Control Your Speed: The Brakes
In cycling terms: a brake is simply a component or system designed to slow the bike down, and unsurprisingly this slowing down will result in eventually coming to a halt (unless you are coasting down an eternally long hill, or pedaling while braking).
Slowing down and stopping are just as important as moving forward. Often overlooked by the everyday rider, effective control of the brakes is just as much of a skill as pushing hard on the pedals or flying between trees. For some, specialised kinds of riding, brakes are considered not always necessary (track racing & BMX bikes, to name a couple), however with the vast majority of bicycles being ridden on the road, particularly in urban landscapes – brakes are seriously important!
An important choice to made when sourcing components to build a bike, the brakes make a huge difference in the ridability: a well set up braking system can inspire confidence and provide you with the safety blanket you need when pushing the limits (when the traffic lights allow). Knowing you are covered by an effective slowing and stopping system can make riding much less stressful and encourage you to ride faster.
On the other end of the spectrum, a poor braking set up can not only be extremely dangerous but can also add anxiety to your ride. This is not only in terms of how strong the brakes are, but how much adjustability they have, how predictable they are, how easy they are to apply and moderate, and, of course, how well they cope with changing conditions.
It is UK law for all bicycles on the roads to have two functioning brakes. Some braking systems are more conventional than others but as long as there is a brake for each wheel you are good to go. For example: a front brake with a fixed-gear wheel (see Section 10), or a pedal-back brake (Section 8) are both legal ways to stop.
In this section, the fundamental components that make up different braking systems will be broken down and explained.