How to Front Brake on a Mountain Bike – Free Speed Tip 1

Here’s how to brake on a mountain bike and go faster all at the same time for no extra physical effort. Just a simple change in how you brake will provide you with some free speed, and you can do it on your next ride.

It’s called Front Braking – the second secret to braking like the Pros.  Sound crazy?  No, not unless you actually grab a heap of front brake all of a sudden or use too much around a corner.

Here are Four Front Braking fast facts:

1.  Compared to the rear brake your front brake holds more of your weight and the force of your momentum behind it as you brake.

2.  Your front brake holds about 65-70% of your bike’s total braking power.

3.  If you’re not using that power, you’re only using about one-third of the stopping force available to you.

4.  You’ll still use your rear brake in combination with your front brake as part of your ‘Front Braking Technique’ – The rear brake importantly helps balance your braking efforts for enhanced control.

How to Front Brake on a Mountain Bike

Note: Not every braking situation is the same.  Different scenarios require slightly different manipulation of the front and rear brakes.

The more you use the basic principles of front braking below, the sooner you’ll develop the skill and precision needed to brake on a mountain bike correctly for any situation.

Here are the five basic rules for successful front braking technique:

  • Do not lock the front or rear brakes.  Aim for zero skidding on every cross country ride.  Lock the front brakes and you will go over the bars!
  • A skidding tire has almost zero traction.  Your tires need to maintain solid traction with the ground in order to grip and slow you effectively.
  • Apply the front brake two to three times stronger than the rear brake during typical braking.
  • Apply less to zero front brake the sharper the turn or the slipperier the surface.  For example:
    • if you need to brake hard around a sharp corner, apply less to zero front brake and more rear brake to prevent your front wheel from skidding, slipping out, fork diving or jack-knifing.
    • if you need to brake slightly around a wide and grippy turn, you might apply equal light pressure to both the front and rear brake.
    • on mud, sand or other slippery surfaces apply less to zero front brake, especially on turns.
  • To prevent skidding under heavy braking, use mostly front brake and only increase rear braking as your speed drops to provide more rear wheel traction.

5 More Essential Mountain Bike Braking Tips:

  • Ride tires suited to your terrain to make the most of your high performance braking technique.  Learn how to choose the right tires for you with the MTBtips 6 Step Tire Selection Guide.
  • Don’t be a Strangler! Even if your fingers are busy on the levers, keep a relaxed hold on the handlebar to maximise your flow and control.  Tension Kills!
  • Use One-Finger Braking.  You only need one finger to brake and that leaves four others to hold the bar for more relaxed control.
  • Shift slightly rearward, low off the saddle to improve your center of gravity against high braking forces.
  • Drop your heels slightly, using the pedals to help hold your body back during heavy braking manoeuvres.

Why Front Braking Makes You Faster on a Mountain Bike

  • The front brake provides more stopping power, so using more of it means you can brake over a shorter distance
  • Braking over a shorter distance means you’re pedaling or rolling more, until you brake.
    • For example: instead of braking 20 metres before the corner like you previously used to, you’re braking 10 metres before the corner.  That 10 more metres of pedaling or rolling before you brake is what makes you faster!  Add it up for every braking moment and that’s a lot more speed!
  • You have more bike control because you don’t skid.  Your new skills have made you more aware of bike balance and tire traction during braking.

Special tire code for the MTBtips Community:

Use the voucher code MTBTIPS online HERE at Chain Reaction to receive an EXTRA 10% OFF ALL tire prices. NOTE: The code expires at 12pm (BST) on 29th July.

Where to next?

How to Flow and Relax More on Your Ride
One Finger Braking technique
The Heel Drop Technique for Better Downhill Control
Free Speed Tip no.2 – How to Think Your Way to More Speed and Momentum.

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