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Fine tuning your mountain bike brake control!

How to enter terrain that may not have the best traction.

It's a common question: "How do I get past all the MESS?!"

Read on, and take notes from the vid above!

Tip #1 - Time to be in the business of SELECTIVE BRAKING!

Braking is clearly a key component of controlling our ride, but it can have negative effects on the bike and rider when used at the wrong time, actually reducing traction and minimizing the effectiveness of your suspension.

Look for ‘islands of safety’ - places you know you have grip and can have great brake control - essentially, straighter / smoother sections.

In this video here, you can see I creep into the rock feature - a smooth surface in a relatively straight line.  As soon as I hit the ‘messy’ part, I let go of my brakes completely.  This allowed me to float over the chunkiness alongside allowing my suspension to work.  This certainly put me in a position where I picked up speed, but there’s my next island of safety, the dirt right after this feature, where I’m on my brakes again.

"Look for ‘islands of safety’ - places you know you have grip and can have great brake control - essentially, straighter / smoother sections." – Katrina Strand

Tip #2 - Body position

Braking and body position are fundamentally connected.

When I am on the brakes at the start, creeping into this rock face I am in neutral position - hips high, slightly bent at knees / elbows, chin over stem. At the same time I am not floppy over the bike, I am bracing against these forces that are trying to push my body forward.

Once I am off my brakes, I then get lower so I can establish a stronger base of support and accommodate for the increases in pressure that come to me from the speed and terrain I am riding over.

Note that in both instances, I am not bringing my upper body back - it is all in the HIPS. If you bring your weight too far back, you will loose front wheel pressure (which translates to grip) and your braking power which is essential on those islands of safety.

Tip #3 - Great brakes make a difference!

I choose Shimano XT 4 piston. I love the feel of the lever, and the huge continuum (modulating capacity) I get to work with. Don't skimp!

Try it out!

I hope some of these tips help the next time you come across chunky obstacles, slippery surfaces and other places that may not have the best traction!

Want more? Contact us to book your customized mountain bike coaching session!

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