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Brakes, which to use when?

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Please don't blast me for asking what may seem like stupid questions, but I'm struggling with braking and am looking for clarification on use of brakes. Ride mostly in woods, single track. I also ride a street bike and the general rule there is front is your primary, back is to supplement. For dirt, I have been told it's just the opposite, and anytime you're in a position to do a staightline upright stop/slow down, both. For the following scenarios, which is preferable, assuming wooded trails, single track:

Steep straight downhill: both?

Downhill tight corners: back?

Sandy corner: back?

In a well packed bermed corner, need to scrub off a little more speed: tap the front, the back?

Appreciate any help here. If this has been covered in a previous thread, please give me the link; our computer is a POS and I lost patience trying to search. Thanks!

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I rely much more heavily on my front brake. In every condition that I can think of at the moment.

Having cut my teeth on MX bikes, then going strictly street for a number of years before going back to MX; it felt a little strange psychologically for a while, getting re-accustomed to the front in the dirt...but that soon passed. A guy on one of our rides several years back had been overheard telling a newb to 'don't even touch your front brake, stay away from it' man, we had a field day with his ass! :thumbsup:

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Please don't blast me for asking what may seem like stupid questions, but I'm struggling with braking and am looking for clarification on use of brakes. Ride mostly in woods, single track. I also ride a street bike and the general rule there is front is your primary, back is to supplement. For dirt, I have been told it's just the opposite, and anytime you're in a position to do a staightline upright stop/slow down, both. For the following scenarios, which is preferable, assuming wooded trails, single track:

Steep straight downhill: both?

Downhill tight corners: back?

Sandy corner: back?

In a well packed bermed corner, need to scrub off a little more speed: tap the front, the back?

Appreciate any help here. If this has been covered in a previous thread, please give me the link; our computer is a POS and I lost patience trying to search. Thanks!

Thats what practice is for, practice and pay attention to the feedback your bike gives.

Just be a little careful of front brake on downhills, deep sand or mud.

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I have noticed that in tight woods turns after a fast straight I first brake with both brakes, then release the front brake and keep the rear on as I start the turn.

The advantage is extra weight on the front tire to increase bite but the wheel still rotates to make for quick turning with less slipping.

Release the rear when you get back on the gas.

It really seems to make the bike pivot into the turn faster and easier.

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I was use both brakes when ever I can. This includes steep downhills. Just remember mostly all of your stopping power comes from your fron brakes, that is why on some older cars they had the better brakes in the front. Now in woods riding like on singles track I will scoot up on my seat and just use my back brake until I actually enter the corner; I then get back on the gas. But if you ever watch the pro supercross riders they lock up their back brake when entering a corner and then get back on the gas. I haven't done much sand riding, I have heard that you want to not use any brakes because you want your tire to float on the top of the sand. Oh yeah and on a final note when you are going down a steep hill one of the best things that you can do besides use both brakes is stand up. That helps so much.

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well your front brake offers way more stopping power not to mention if u are goin into a bern it helps compress the front forks making the bike shorter in turn it becomes easier to turn back brake doesnt really stop u but it allows u to start sliding the back end

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Yes, use BOTH brakes. Don't POUNCE on the front brake, but SQUEEZE it like you're wringing out a sponge. That gives the bike just a little time to transfer weight to the front wheel, so you'll be surprised how much front brake you can use even in loose stuff. However, there's less weight transfer offroad than on, so your rear brake is important too. Also, slide your butt toward the back as you squeeze the brake.

And practice. A lot.

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back brake doesnt really stop u but it allows u to start sliding the back end

Exactly... I come from a, mostly, road racing background and it's always amazed me how little confidence most dirt and MX riders seem to have in thier front brakes. But, let me tell you, it's trully amazing how hard you can get on them/it, in the right dirt conditions, and until you start to lean into a turn. The hard part is understanding how hard and late you can squeeze that lever for the conditions you're riding, but it's usualy more/later than you think.

I rarely use the rear brake for slowing down(directly) except on steep,loose downhills. Otherwise, I mostly use it for initiating and modulating slides. On the way in, locking up the back and sliding in to square off a turn is a handy way to save yourself, if you realize right off that you're not slowing down enough(on the front brake), but it's ugly, bad form and it ruins momentum, "unless" it's one of those turns where you'll likely come to a near stop anway(like really sharp downhill turns) and the best way through is just to get it squared off and back on the throttle. On the way out, if the back starts to kick out more than you like, it's better to give a little rear brake than to chop the throttle, as, in the worst case, chopping can send you over the top, and controlling the slide is what you're after, not stopping it.

