Knowing you can stop safely, whenever you need, is the first step in building confidence.
The front brake provides most of the braking power and your back brake assists with control. Braking is essential for both safety and performance, therefore learn when and how to brake in a variety of different situations to develop your skills.
- When riding it is important to ‘cover your brakes’ by keeping two fingers on your brake levers as you are then ready to access your brakes efficiently.
- Look in the direction of travel
- Maintain your line of travel
- Apply brakes evenly without snatching (you don’t want to skid or go over your handlebars)
- Release the brakes briefly and reapply if you do skid as you need to regain control.
Using your brakes:
- Check the road surface, if wet, you will need more stopping time
- If gravel – make sure you keep your direction of travel (straight) and be gradual / gentle with your braking also giving yourself more time to stop
- In an emergency – pull both levers evenly and hard. Shift your weight to the back of your bike to keep the bike stable as you come to a stop
- Brake before corners – not during the corner – to maintain good control
- Brake downhill – using both brakes but feather your brakes gently (pull / release in quick succession)
- Brake to control your speed – if you are riding with others, be gentle on your brakes and communicate when you are slowing down so others don’t ride into you.
Challenge: Find an open, car free area. Mark your starting line.
- Walk with your bike alongside you and pull your front brake – note what happens to your bike? Do the same but pull your back brake – what happens now?
- Look for a marker in the road or on the side and use this as a ‘end line’. Ride your bike fast towards the line. Brake to stop at your chosen marker. Do this as many times as you can until you are perfecting an emergency stop. Remember to keep looking in the direction of travel – chin up and looking forwards.
- Using the same starting place and lamppost / tree/ mark on the road, ride towards it, pull your brakes and see if you can get your bike to stop, keep your feet on the pedals, and then once you have slowed right down or stopped, maintain your balance and start pedalling again without putting your foot down. (keep looking forwards). Can you come to a dead stop?
- Same starting place, same lamppost / tree / marker – see how slowly you can ride towards your marker. Time yourself. Next time, can you ride slower?
ALWAYS look in the direction you wish to travel.
Speed is your friend
In the UK most bikes are set up with the rear brake as the left-hand lever and the front brake as the right-hand lever. In some other European countries it is the other way round. Before you start riding check which way round the brakes are on YOUR bike.
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