Steve was rather defensive about his brake sliding habit, and he is not alone. This is one skill that most people are quite proud to have learned all by themselves, so to have Mr Coach even bring up the subject can cause tensions to rise. But it has to be said!
No doubt you’ve seen it before. While Gavin never even touched the rear brake, Steve was locking it up in every single corner. All that sliding looked real fast and Steve would return from a ride covered in sweat like any decent thoroughbred, but having only just beaten Gavin.
Obviously Steve’s need was the urgent one, yet I began with teaching Gavin how to brake slide. Why? By showing Gavin the right way to do it, Steve’s habits could be modified to something much more productive without trying to battle my way through the brick wall of pride.
Pause For Effect
Getting straight to the point, locking up the rear brake before you are ready for the rear wheel to swing out is worse than pointless and is the most common mistake riders make. Locking too early makes for a lot of flying dirt but very little useful turning. Therefore leaving that lock up until you are making the hardest part of your turn is much more effective and consistent to control.
Setting out a series of marker pegs down the start straight of our track was the course. Gavin’s goal was getting used to pulling in the clutch before stomping on the rear brake to avoid stalling. This was natural to Steve already so he worked on how late to make his move.
Like most males, he was all force and no finesse, using great amounts of body language to force the rear to do what he wanted. It was my turn for a demo, showing them how little effort was required if I was well into my turn before using that rear brake. Something must have clicked in Steve’s mind at that point as he saw a better way, and I hadn’t even stopped before he was off onto our little course to try this new way for himself, with excellent results. In his mind he had figured in out by himself, and was soon back on the main track trying it in the turns.
So that was the easy part; convincing the male mind that full brakes followed instantly by full throttle is not the fastest way can be a long-term job. Even proving by stop watch which way is faster often does little, simple because their way feels so much faster. So I work around the problem a different way.
Deep inside of Steve was that little voice that backed up what I was saying, so we came up with a little deal.
Brake sliding is good in these situations;
- Riding through tight trees to avoid smashing a hand into one when you lean in to a turn too far.
- On a very slippery track where braking and powering in a perfectly straight line overcomes the loss of time caused by basically stopping to slide a quick pivot.
- If you don’t lean enough for a turn.
Aside from these situations (and any other valid ones that can be pointed out), it is much faster and less energy sapping to keep the rear wheel turning and carry more speed through turns by leaning into each corner with the bike.
This one skill can really be the difference that unlocks the real potential of someone like Steve, smashing that ceiling that was limiting him so much. On the other hand, if you never use the brake slide at all then this could be a valuable tool to have in your belt.