Q: How can I improve my braking to become a better mountain bike rider?
A: Do you brake for no reason? Have you done a panic stop, or lost all of your momentum because of an assumed threat? Fear is the biggest culprit of SLS (Speed Loss Syndrome), which is an acronym I just made up for this article. Learning to brake—and how hard to brake—is a key mountain biking skill to master.
1) Resist unnecessary fear. Nobody has ever been blamed for not braking enough. Be like Lance, and learn to loathe your brake.
2) On fast sections of trail or tame descents, keep your fingers off of the brake levers. If you are looking far enough ahead, you will have more than enough time to brake should the need arise.
3) On steep drops, or highly technical descents, keep your finger over the rear brake lever only and your front-brake finger on the grips. Squeezing the front brake, in these types of situations, could be disastrous.
4) Don’t ride your brakes; instead you should brake hard to slow down, and then get back to coasting and controlling the bike.
5) When approaching “brake bumps” (areas now forming ruts from everyone braking), try braking before the ruts and then coasting through them or even taking a different line (going around them).
Poorly timed braking can wreak havoc on your bike’s handling. For starters, braking causes you move back in the cockpit, changing your balance. Braking also makes it harder to traverse bumpy terrain as you are now smashing into it, instead of letting speed glide you over it. Harsh braking also affects your suspension, thus wasting the many hours or research and high dollar expenditure on which fork was the best – you just blew its benefit with bad braking. Next time on the trail, try braking less (safely, of course) and see how much better of a rider you are. The buck stops here!