Yesterday I did one of the most difficult descents in the Santa Cruz Mountains — Bear Creek Road (Summit Road to Hwy 17) –using only my front brake.
The road is steep — about 16 percent in several sections — and has washboard bumps on tight turns, the worst kind of road for descending fast on a bicycle.
There has been some debate over whether or not to use your rear brake while descending. Jobst Brandt gave his thoughts on this subject in one of his rec.bike posts in 2000. For the record, he never said you should not use your rear brake while descending. In fact, there are situations where it is advisable.
Of course, we all know that about 90 percent of braking power comes from the front brake, so using the rear brake is not going to make a lot of difference in most situations. Jobst and Sheldon Brown, both experts on the subject, wanted to get across the point that going over the handlebars while braking does not result from using just your front brake.
I didn’t go any faster on my descent compared to using my rear brake. As Jobst pointed out, one’s ability to descend depends on innate abilities — he compares the mind to a CPU — so using your rear brake or not while descending isn’t going to make much difference on how fast you make it down a mountain.
That said, I made it down the road, as I have dozens of times, without incident and didn’t notice any improvement or increased difficulties from using only the front brake.
The reason most cyclists crash is because they’re riding too fast for conditions, not from improper braking. Jobst rarely crashed, considering the miles he rode, but on two occasions where he crashed and broke bones, it was from riding too fast for conditions. The same goes for driving a car. It happens every time there’s a snowstorm or icy roads.
Meanwhile, my quest to find the Mountain Charlie tree ran into a snag, so this one I photographed nearby will have to do.
Finally, I’m giving the first person who can identify this black device a free copy of my novel Skidders. And I’ll give you another copy if you can tell me where it’s located.