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I'm re-posting this from an unrelated thread, because i keep hearing it come up, and wanted to say my piece slash spark a discussion for everyone's benefit, at least until it falls off the forum...
I'm SO TIRED of hearing people say front brakes are dangerous, or should only be used in conjunction with rear brakes...or that if you're on a fixie you shouldn't use it to stop in an emergency situation...this is only if you DON'T KNOW HOW TO USE IT! Keep in mind i'm talking about a well-maintained, well-adjusted front brake here...obviously if your shit doesn't work or is really 'grabby' none of this is necessarily true.
It's simple physics that you can attain your greatest deceleration with a front brake...as you stop, more and more weight is put onto the front wheel, and more weight = more traction, which is why it's easy to lock up your rear wheel, but on a good road surface you'll flip over your bars before you lock up the front. For ideal braking power, you want to be at the point where your rear wheel is ABOUT to come off the ground, but not quite.
On a fixie, there is no easier thing to practice!! Get going to a decent speed, hit that front brake WHILE resisting the pedals. as you brake harder and harder, you will FEEL the rear wheel unweighting, and eventually starting to skid, or if you're good enough, lift off the ground slightly (you'll know instantly because you'll start backpedaling). THAT'S when you let off on the pressure slightly.
Practice this for a week or two and you'll always be confident of stopping in the minimum distance without flying over your bars. This translates very well to other kinds of bikes as well....i can do a 'stoppie' on my road bike without even the slightest worry of going over.
"The cyclist who relies on the rear brake for general stopping can get by until an emergency arises, and, in a panic, he or she grabs the unfamiliar front brake as well as the rear, for extra stopping power. This can cause the classic "over the bars" crash.
Jobst Brandt has a quite plausible theory that the typical "over-the-bars" crash is caused, not so much by braking too hard, but by braking hard without using the rider's arms to brace against the deceleration: The bike stops, the rider keeps going until the rider's thighs bump into the handlebars, and the bike, which is no longer supporting the weight of the rider, flips.
This cannot happen when you are using only the rear brake, because as soon as the rear wheel starts to lift, there is not more braking force generated by it.
Unfortunately, though, it takes twice as long to stop with the rear brake alone as with the front brake alone, so reliance on the rear brake is unsafe for cyclists who ever go fast. It is important to use your arms to brace yourself securely during hard braking, to prevent this. Indeed, good technique involves moving back on your saddle as far as you can comfortably go, to keep the center of gravity as far back as possible. This applies whether you are using the front, rear or both brakes."
Ohyez an important point i forgot - putting your center of gravity as far back and as low as possible while maintaining a good steering/braking stance. Technically decreases traction on your front wheel, but since you usually have more than enough of that, the extra flip-resistance is well worth it.
I did a 2 wheel skid the friday before labor day this year, right into a Honda Accord. I have two tires with skid patches through the rubber to proove it. The funiest part is the NOHOPD officer who jump like a scared cat when the tire blew about 3 minutes after he arrived. I just stood there, the bike was right next to us, the tube went and the officer jumped back and put his hand on his holster, ready to draw.
i ride fixed with a brake in front.got me one of those cool paul e-levers.it is plenty powerfull and never once have i felt it was going to flip me over.
i think more people need to work on their riding skills.