Hard braking

Those of you who’ve taken a League of American Bicyclists (LAB) road skills class (or similar) learned and practiced what they call the ‘quick stop.’

Cycling isn’t rocket science and you don’t need a tremendous amount of instruction to ride in traffic, but the skills learned in road cycling skills classes taught by LAB instructors can help you become a safer, more confident and more “effective” (*ahem*) cyclist.

Most of your bike’s stopping power comes through the front brake. If you need to stop in a hurry, then, your front brake gives you the most bang for the buck, so it’s helpful to know how to use that brake.

Many people avoid using the front brake because they fear the dreaded endo. Keeping your weight firmly over the back wheel and modulating your front brake as necessary will help prevent a fall.

I use my front brake almost exclusively, but I have to work to even get my rear wheel to leave the ground. I’ve flipped over the handlebars on the road three times in my life, but the brakes weren’t really involved in those crashes. The first time I was seven years old in Carlsbad, CA and riding way beyond my abilities. The other two times involved the sudden stop that comes from hitting a car.

As you can see in the video, it’s not the end of the world if your rear wheel no longer touches pavement. I’m a cyclist of only middling capabilities, so if I can do this little mini stoppie (or front wheelie) you probably can too.

Practice using that front brake so when you really need to use it, your grab for a fistful of brake won’t be a panic situation with a potentially painful end, but rather a quick stop where you stay upright and in control.

There is always the risk of sliding while braking. When the rear wheel skids, you have a longer stopping distance. When they’d front wheel begins to skid, you go down — fast. You should avoid the hard brake on the front in situations where a skid could happen: on surfaces that are wet, icy, or covered in sand, gravel, or leaves, for example.

Safety and speed are correlated; the faster you go, the more risks you take. Slow cyclists’ can benefit from fast cycling skills like this, but you have more time to react so these techniques are less important.

This is one of those things that’s probably better learned hands on rather than via a blog and YouTube video. For more about the LAB cycling skills classes, click here. You might also look into various other road skills and coaching opportunities in your area from people like Coach Rob in Kentucky, or the women’s coaching clinics taught by Lorri Lee Lown in the South Bay (including one this weekend!)


  1. I recently took the LAB Traffic Skills 101 class.  One thing we learned during our drills… you can stop your bike in about 8-10 feet, but you can make a 90 turn in as little as 4 feet at the same speed.  The “instant turn” drill is designed to help you avoid an obstacle by identifying an escape route and making a quick turn.  

    By the way, try stopping quickly with just the back brake, then just the front brake, then both.  It’s really surprising how much longer it takes to stop without your front brake.

  2. Thanks Richard.  My daughter just got a bike w/ handbrakes and was worried about an endo.  We’ll head out for a ride now.

  3. Bike safety classes for children taught by LCIs also demonstrate front
    braking – good skill for kids to practice too. Probably best to avoid on
    your dirt rides, though!

    Sent from my Googaw

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