How do your bike brakes work?


The braking action of a bicycle is giving a friction between the brake pads and the metal surface (disc rotors / rims). Brakes are designed to control your speed, not just to stop the bike. Maximum braking force for each wheel occurs at the point just before the wheel “locks up” (stops rotating) and starts to skid. Skids means you actually lose most of your stopping force and all directional control. Hence, effectively control the bike brakes is part of cycling skills. You have  to practice slowing and stopping smoothly without locking up a wheel or skids. The technique is called progressive brake modulation.

Sounds complicated?

Instead of jerking the brake lever to the position where you think you’ll generate appropriate braking force, squeeze the lever, progressively increasing the braking force. If you feel the wheel begin to lock up (skids),release pressure just a little to keep the wheel rotating just short of lockup. It’s important to develop a feel for the amount of brake lever pressure required for each wheel
at different speeds and on different surfaces.

How to get familiar your brakes better?

To better understand your braking system, experiment a little by pushing your bike and applying different amounts of pressure to each brake lever, until the wheel locks.

WARNING : Your brakes and body motion can make you “flyover” handle bar.

When you apply one or both brakes, the bike begins to slow, but your body motion still moving forward at the speed. This causes a transfer of weight to the front wheel (or, under heavy braking, around the front wheel hub, which could send you flying over the handlebars). 

How to avoid this?

As you apply brakes and your weight is transferred forward, you need to shift your body toward the rear of the bike, to transfer weight back on to the rear wheel; and at the same time, you need to both decrease rear braking and increase front braking force. This is even more important on descents, because descents shift weight forward.

Where to practice?

No traffic or other hazards and distractions. Everything changes when you ride on loose surfaces or in wet weather. It will take longer to stop on loose surfaces or in wet weather.

2 keys to effective speed control and safe stopping:
  • controlling wheel lockup
  • weight transfer

image credit to: bike198