PostHeaderIcon Your Bicycle’s Brakes

Can you remember as a kid when you first dared to ride your bike down that really steep hill (well it seemed that way) in your neighborhood? The ride down was a rush and you wanted to do it again and again. The stopping wasn’t always so much fun though.

Bicycle control relies on two elements: steering and brakes. If you don’t have either of these, you will be out of control and hazardous to yourself and others.

The first bicycles created had no brakes. So probably when one of the first cyclists ran into something the next logical step was to devise a stopping system. Brakes were invented to help riders slow down and stop. This made it safer for everyone and so cycling became more popular.

The idea was to increase frictional force on the wheels thereby cyclists were able to slow down and stop.

The first widely used braking system was called “the plunger”. It appeared fairly early in the bicycle’s development on the high-wheeled bicycles that were popular in the 1800s. The plunger was quite simple and as a lever was either pressed down or pulled up, causing a piece of metal to press against the outer side of the tire.  Bicycle brakes As you might suspect the friction caused excess wear and tear to the tire. Wet surfaces were also a problem as water decreased the friction therefore reducing the braking power. The plunger did not work well especially with pneumatic tires, even after the metal shoe was covered with rubber.

The next big development in bicycle brakes was the “coaster brake“. I am sure you remember using coaster brakes on your first bike. They are still popular in toddler bikes and tricycles and some utility bicycles and cruisers. Coaster brakes work by moving the pedals in a reverse direction which causes the brake mechanism inside the hub of the wheel to push outward, creating friction and slowing down the bike.  Bicycle brakes Kids love coaster brakes as they are quite strong and tend to lock up and skid the rear wheel when engaged. This makes them a great choice for sidewalk burnouts.

Most of today’s mountain, road and stunt bikes use caliper rim brakes. They work by pulling a lever which tightens a cable which then forces the brake pads or shoes to press against the inner rim of the wheel. Caliper bicycle brakes are light and relatively inexpensive. They do have their own set of problems. The main one is they are not hugely efficient on rainy days. Wet brakes take twice as long to stop a bicycle. Caliper brakes work best when pressure is applied gently.

For down hilling and mountain biking in steep conditions disk brakes are the brakes of choice.  Bicycle brakes They are the next generation of brakes though they tend to be heavier this is not a problem in downhill. Disk brakes have many advantages. First of all disc brakes are more powerful. They also work smoother and are less likely to lock up and easier to control. They also work much better if you like riding in muddy or wet conditions.

Over the decades, braking systems and materials have changed, but the fundamentals have not. Bicycle brakes are still vitally important to your safety, and are still based on the concept of friction.

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