How to drop the anchors

Being able to brake late and hard is essential if you want to ride at full pelt

Making a few adjustments to your body position can make all the difference when braking and can certainly prevent an over the handlebar situation. Here are a few tips on how to come to a sharp halt rather than a sliding crash.

1. Drop your heels

This may seem like a relatively small thing, but when your bike is stopping with you on it, your body (which has no brakes) will decelerate at a slower speed than your bike (which does).

If you’ve got your heels dropped, your feet will push into the pedals as the bike slows and your body tries to move forward, and you won’t pitch over the bar.

The harder you brake, the more you’ll want to dip your heels — this will begin to feel natural after a few attempts.

For more grip, you can push through your feet and load the bike. This will make the tyres bite into the ground harder, stopping you more quickly.

2. Keep arms braced

Your arms will also need to be ready to take your weight as you increase the pressure on the brakes.

Brace yourself but keep your elbows bent. This way you’ll be able to absorb any undulations or bumps on the braking surface while maintaining a strong stance on the bike.

Setting your brake levers at a flatter angle (closer to parallel with the ground than perpendicular to it) can help. This will rotate your wrists backwards slightly but ensure that the grips push directly into the palms of your hands when braking.

You won’t have to hold on quite as tight because you won’t be stopping yourself from falling off the front of the bike. Simple adjustments like this can make a massive difference.

3. Feather the brakes

Avoid locking up your wheels — a bike will stop most efficiently when they’re still turning, just like a car with ABS.

It can be hard to find this fine balance between skidding and stopping, but the most important thing is to not let your front wheel lock up.

If this happens, you risk washing out and crashing. A back wheel lock-up isn’t as bad, as long as you can keep your bike pointing more or less straight.

4. Pick a stopping point

To stop as quickly as possible, pick a spot on the ground where you want to halt. Use target vision, and your body will work naturally to bring you to a stop at that place.

Focus on where you want to stop and the rest will happen on autopilot, provided you’ve mastered the physical techniques.

This article was originally published in Mountain Biking UK magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

Alex has been riding bikes since he was knee-high to a grasshopper. He first raced back in 2003, winning the Juvenile category on a sketchy hard tail Planet X bike. Alex lived in the Alps for seven years so isn't shy of a climb or two and loves getting out in his bike in all weather. His favorite thing to ride is steep loamy tracks with loads of opportunities to slam the bike into turns and really give it some frame bending welly! He's broken his fair share of frames, so any bike between his knees is going to get a right seeing to.
  • Discipline: DH, Enduro, XC, BMX, Road
  • Preferred Terrain: Epic descents covered in the world's finest loam and hero dirt
  • Current Bikes: Nukeproof Mega 275 / Giant Anthem Advanced 275 1 / LeMond Reno / Deluxe Pro 2 BMX
  • Dream Bike: Giant ATX 1 DH (1999 model)
  • Beer of Choice: Teetotal
  • Location: Bristol, UK

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