Generally on a bicycle it’s best to brake using the front brake only. The weight then transfers to the front wheel and increases grip to the wheel under braking. If you use the back brake, the weight transfers away from the wheel under braking and you easily start to skid. Skidding is bad news if you want to stay rubber side down.
Modern disk brakes are very well modulated so there is no danger of going over the bars unless you try very very hard to do so.
The only times I really use my back brake are (a) on loose off-road trails when the front wheel could skid, and (b) in combination with the front brake for an emergency stop. On road it is front brake only 90% of the time.
Gosh, the bike I had as a kid was “foot-forward”. Or, as we called it then, a “dragster”, with a “banana” seat and dragster handle bars.
Looking at modern foot-forward bikes, they’ve got the special seat and the the forward cranks and the low seating position. They have got a longer wheel base. Just looking at them, I’d think that deep handle bars whould suit them well.
I can’t recalll ever seeing modulated disc brakes - not to say they don’t exist, but that would be an uncommon product in the US, I’ve seen modulated front v-brakes on entry level hybrids; its not the most common thing, but Trek has been using them in recent years.
I would not not recommend the front brake only stopping method for a road bike, or as a general rule. Even though on some bikes due to geometry and other factors you will not likely have problems, there is not really any benefit to getting into that habit.
When you put it that way, foot forward technology sounds kind of weird - your post made me chuckle. I think sometimes I get into the habit of using industry terminology without questioning how rediculous it sounds. Electra was the first company to design adult bikes this way - so it was all a very serious issue when other companies started making similar bikes.
Tadpoles, and tricycle autos with two wheels in the front, are much more tip resistant than deltas. If you think about the forces in a turn it becomes obvious, but for fun: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QQh56geU0X8
I’m a mountain biker, so that may explain the difference in technique.
Plenty of folks still have caliper brakes, and those can pretty easily launch you over the handlebars if you clamp down on the front brakes too hard, especially if you’re going downhill. (been there, done that, had the wind knocked out of me).
The way I learned to do it was to brake primarily with the rear brake, but to use both for panic stops and on level ground.
Yep, using just the front brakes is a waste of perfectly good braking capability. You use both together. If you are braking so hard the rear locks up you release it. Rear wheel skids are seldom dangerous to anyone who knows what they are doing anyway.
I think what you are looking for is a bike whose front end design gives more stability. The two issues are the angle of the head tube and the fork rake.
The head tube is that short vertical part of the frame in which the front fork turns. It’s not quite vertical, it slopes back slightly. The amount of that slope influences stability.
The front fork, which holds the front wheel, isn’t just straight pieces. At the bottom, they curve forward a little bit. As a first approximation, you want the point where the tire touches the road to be on the extended centerline of the head tube, and because the head tube slopes back this requires moving the axle of the front wheel forward of the head tube centerline.
However, to be more detailed about it, exactly where the point of tire contact is in relation to the head tube centerline, and the slope of that centerline, change the stability of the bike. Making the bike a little less stable also makes it more lively and responsive, but it’s a matter of personal taste.
There was a great paperback I bought a few years ago called “Bicycle Science” (I think) that goes into this and a bunch more. Turns out there’s quite a lot of explanation why you can’t ride a bike backwards…
Thanks for posting. Interesting articles. It appears the distribution of mass in relation to the wheels is way more important than previously thought.
However, they don’t address actual bicycles. Fork angle makes a big difference in stability. Change the angles and stability changes. And it’s always been known that the distribution of weight within a wheel greatly affects it’s rolling speed. 2 wheels of the same weight will roll at different speeds down hill based on where the weight is located. The more weight in the center the faster it will roll.
In my experience the heavier bike is the more stable. I’ve tried both my bikes to see how they react without a rider and w/rider but not holding the handle bars. One is a mountain bike the other a touring bike. The lighter bike is less stable. It is less stable than my last bike of similar design but heavier weight. It is more stable than my buddy’s racing bike. Not scientific but those are my observations.
The stability of a bike is going to come down to it’s mass distribution, frame geometry, and a stack of other factors. The articles do reference these factors, e.g.
“The farther forward the center of mass for the bike + person riding the bike, the less front wheel movement that will be needed to maintain balance. This is probably most noticeable on certain custom motor cycles where the front wheel sticks well out from the bike.
Another less known factor in a bike’s ride-ability is something called “trail”. Simply put, this is a measure of how much the distance from the front wheel’s point touches the ground trails the steering axis’ contact point, which is where the entire steering mechanism (fork, handlebars, front wheel, etc) pivots. A longer trail will make a bike feel much more stable than a shorter one. However, if the trail is too long, the bike will feel difficult to steer. Bikes with too little trail, or even negative trail, will feel inherently unstable”
In short, it’s a lot more complex than just “heavier = more stable”.
Thanks for all the information, everybody. The diversity of bike types and geometries makes me hopeful I will find something that works.
Looks like the best strategy will be to go to the bike store and ask to try out several different kinds. Richardson Bike Mart is fairly huge, surely the staff will have some opinions about mitigating my inherent propensity to fall over.
Definitely. The big risk with a standard trike is turning while braking downhill, which tends to send you ass over teakettle. With a tadpole, you want to avoid turning during rapid acceleration uphill. That’s a lot easier to avoid (or even, hard to accomplish if you try).
Explanation, please? Possible pitch-forward, like the old penny-farthing bikes? I did a lot of bike riding as a kid and don’t ever remember any risk of pitching forward, other than hard stops on steep downhills, and even then, the bigger risk was the front wheel slipping out from under me (which is actually the last bike accident I ever had – with toeclips on, I stayed on the bike and did a judo shoulder roll, and put a hole in my shirt and got a road burn on my shoulder but otherwise OK.)
Been there, done that, and fortunately I was young enough to recover from all the road rash I got from that one that I no longer have the scars to prove it. I do remember limping to the nearest house, which fortunately belonged to friends, and Mrs McCulloch patiently pulling all the little cinders out of my skin. Lesson learned: don’t be a moron.
I don’t think there’s a one-size-fits-all rule about braking, other than “pay attention and don’t do anything that would make you pitch forward or let a tire slip out from under you!” Avoid braking while turning, if possible (or more specifically, do most of the breaking before going into the turn.) Of course, racers have special rules.
I don’t think that either of those disproves Magiver’s point that “The more mass in the wheel the more stable it is.” While it’s true that there’s a lot more going on than mere gyroscopic effect, without any of that, it doesn’t work. And with more of it (all other things being equal), a bike is more stable. If you don’t believe me, take two identical bikes, but put steel rims on one and aluminum rims on the other. Find out how slow you can ride no-handed. I’ll bet dollars to donuts you can ride the steel-rimmed bike much more slowly. I’ve never done this test, but I do remember the dramatic difference in stability when I changed from steel to aluminum rims.
My experience regarding recumbent reverse trike stability, from upthread:
Not a classic pitching forward end over end. Rather, under hard braking the rider can shift forward while the rear wheel unloads simultaneously. If your feet come off the pedals you can be ejected or become entangled with the boom/crank/chainring. If you slide forward far enough, the rear tire can leave the ground, increasing the likelihood of losing contact with the machine.