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redrhodie
06-24-2006, 04:01 PM
The other day, I had a major near-wreck. I was riding downhill, hands on the drops, going about 20mph, when a pick-up truck passed me and decided to turn right in front of me. I know this is the cause of most accidents, and I knew he was going to do it, but it seemed like I had plenty of time to stop, even to me. Here's the problem...

When I went to brake, I hit only the back brake because all I really needed to do was slow down. Well, a lot of you might be able to guess what happened, but it was new to me...the back wheel seemed to want to go in front of the front wheel, sending me into a skid. I just kept thinking "control it", the whole time being 99% sure I was heading for the pavement. Something pulled her back, mostly luck I think, and she was back under me, all well.

Needless to say, I was shaken, not only because I could have hit hard, but because I'm not really sure what I did wrong. BF says I should never just hit that back brake, but honestly, I do it all the time, and have never experienced this before. Have I just always been lucky? Advice, please.

Jenerator
06-24-2006, 06:02 PM
I think you've just been lucky. In the case you describe, the combination of the downhill and the use of only the rear brake probably caused the skid you described. During deceleration your weight will shift naturally to the front wheel, unweighting the rear and making it much easier for the rear wheel to lock up and skid. That you were going downhill may have contributed to the added weight on the front wheel, exacerbating the problem of the rear skid.

For more efficient braking, especially in an emergency, you need to use the front brake and shift your weight back. Shifting your weight back weights the rear wheel so it is less likely to lock up when you apply the rear brake and will help you get over the uneasy feeling that you are going to pitch forward over the bars

bikerchic
06-24-2006, 08:41 PM
I'm glad to hear there wasn't a smack to the pavement!

My husband just read to me from a cycling book that you should use your front brake 60% of the time. I did not know that nor do I do that I usually always use my back brake.
The book said that the front brake is the most efficient brake and will stop you faster than the back one in an emergency like the one you had, especially going down hill.

My husband posed the question to me of what would I do in a situation like the above and this is what I said:

I would use both brakes, probably feathered the front one while putting more on the back one, I guessed wrong. He said use the front brake!

After reading what Jenerator said it sure make sense to me, something I'll have to get used to doing, front brake 60% rear 40%.

KnottedYet
06-24-2006, 09:01 PM
I always hit my back brake first, then bring in my front. Terrified of an endo. I can see that I'll have to mend my ways!

New mantra: front brake, front brake, front brake....

salsabike
06-24-2006, 10:07 PM
See Sheldon "Front Brake" Brown on this subject:

http://sheldonbrown.com/brakturn.html

Grog
06-24-2006, 10:17 PM
I'm glad you ended up in one piece and on both wheels.

You raise a very, very important point:

Major cause of endo: people don't know how to use their front brake and/or are scared of using it (scared of going endo), but when they are in an emergency situation their fear becomes stronger and they hit both brakes hard, and don't absorb the shock with their arms. Over the handlebars they go.

You HAVE to learn to use BOTH of your brakes. Indeed, the front one is the only one that really stops you. The rear only drags you on the road, and yes it will skid. If you have someone riding or arriving right next to you you could also hurt this person. I use the rear brake for slowing myself down, not for stopping per se.

(On a downhill, being in the drops if you have curved handlebars will help...)

I strongly suggest you attend a bike skills clinic or at least practice in a deserted parking lot (you choose a line to stop on, you gain some speed, and experiment braking wth only the rear, only the front, and then combinations of both brakes -- also practice riding with the brakes lightly on, that's called feathering). This will increase your knowledge, skills and confidence tremendously, not to say increase your safety!!

Thanks for sharing this with us!

redrhodie
06-25-2006, 07:51 AM
Wow, all this time, I've been braking incorrectly. A clinic would be great. I think it's going to be hard to break my poor braking habits, but fishtailing into a skid made me realize that I'd better learn the proper techniques! Really scary. Good thing I'm lucky!

Thanks for the link to that website, salsabike.

What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger!

Grog
06-25-2006, 09:18 AM
I think it's going to be hard to break my poor braking habits, but fishtailing into a skid made me realize that I'd better learn the proper techniques!

It won't be hard at all!

It just takes an understanding of the basic physics of it, plus practice (in a safe environment) so you can feel the effect of physics!

You'll have good breaking habits for life after that.

Good luck!

SalsaMTB
06-25-2006, 10:56 AM
Do you ever do trail riding? I found off road riding really makes you learn to use your front and rear brakes together. I recently took someone off road for the first time (she had done many rides on road, gravel, dirt road) and one of her first comments after going about a mile was she realized how important the front brake was. She never used it on the road, wasn't even used to having to grab it with her had, but off road, she just couldn't get the power from her rear brake going down hills. It really forced her to learn to use her front and rear brakes together. Try off road riding, it helps with handling and you'll quickly learn the importance of both brakes.

light_sabe_r
06-25-2006, 03:13 PM
redrhodie... a VERY similar thing happened to me on the weekend! EGADS!:eek: back wheel skidded out ahead of the front, except cause I'm a newbie I applied both breaks.

