Monthly Archives: August 2013

Your front brake might save your life!

This article on using your bicycle’s front brake article  should be considered a must-read for all cyclists. It’s great to have 3rd-party validation of something I’ve been talking to customers about for years. I cannot tell you how many times I’m replacing the 3rd or 4th set rear brake pads on road bikes and the front pads are the original and untouched. How many accidents have occurred, and possibly even lives lost, because cyclists didn’t know they could stop in ¼ (or less!) of the distance they think they can? Different rules apply if it’s raining or wet, of course. And a hard grab of your front brake on gravel isn’t a good idea either. But on normal dry pavement, where most of us ride 98.5% of the time, it’s your front brake that is going to save you.

It’s tough to sell because some are so concerned they’re going to go over the handlebars, a scenario rarely actually caused by the front brake but more often something else (front wheel digging into a pothole, too much weight forward of the center of the bike when encountering an obstacle etc). The way I get people over the hurdle, with some success, is to suggest using only their front brake on a very gentle grade. Keep the speed down. Maybe descending Alpine from Portola Valley towards Arastradero. A non-critical environment where you don’t have to apply a lot of brake to slow down or stop.

The other thing missed out on when you don’t use a front brake is the effect it has on maneuvering. If you’re leaning over, going through a turn, and apply the front brake, it will try to straighten you out. That’s a tool you can use to change your line in a hurry if need be.

Your bike may be capable of a lot more than you think!

Kevin’s first 200k (one tough ride!)

It was going to be a Redwood City/Santa Cruz loop, like we’ve often done, only instead of coming back from Santa Cruz via Highway 9 (Felton-Boulder Creek-Saratoga Gap) the plan was to detour through Scotts Valley and take Mtn Charlie, one of the local Old LaHonda-ish climbs in the Santa Cruz Mtns, and then north on Summit, which becomes Skyline, and home.

casalegnosThat plan might have worked well had I not had trouble reading the route I’d mapped out on my Garmin, and instead of paralleling Highway 17, we were actually riding alongside Highway 1, ending up in Soquel. Not part of the plan! But a missed turn can become an opportunity, and knowing the area reasonably well, we simply headed up Soquel San Jose Road instead, discovering a very nice little café/convenience store in the middle of nowhere (we’d been alerted to watch for it from a small sign at the side of the road that simply said “Great Coffee, 900ft”).

122.2 miles/200k!
122.2 miles/200k!

This ride exemplified my frequent insistence that, just because you feel bad during part of a ride, doesn’t mean you won’t finish feeling great. From the lunch spot in Davenport to the 95 mile point at Saratoga Gap, Kevin was pretty much going through the motions. But everything changed at Saratoga Gap. He flew the rest of the way. Especially on the section we added at the very end, to get to 200k.

About that 200k thing. Around 105 miles into the ride, up on Skyline, Kevin tells me that he’s had a list of cycling things he wanted to do by the time he was 21, and the only one he hasn’t yet crossed off the list was doing a 200k ride. This ride wasn’t planned to be 200k, partly because I had no idea of his desire to do one. But when he told me, I’m thinking OK, his 21st birthday’s only a couple months away, there might not be another chance, and we’re so close! This ride was going to end up being 117 miles.

So once in Woodside, instead of turning heading straight home, we made a loop backward a bit and did a circuit on Mtn Home Road. Perfect distance, as you can see on the Garmin. Finished with 122.2 miles, exactly!