Monday, 10 May 2010

Slowing Down and Stopping Your Bike

Most of us learned how to ride a bike before we were ten years old, and learning how to stop the bike using the brakes followed pretty soon after! However, what you learned when you were a child riding for fun no longer applies when you are riding a racing bike at high speeds, and different techniques are necessary.

Learning and practicing the right way to brake brings several benefits, including increased safety and the ability to stop much faster - which also has the benefit that you will complete your ride at a higher average speed.

Most amateur cyclists brake using either just the rear brake, or a combination of both brakes at the same time, but neither of these is correct or efficient. Using the rear brake alone will stop you, but will take a long time doing it because it is very inefficient so it can be dangerous in an emergency and is not useful when a quick slow down is required. Using both brakes together is much faster, but very often leads the rear wheel to lock and for the bike to skid out of control

We all learned very early on that if you slam your front brake on you go over the handlebars, which is a very painful and dangerous experience. But this is the correct way to brake!

Rather than just jamming the brake on it is necessary to apply it gradually, while modulating the pressure - that is, a rapid series of braking and releasing the brake. Meanwhile you need to keep your own center of gravity as far back and low as possible, since going over the handlebars results from your own centre of gravity moving too far forward too quickly. This is achieved by sitting back, sitting low, and putting your weight on the pedals rather than the saddle.

Find a quiet place to practice and very quickly you will find you can slow down and stop very efficiently using only the front brake, as you get a feel for the 'tipping point' - the point where too much weight comes off the back wheel and the bike starts to tip forwards.

It is best to practice on a level surface before trying on a steep downhill, but the same technique applies - just with a little more caution and perhaps a little touch of back braking at the same time, since your centre of gravity is already further forward.

Visit our site to get lots more road cycling tips, such as how to go faster up hills or to improve your training efficiency by using informal interval training.

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