100% of your bikes braking power is in the front brake. Yes, 100% and I mean it. The reason for this idealistic and profound statement is that even if conditions make it difficult to use the front brake fully, riders still need to approach braking with this technique in mind. After all, if you are good with your front brake, your rear wheel is either in the air or so unweighted that it does little, if any, to slow you down.
So how do you practice this or get comfortable using the front brake to such a high level? Practice. But it takes a number of different drills and teaching methods to get as proficient on the front brake as a rider needs to be. First is to learn the feel and strength of the front brake and the lever pressures necessary to get the stopping power you are looking for. We have a drill that allows you to lock the front wheel and teach you what it feels like when the front wheel starts to skid. And most importantly to let off the brake and regain traction when front wheel skidding occurs. Next comes the learning of what a deliberate application of the front brake is and how that differs from a stab of the front brake. Getting comfortable with the reaction of the suspension (compression and then keeping it compressed and not bouncing) and how proper riding position, extended back over the rear of the bike, is important in not only maximizing the stopping but also letting you control the bike in a hard-brake application. Being in the extended back position not only gives you more strength and power over the bike, you can also feel the rear of the bike trying to move out of line when it does. Repeated practice on different soil conditions builds a rider’s confidence and control over the front brake, which you will quickly learn is used well below its potential most of the time. And of course having a properly functioning front brake with good pads, a straight and true rotor, the caliper sliding freely on its pins and vitally important, a stiction-free lever movement keep your inputs from being filtered through bad equipment.
Braking is not only important for safety, it is the key to outright speed. Reduced braking distances mean more control when you need it and less body jarring mistakes or crashes. Then you are ready to get back on the gas harder and earlier. And the front brake is where all that braking power actually hides.
Photo Credit: Scott Hoffman, Breauxman Live