I hope some part of this helps :thumbsup:

I know it helps me to think about and try to explain :applause:

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Thanks for the input, much appreciated. I definately need to practice. I have a tendency to try and adjust my speed or downshift instead of using the brakes, so when I do use them it's reactionary and not smooth. Sounds like I also need to trust and use my front brake more. I have pounced on the front brake a few times like vt750dc says not to and this is a great way to get an up close and personal look at the ground, so I'm a little gun shy about using it. Going out tonight after work to practice by myself, much easier to focus on yourself when no one else is around. Thanks again!

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Wow! I just started riding, and I have to admit, I've been told the "Stay away from the front brake". So, my fingers never touch the lever. I'm still riding like an old person on a walker, so I have plenty of time to slow down. Interesting to see most people use the front brake. Guess it's time to re-learn braking!

Mel

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Wow! I just started riding, and I have to admit, I've been told the "Stay away from the front brake". So, my fingers never touch the lever. I'm still riding like an old person on a walker, so I have plenty of time to slow down. Interesting to see most people use the front brake. Guess it's time to re-learn braking!

Mel

A skilled rider heavily depends on the front brake. Whether racing or not.

Just remember to go easy on it, so you can develop a feel for it's action without having to develop a feel for the ground. :thumbsup:

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Always use the front brake heavily. That is 75% of your stopping power. I tend to use front brake for slowing down and stopping. Just don't use it hard in a corner once you start your turn. The back brake is good for controling engine speed on a downhill but still use the front. I also tend to use the back brake to help steer into a turn or pivot. PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE !

Set up a figure 8 course and practice your left and right turns and hard braking.

Dwight :thumbsup:

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Always use the front brake heavily. That is 75% of your stopping power. I tend to use front brake for slowing down and stopping. Just don't use it hard in a corner once you start your turn.

i was taught by a very fast guy in norcal to use gentle and increasing front brake all the way up to the apex of the corner, to compress the forks (making for quicker turn in) and weight the front wheel (making for better traction). the key seems to be 'gentle'. obviously, hard use when you're already cornering can be bad, lol.

besides the figure-8 drills that dwight recommends, i would also recommend finding a moderate hill and practicing one at a time with each brake, locking them to make as short a skid as you can and then releasing. this helps to develop a feel for how hard you can get on the brakes in different situations, and helps to train you to ease off the brakes when they start to lock.

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A skilled rider heavily depends on the front brake. Whether racing or not.

Just remember to go easy on it, so you can develop a feel for it's action without having to develop a feel for the ground. :thumbsup:

I guess I just have/had the fear of endoing over the bars. I guess now is the time to learn correctly since I've been on a dirtbike 3 times now. I really haven't had time enough to learn bad habits...I don't think.

Mel

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This may seem obvious to most, but since no one mentioned it... remember the CLUTCH! Too much rear end braking and your rear will lock up and your bike will stall without pulling the clutch in. This can put you in a bind quickly. It's not usually a big deal if you are on a down hill, because you can "pop the clutch" and get going again, but a slow turn can be a different story.

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this is a great way to get an up close and personal look at the ground, so I'm a little gun shy about using it.

Yes, that's a good way to get a soil sample. :thumbsup: Gotta be smooth. Best thing is practice, that means more riding! :ride: Start slow, concentrate on smoothness and feeling the weight transfer to the front.

Practice by yourself is a good idea, too. We all get a little froggy around our buddies! :applause:

BTW, I'm not an expert rider or anything, I only know this stuff because I took a class a while back and the instructor told me I need to work on it. :applause: But this braking practice saved my bacon on a trail a couple weeks ago! :applause:

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i was taught by a very fast guy in norcal to use gentle and increasing front brake all the way up to the apex of the corner, to compress the forks (making for quicker turn in) and weight the front wheel (making for better traction). the key seems to be 'gentle'. obviously, hard use when you're already cornering can be bad, lol.

besides the figure-8 drills that dwight recommends, i would also recommend finding a moderate hill and practicing one at a time with each brake, locking them to make as short a skid as you can and then releasing. this helps to develop a feel for how hard you can get on the brakes in different situations, and helps to train you to ease off the brakes when they start to lock.

Now there's one we both agree on...hmmm...maybe neither of us is so bad and evil after all....

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This stuff is so good to know. I have been up some local mountains and they are covered with shale. It really makes me feel like I suck at riding. I'll have to practice those techniques. Thanks.

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This stuff is so good to know. I have been up some local mountains and they are covered with shale. It really makes me feel like I suck at riding. I'll have to practice those techniques. Thanks.

Information is power. I've picked up on a lot of great stuff here. That's what everyone's here for (for the most part, anyway...when we aren't busy arguing and fighting like siblings!) :thumbsup:

But even that can get pretty damn entertaining...

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