HOW WEIGHT TRANSFER WORKS
When you're stopping - in a car, on a bicycle or on foot - your weight shifts to the
front. You see this happen every day. When you're running and stop suddenly, you have to
put a foot out in front of yourself to keep from toppling forward. In the same way, when
you stop a car, it "nosedives" as more weight goes to the front wheels.
When stopping your bike, the weight also goes to the front wheel. Try a little
experiment: Walk along next to your bike. Squeeze the front brake lever. The bike will
stop quickly, but the rear wheel will rise off the ground.
Also try squeezing the rear brake lever. Braking will be weak, and the rear tire will
The same things happen when you're riding. If you rely too heavily on the rear brake, the
rear wheel will skid and wear out the rear tire quickly. On the other hand, you can go
right over the handlebars if you use the front brake too hard.
How, then, do you get a powerful stop without risk? There's a trick to learn. Use the
rear wheel as a signal to tell you how hard to apply the front brake. You become an
antilock braking system for your bicycle.
THE REAR BRAKE'S SIGNAL
Practice on your bicycle in an empty parking lot. Squeeze the front lever three times
as hard as the rear, while increasing force on both brake levers at the same time. With
your light force on the rear brake lever, you're braking the rear wheel only lightly.
For a powerful stop, squeeze the brake levers harder and harder - the front always
three times as hard as the rear. The rear wheel will eventually skid. But by this time,
most of the weight will be off the rear wheel, so it will skid only lightly. You won't
wear a big bald spot in the rear tire - though you will feel and hear the skid.
a) If you use the rear brake alone, the rear wheel will
skid and stopping distance will be long.
b) If you use the front brake too hard, the bicycle will pitch forward.
c) Achieve a quick stop by squeezing the front brake three times as
hard as the rear brake. If the rear wheel skids, reduce force on the front brake.
The rear wheel's skidding is your signal to release the front brake a
little, transferring weight toward the rear to reduce skidding and avoid pitchover. Once
the rear wheel stops skidding, squeeze the front brake harder. Continuously adjust the
force on the front brake lever to keep the rear wheel just below the point of skidding.
This is your braking technique for straight-ahead stops on clean, dry pavement. Under
these conditions the front wheel will never skid, so you can adjust the front brake to
keep the bike under control.
You can also train yourself to release the brakes whenever the bicycle begins to go out
of control. Practice only with great care in a quiet location. At a very low speed, 2 or 3
miles per hour, squeeze the front brake lever hard enough that the rear wheel begins to
lift off the ground. Then release the brake lever instantly. Wear your helmet!
BRAKING UNDER POOR CONDITIONS
Braking technique is different when the road surface is slippery, or if you're turning.
Under these conditions, the front wheel can skid. You must brake lightly and use the front
Avoid turning and braking on a slippery surface. If your
front wheel skids out, you'll fall.
||On pavement that is good except for a few places, look ahead for the
slippery spots and bumps. Release the brakes as you go over the bad spots, then increase
force again once you're back on good pavement.
On dirt, gravel or any surface that looks
as though it might be slippery, test the surface by applying the rear brake lightly. If
the rear wheel skids easily, avoid using the front brake. Keep your speed down so that you
can still stop in time to avoid hazards.
In wet weather, the streets will be more slippery and so will your rims. Dry the rims
by applying the brakes ahead of time. It can take 100 feet or more before the brakes begin
to work normally.
When turning, you may have a choice to swerve out of danger or stop - but don't try to
do both at once. Practice braking on turns and slippery surfaces to get a feel for these
On a long, steep downhill grade, use both brakes equally to contol speed and avoid
overheating either rim. If the slope is extremely steep, the risk of pitchover is
increased, so ride slowly to avoid the need for a quick stop.
Your training will pay off as you become more confident on your bike in all types of
riding situations. You never know when you might have to stop - and the better you can
stop, the more confidently you can go.