I guess I'm gonna hafta learn FRONT breaking now too eh? thanks for bringing it up so I could learn from it. ^_^

archibella
06-27-2006, 10:26 AM
I started the same way-- really only using my rear brake because I was afraid of an endo, plus I think on the road bike you naturally plan ahead more often for stopping distances, etc. I just recently started trail riding and also realized how absolutely necessary the front brake is!! and how important where you put your weight on the bike is! It also makes me laugh at myself because where I was worried before on the road bike, now I think how the trails are so much tougher for me, and the road seems so much safer! I find the worst habit I have when trailriding is to glue my butt to the saddle when something freaks me out, when I should be standing, butt out of the saddle, limbs ready to absorb shock, and ready to move my weight wherever it needs to go! I stood once while trying a rocky climb, didn't get enough weight on the rear wheel, and didn't go anywhere, lol! Friends tell me that's what I get for starting out roadie, but honestly, I like the road... lol :D

CorsairMac
06-27-2006, 10:37 AM
I actually had my brakes switched on all my bikes so my front brake is on the right hand side. I use both when I REALLY have to stop, but I hardly ever touch the back brake. No matter which one you use - panic grabbing can cause no end of problems but the more you work with the front brake - the more you'll learn just how far you need to pull to stop. You'll be surprised, you'll stop faster with less pull then using the back. and yes - during one of those OMG I HAVE TO STOP moments even without going downhill, I actually slide backwards off the seat so my weight is over the backtire (just in case).

velogirl
06-27-2006, 11:07 AM
I actually had my brakes switched on all my bikes so my front brake is on the right hand side.

Did you switch because you're right-handed?

I've got my brakes switched, but only because of cyclocross (where it's standard to put your rear brake on the left). After my first season of cross, I switched the brakes on my mtn bike too (because I kept messing up and forgetting which was where). I'm just about at the point where I need to swap my road bikes too -- I'm too old to remember all that!

CorsairMac
06-27-2006, 11:29 AM
Did you switch because you're right-handed?

I've got my brakes switched, but only because of cyclocross (where it's standard to put your rear brake on the left). After my first season of cross, I switched the brakes on my mtn bike too (because I kept messing up and forgetting which was where). I'm just about at the point where I need to swap my road bikes too -- I'm too old to remember all that!

actually I switched them because I came to biking from motorcycles and the front brake on a motorcycle is on the right hand side. I knew about using front brake over back from motorcycle classes and I didn't want to get in the habit of relying on the back brake on my bicycles.

Switching out the brakes is the first thing I do when I get a new bike so I Don't have to try and remember which brake is where. Plus this way I can move from bicycles to motorcycles and back without any problems. It makes borrowing someone elses bike very interesting - and I don't loan my bikes out without warning the loaner first! :D

Kano
06-27-2006, 12:21 PM
Thank you so much for this thread!

It motivated me to start practicing with MY front brakes too!

Karen in Boise

kiwi girl
06-27-2006, 01:14 PM
Its interesting that, as noted in the Sheldon Brown link different countries set it up different ways. All my bikes came with the front brake on the right and, I guess because I am right handed, it is natural for me to use the front brake more

Geonz
06-28-2006, 05:15 AM
Part of my effective cycling course was practicing those "throw your butt back, brace your arms and slam on the brakes" stops (as well as looking back without weaving and the "lean right to turn left" to get around an obstacle move) in a big parking lot. Everybody in the class was an experienced rider, but it still didn't hurt to practice.
My bike's big rear end is not likely to go up into the air without extreme provocation, but it can fishtail if it's wet. My current rear brake is so noisy that it inspires me to hit the front first unless I'm in town and want to be sure to announce my presence at any intersection with a pig-like squeal. Interesting that SHeldon Brown says I need to use those back ones anyway.

DebW
06-28-2006, 07:08 AM
My current rear brake is so noisy that it inspires me to hit the front first unless I'm in town and want to be sure to announce my presence at any intersection with a pig-like squeal. Interesting that SHeldon Brown says I need to use those back ones anyway.

Sorry for the topic deviation, but noisy brakes can often be silenced by toeing in the brake shoes. Some brakes are noisy no matter what, but sometimes the pad angle makes a big difference. The pads should hit the rim either flat or with the front edge contacting first. If this isn't the case, take a crescent wrench and fit it snugly on the brake caliper just above or just below the pad and bend gently. Unless you prefer your dual purpose brake/horn, which has its advantages.