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how to brake on a mountain bike

How To Brake on a Mountain Bike (supplement to our mini-course)

How to brake on a mountain bike is a very misunderstood subject and I received this great question from a newsletter reader: ”Going down an incline brings up a question. As I’ve seen stated before, it is suggested to apply 80 – 90% front brake going down a hill. (Keep in mind I’m almost 63 and only MTB a few times a year).

Anyhow……while going down a slope with a curve, a drop off on the left, heading toward a narrow bridge crossing a creek. Favoring my front brake I came upon a very small root crossing the trail. This caused the front wheel to lock or catch suddenly on the root. Which also happens on trails with massive mazes of roots coming out of the base of trees covering the trail. Thank God I release the front and relied on the rear brake to keep a slower speed. Thus, the question to you is….explain the importance and how to use the front brake vs the rear as I often see stated.
When I was little, too much front wheel braking would cause the front wheel to lock and the front would slide out sideways, if the area was wet, sandy, loose dirt or gravel, etc….
Thanks!!”
Great question Dan. I love to hear from riders who are picking up sports like mountain biking later in life! This is the problem when “tips” are substituted for actual coaching, there are so many variables in mountain biking (like the root you hit) that you can rarely say, “always do this …..”. This a great example as we cover many of the most common variables like roots, off-camber, rough and loose conditions while braking in our skills progression mountain bike camps. We teach you the how, why and when, demonstrate them, have you do them then give you drills so eventually (with enough structured drill time) these skills become automatic. Impossible to do with the written word (although your question has made me feel I might be able to write the braking part of the mini-course a little better).

We brake for either of two main reasons, to cut speed or to maintain speed (not accelerate). When cutting speed the front brake does most of the work. Where we cut speed is very important, we only cut speed in a straight line, on-camber and where the surface is smooth and has good traction. As 3 time world champion Greg Minnaar has said in our camps, “don’t brake on off-camber and don’t brake on roots.”. Which means all braking happens before or after off-camber or roots. You did the right thing in letting go of your front brake on that root! Had you let go of both brakes before the root it (the root) would have had little to no effect on your trajectory. Few skills are isolated, there are a lot of important vision and body position skills that allow us to brake more efficiently and safer too. For instance in the first part of our mini-course you read about being centered with all of your weight on your pedals, this is really important when braking because if you shift your weight back the front brake can skid instead of hooking up and slowing you down (and if going off a small ledge braking with your weight back can cause you to endo as you will get pitched forward as your arms, hands and chest are yanked down the ledge). See article, Mountain Bike Descending body position 101, video demonstration:  http://wp.me/p49ApH-aT

When our goal isn’t to cut speed but simply not speed up and we are descending a mellow to medium pitch hill using just the rear brake will often be enough to keep us from speeding up (“dragging” the rear brake). There are a few pros (it can keep your speed at a comfortable level, keeping you relaxed, and a few other reasons) and cons (it can break traction and slide sideways, your rear wheel will smack into a bump instead of gently rolling over them and many more reasons) to doing this but again, hard to explain with just the written word. On steeper hills the rear brake alone will not provide enough power to not slowly accelerate so on steep hills you will be using both brakes to simply maintain your speed. The photo below is an example of a steep hill on a cross country trail in Whistler that you must stay centered and use a massive amount of front brake on,  just to get down it! (the scary thing is you have to release the front brake for a second for the off-camber left turn he is about to make which about doubles your speed! Then get on that front brake hard!)

mountain bike braking

Shawn Neer staying centered and using a lot of front brake!

Riding a mountain bike in balance and in control on dirt, rocks and roots, up and down steep and often slippery surfaces is rather complicated. Riding a bike in balance and in control on easy trails or on pavement is also complicated, the difference is when the conditions are easy (on pavement or easy trails) you don’t need much skill and can get away with doing a lot of things wrong. This often gives riders a false sense of competence that gets them scared or hurt when they try more challenging trails! Knowing what to do and even knowing how and why to do something are NOT the same as being able to consistently do something! Being able to do something effortlessly without thought requires a high volume of quality practice (usually in the form of drills designed to make something you know but currently have to think about turn into an unconscious habit). This is true in all physical endeavors, sport, music and art and the only way to truly reach your own potential.

A quick recap of the main new braking concepts (not addressed in our mini-course): 1. Only brake to slow down in a straight line 2. Never brake over roots or on off-camber, brake before or after! 3. Stay centered with weight on the pedals while braking. 4.

I hope this has helped. Good luck with your riding and have fun out there. For inspiration I have attached a photograph of our oldest student, Fred Schmid. In the photograph he has just finished the Leadville 100 in 13 hours and 9 minutes, at 81! The year before he finished in under 12 hours!

Mountain bike racer Fred

Fred was actually 81 at the Leadville 100 mountain bike race this year!

Create your best ride yet,

Gene

 

 

 

Moab Camper Rocking A Tough Switchback

What are Your Mountain Biking Dreams, Goals, Aspirations?

We really want to help you reach goals, live your riding dreams and ride with much more confidence and control. So, what are your mountain biking dreams, goals and aspirations? We have been fortunate enough to help over 3,000 riders achieve their goals and in 2014 we are interested in helping you.

What are you weak points that you want to improve? Is there a specific trail or section of trail you want to ride?

Coach Andy demonstrating how to climb super steep hills.

Coach Andy demonstrating how to climb super steep hills.

Do you want to have more confidence on your bike? Less fear?

Student Jen Hanks working on tight switchbacks

Student Jen Hanks working on tight switchbacks

 

Ride faster? Ride more challenging trails? Crash less?

Enter you first race? Win a World Championship?

Students Ross Schnell and Joey Schusler on top!

Students Ross Schnell in first place Joey Schusler in second!

Go to Moab and conquer “The Notch” and the Portal Trail? Ride the entrance to Horse Thief Bench?

Corner fast and in control like Greg Minnaar?

When Greg Minnaar demonstrates cornering in our camps he attacks them!

When Greg Minnaar demonstrates cornering in our camps he attacks them!

Please let us know (by posting comments) as we are here to help you!

Austin Gooder Downeville

Mountain Bike Way Better! Guaranteed!

Wow, what timing. We have been trying to simply explain why there is no other mountain bike coaching like BetterRide and why our students love us so much and then we got this email from a potential student (and yes, we wish all mountain bike riders were as astute as this guy):

“I’m thinking about taking the three day camp, but I have a couple questions. I have taken other training sessions with other organizations and they seem more like a group ride, which is not what I’m looking for. Are yours actual training and instruction? How many kids per instructor? I have taken scuba and kayak group trainings and they are painful. I see the benefit in watching and learning from others successes and failures, but I don’t want to be sitting in a line of 20 people waiting my turn wasting time. I guess I just want to make sure I’m getting the bang for my buck. Also, is women’s only training the same? My spouse may be interested if I’m successful. Thanks”

Our reply, “Thanks for writing.   I LOVE your email.   You will love our camp.  We teach a 19-21 hour curriculum spread over three days that is a large quantity of specific theories and drills that add up to the core skills of mountain biking.  We don’t just show you good riding or even just tell you to have proper body position.  We teach specific drills that will make things like proper body position become automatic for you on the bike. (you have to do the drills though!) We offer a money back guarantee if this is not the best investment you ever made in your riding.  We aren’t out to create the funnest three days for you, we strive to make those three days the best use of your time towards drastically improving your bike handling skills. The women’s curriculum is largely the same as the Co-ed camps.  Most co-ed camps have multiple women in them.  We coach 8 students at a time (occasionally 11- 14 with a second coach).

Gabe

Better Ride”

His reply to our email: “Gabe, thanks for all the info. Sounds like this is exactly what I want. I consider myself an advanced beginner rider that can’t turn. I’m still trying to find something or someone that has something negative to say about these camps and I can’t. So I will be signing up for one in the next couple months, just need to pick the place. I’m in Phoenix, but would not be opposed to going somewhere close.”

Well, that pretty much sums it up, structured, drill based coaching, low rider coach ratio and no bad reviews! (tons of extremely positive ones though) We really want to help you mountain bike way better and get even more enjoyment out of your riding and/or racing. Our money back guarantee and glowing reviews from riders just like you*, riders way better than you**, other coaches*** and riders not as good as you are testament to our passion for coaching. Do yourself a favor and sign up for a three day skills progression today!

** World Champ Ross Schnell, “I learned more today than in my 11 year career”

**National Champ and World Cup podium finisher Mitch Ropelato in an interview with Dirt Magazine

Dirt Magazine: “You seem to be able to turn amazingly, what do you put that down to? Got any special tires on there?

Mitch Ropelato: ” Ya, Gene Hamilton is to thank for that, I took is clinic last December in Bootleg Canyon and he was able to show me the correct technique I needed to pull them off.”

 

 

Students Doing Cornering Drills To Ingrain Skills Before Hitting the Trails

Students Doing Cornering Drills To Ingrain Skills Before Hitting the Trails

* Here is what two passionate riders had to say after one of our camps:

Hi Gene,

Thank you for creating what has been one of the best learning experiences of our lives.  We traveled all the way from Australia to attend your camp in Golden, Colorado and it was worth every penny! Andy was a fantastic teacher with great personal skills. He has our highest commendation for creating a safe, exciting and fun environment for learning.

It is refreshing to find someone who understands their field well enough to be able to deconstruct difficult and often hard to pinpoint concepts. This is a rare talent. We appreciate all of the careful thought that you and Andy have put into creating the mountain bike skills curriculum. The content was well-organized into different sections, and logically progressed from foundational skills (like body position and braking) to more difficult skills (like cornering). It is obvious that you have spent a lot of time not only thinking about how to mountain bike, but also how to teach it to others.

Learning these mountain biking skills has truly made us “betterriders”.  Thank you for the opportunity to attend your camp and we look forward to attending a core skills camp #2 !

Sincerely,

Tracy and Matt from Canberra, Australia      September 28, 2010

*** Another coach’s perspective:

“Gene,

      I took your Core Skills clinic from Andy and Chip 2 years ago and it changed everything about my riding. Without going further I want to thank you sincerely. My riding is more fun, safer, faster, in more control, and better in all ways because of you. I wear your shirt and bumper stickers proudly and tell anyone that sits still for too long about it. Since then I’ve purchased multiple books and taken multiple skills clinics. I recently got certified by IMBA as a level 2 instructor and teach for Boulder Mountainbike Alliance. After all that I finally feel ready to take a Core Skills 2 in 2014 (near Boulder?? please!!…;) In all the clinics I’ve taken and all the books I’ve read (2 from Lee and 1 from Shaums) it’s your class that has been the standard that no one else has reached. I’m totally psych’d to hear you finally plan to write a book. Sign me up for a copy, no matter the price.

David Holshouser”    from an email dated Oct. 19, 2013

 

ControlsBars

Mountain Bike Handlebar Height and Body Position

Coach Andy’s informative and detailed article on mountain bike handlebar height.

Hi there, this is Coach Andy W. and the following is an email response that I sent back to a confused/frustrated rider.  He was having some issues concerning the height of his handlebars and was also the victim of some bad bike-advice from arguably the most common source of bad bike-advice: a riding buddy!
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