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Attack the Singletrack!, Issue #007 -- How to use your Mountain Bike Brakes for Optimal Performance
July 15, 2010

Catch the Buzz on Playing in the Dirt

Attack the Singletrack! Issue #007 -- How to use your Mountain Bike Brakes for Optimal Performance

Attack the Singletrack brings you mountain bike tips to help you become a better rider and enjoy mountain biking more.

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In this Issue...

1) Tip of the Month -- Want to know a quick way to get all that stubborn greasy gunk off your cassette cogs?

Click here or scroll down for a tip on getting your cassette cogs nice and clean...

2) How to use your Mountain Bike Brakes for Optimal Performance -- Do you have a death grip on the brakes most of the time? Are you skidding out a lot while braking? Are you flipping over the handlebars when going over obstacles? Enough skidding and endos! These powerful mountain bike components can be tamed to work in your favor!

Click here or scroll down for some tips on how to use your mountain bike brakes safely and efficiently...

3) What's New on Mountain Bike Buzz -- Click on the links below to learn about new information that has been recently added to the site...

Mountain Bike Disc Brakes: Are Mechanical or Hydraulic Better?
- Information on choosing mountain bike disc brakes, including advantages and disadvantages of mechanical vs. hydraulic disc brakes. Tips on the best brands of disc brakes...

Tip of the Month:

How to get your Cassette Cogs Nice and Clean--

If you use a dry or wax lubricant on your bicycle chain, you shouldn't have much difficulty keeping your cassette cogs clean, but the wet lubes can leave a black greasy mess that gets between the cogs and is hard to clean. I usually use a dry lube for my chain, but I borrowed some wet lube from a friend the other day before riding. By the time I got to cleaning the cassette, it was hard to get it clean even with citrus degreaser and brushes.

I found that using a little bit of bike lube took the gunk off. I just squeeze a little bit of dry lubricant on a clean dry rag and wipe off the cassette cogs by moving the rag in a flossing motion between each cog. This is easier to do if you remove the rear wheel from the bike. No need to use a lot of lubricant because that will cause dirt and dust to stick to to cogs. Just a little bit for the stubborn greasy areas and then wipe off.

For more information on cleaning your mountain bike, including the drivetrain, please visit our page on Bicycle Cleaning

How to use your Mountain Bike Brakes for Optimal Performance

When I first started mountain biking, I used my mountain bike brakes way more often than necessary. I was riding the brakes to go slower and feel safer, but I was actually making my ride more unsafe because the unnecessary braking was interrupting the momentum of the wheels, which causes the mountain bike to tip over easier.

A rolling tire has much better balance and traction than a stopped or skidding tire. I am not suggesting riding all crazy fast and out of control. We always need to ride at a speed that allows us to be in control and share the trail.

The following are some tips for using your mountain bike brakes effectively, safely, and efficiently:

1. Don't fear the front brake: The front brake has more stopping power than the rear brake and should actually be used more than the rear brake. I usually do around 60-80% pressure on the front brake and 20-40% on the rear brake. This varies based on my speed, how quickly I need to stop, the steepness of the descent, and other factors.

2. Skidding kills traction: If you feel the rear brake skidding, lay off the pressure a little until it is not skidding. The front brake should never skid. If it does, you are heading for trouble and need to ease up on the lever.

3. Stay back: When braking, stay off the back of the saddle keeping your legs and arms bent. If you aren't back and you hit your front brake hard, you can go over the handlebars, but this will not happen if you are back behind the seat. Drop your heels if you are braking really hard on a steep descent.

4. Brake like you mean it: Avoid riding the brakes. Instead, use them firmly when you need them. Brake when you are going too fast and need to slow down and then resume coasting.

5. Brake before obstacles, not during: If there is a turn that you need to slow down for, brake before you start to turn so you can roll through the turn. If you are about to roll off a big rock or root, brake before the obstacle and then let your front wheel roll over it.

6. The right fit: Your brake levers should be in a position that is easy for your fingers to reach and at an angle that is comfortable for your wrists.

For more tips on braking and other mountain bike riding tips, please visit our page on Mountain Biking Techniques.

7. Type of Brake: There are many types of mountain bike brakes on the market today, including hydraulic disc brakes, mechanical disc brakes, and rim brakes. It's good to have a brake that fits your type of riding. To learn more about mountain bike brakes, please visit our page on Mountain Bike Disc Brakes.

Click here to see previous issues of Attack the Singletrack!

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