MTB and Braking
‘Did you know?’
Braking can make you go faster!
So we all know that we should brake before the corner, not in the corner. But, how many of us actually do this and how many of us know why. It makes sense that if we don’t brake we go faster. As a result, we get down the track as fast as possible. But, I know very few trails I would hit comfortably in a ‘deathgrip,’ (let’s face it if any!) and I often find I have a tendency to comfort brake. So here’s the thing, staying off the brakes allows us to keep momentum and flow. Continuously dragging on the brakes means we use more energy to maintain speed (plus spend a fortune on new brake pads all the time) and can unbalance the bike. So it sounds like I’m saying braking is bad. Not at all, we just need to find the perfect braking points that allow us to maintain flow and brake safely.
Let us start with the obvious one. The one everyone talks about all the time… cornering. When you hit a corner at speed you have to brake hard in the corner which causes you to lose traction where you want it most. Therefore, ruining your chances of decent exit speed. I think the key thing to focus on here is exit speed, this is where you will find those extra seconds from. So we all know to brake early then push the bike into the corner and pedal out. The easiest way to visualise this is to break a corner in three, entry, during and exit. We ideally only want to be braking in the entry. Speed wise you’ll probably be at your slowest before the corner, gain momentum in the corner and your exit speed should be reaching for acceleration. If you watch ‘the big boys’ they often almost pop out of corners. So what am I saying for practice? Try braking early and then riding that corner. Start by early braking and then test how late you can leave it whilst still maintaining no breaking in the corner itself. Voila!
The Steep Stuff
Ok so I’m as guilty as the rest for comfortably dragging my brakes through steep stuff and I know this is a pretty useless and ineffective way of tackling those steep descents. But I can tell you what I should be doing! So brake before you enter. In fact, if you are uncomfortable with holding a lot of speed in the steep descents I would advise you to pretty much track stand before dropping in as you’re likely to gain momentum relatively quickly once you drop in. Next tip, avoid dragging your brakes, instead look for good braking points to scrub off your speed. A safe breaking spot is any place within a track that has good traction and you can safely brake without unsettling the bike, (sorry this isn’t that easy to explain, hopefully, you get what I mean!) Too much front brake and you’ll be out the front of the bike. Too much back brake and your tyre will no longer be rolling. Now, this bit is interesting. If your back wheel is locked out you’re refusing your bike the opportunity to get traction. Don’t get me wrong, momentarily this is fine, but prolonged dragging and the wheel will wash out from under you. Essentially, a controlled safe descent through steep technical stuff will save you time because you will maintain flow into the next section. If you get the opportunity to analyse steep sections before riding them look out for the safe braking zones and then try to put this into practice.
Right, that’ll do on braking. Basically, if you brake correctly you can be faster. Simples! If you’ve got any thoughts on this comments are gratefully received. If you have any tips you’d like to share please do. You can send me a message and I’ll include it in a future post. Thanks for reading