Stop braking bad

Losing traction with your rear wheel? Washing out the front? Overrunning corners? We uncover the science behind braking. Here’s how to brake better.

>>> The best mountain bike disc brakes

1. Equipment check

First things first, make sure you’re running disc brakes with big rotors, which will let you brake harder with more control. Big rotors create more leverage against wheel rotation, because the bite point of the calliper is further away from the axle. This means the rotor runs between the pads faster and in turn creates more friction. The same size rotors front and rear is usually a good idea too because you want decent power in the rear brake too, particularly if you ride steep stuff and need to drag the rear sometimes.

2. Weight transfer

Body weight transfer is crucial if you want to brake effectively. As a general rule you need to shift your weight back when braking — this stops your centre of gravity moving too far over the front wheel, keeps both tyres in traction and stops you going over the bars.

Another way to dramatically improve braking traction is to drop your heels and push forwards, driving the rear tyre into the ground.

3. Where to squeeze

Where to brake can be just as critical though — get it done before you start any corner and you’ll turn more effectively. It’s also important to push your body weight into the bike when you’re really on the anchors, and force the bike into the ground — look for any little rises coming into a braking section too, they’ll help increase your stopping power.

4. The power of two

Your front brake is far more effective at stopping you than the rear, but on steep trails you need to use both stoppers together, or sometimes more rear brake than front. The last thing you want is that front wheel skidding over a root or rock and pitching you over the side. The trick is to really force your weight into the rear tyre, making it find traction where it would traditionally go light.