBs over the years but never from grabbing too much front brake at speed. As long as you get in the habit of shifting your weight back when you brake, you're gonna be fine. Just don't overdo the weight shift, a newb posted a video a while back of a crash he had and it was because he was riding a fast downhill (not steep, just a long downhill grade) with his weight back as far as he could get it he ended up loosing control because his front tire had no weight on it. Obviously he was told to get his weight back on downhills, but he just took that advise too far for that downhill.

    Steep techy stuff is a bit different. I'm fortunate to have some really steep techy stuff on my local trails and you absolutely need both brakes but a lot more technique is involved than just getting your weight back. You need to find just the right amount of rear brake to keep you from skidding and you need to adjust front braking based on the trail surface. Most really steep stuff is going to have large protruding roots, rocks or ruts and ledges. You want to grab a lot of front brake as you approach this stuff, let off as you hit it, and then grab again once you're past it to set up for the next one. I love riding this kind stuff because as a 50+ old guy, I get the thrill of riding something really difficult but I'm going so slow that crashes are relatively painless.
    Warning: may contain sarcasm and/or crap made up in an attempt to feel important.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •