Stopping a bicycle safely is perhaps one of the most important aspect of safe cycling. Every now and then, you might find yourself having to stop or slow down fast, or otherwise land yourself in some dangerous situations.
When asked, many cyclists would naturally assume that the fastest way to come to a stop is by using both brakes, and that the safest way is to use the rear brake only.
Both assumptions are wrong. Using both brakes at the same time can cause fishtailing, and using the rear brake alone takes twice as long as the front brake alone to come to a stop.
The answer to safer braking is using the front brake alone.
Flying Over The Bars
When asked to use the front brake alone, many would immediately think of the possibility of flying over the handlebars. This happens, but usually only when one, in moments of danger, grabs hard on the unfamiliar front brake. The key is modulating the braking.
Try it in a park or carpark. Use only your front brake by tapping on it lightly. You will immediately notice the greater braking power compared to the rear brake. Gradually, learn to use only the front brake to stop or slow down, and you will notice how you can now brake better than ever.
What about situations where you have to come to a stop immediately? It is important to understand why one flies over the bars at all when emergency braking. It happens when the bike comes to a sudden stop, but the rider continues to move forward due to inertia, until the weight of the rider shifts forward so much that the bike no longer supports the rider and flips.
Hence, to decrease the chances of flying over the bars, use your arms to brace against the deceleration, keeping your weight where it is supposed to be. Find a safe place, put on a helmet, and practice emergency braking at increasing speed to get the feel for it.
Nothing prepares you better than actual practice and experience. So go out there, embrace the winds, and practice braking!
:brakes, braking, safety