13.        Braking

      The convention in Australia is for the -

       *           left front brake lever to control the rear brake calliper; and

       *           right front brake lever to control the front brake calliper.


      Novice cyclists should apply the rear brake slightly harder than the front brake to avoid going over the handle bars.  If you have to pull up quickly, move your bum back to the rear of your saddle as far as you can comfortably retreat, to improve your centre of gravity as you apply the brakes. This applies whether you are using the front, rear or both brakes.  If you cannot stop your bike quickly, check your brake tension and or spacing between the brake pad and the wheel rim.  

When descending a steep hill, reduce speed on a straight road section if a corner is imminent, because -

(i)         Section 14. 'Cornering and steering' explains inter alia that it is not possible to brake hard on a corner as the laws of physics dictate that braking on a corner will drift/slide/force your bicycle away from the corner; 

(ii)         loose gravel or deep holes could be waiting just around the bend; and

(iii)        a fast acting flat (whilst taking a corner on a steep downhill) on your front wheel (usually accompanied by a loud, scary "bang", is a cyclist's worst nightmare, as it will render that unfortunate cyclists incapable of controlling his/her bicycle.  So respect downhills that have twists and turns.  If you have a straight downhill on a wide open road with no noticeable cross wind, then feel a lot more comfortable.


      Keep both hands ready to brake - You may not stop in time if you brake one-handed.  Allow a LOT extra distance for stopping in the rain, since brakes are less efficient when wet and tyres lose traction with the road as dictated by the coefficient of friction.



      Many experienced road cyclists rely on the front brakes to avoid 'fishtailing' (where the rear tire starts to skid, sideways away from the corner) as explained in the following two articles:



      Sheldon Brown - Braking and Turning Your Bicycle with the Front Brake


      USING YOUR BRAKES - John Allen