HOW IN THE WORLD DO YOU STOP IF THE BIKE HAS NO BRAKES? This is one of the most common questions when it comes to riding a fixed gear bike. Well, there are a couple of different methods to slowing down and coming to a complete stop on a fixed gear bike.
The easiest, but probably not the most common way to stop on a fixed gear bike is simply by using a brake. Most people you see on fixed gear bikes tend to ride without brakes, and they stop in a different way…but for someone who is just starting out, the best way to stop is with the assistance of a brake. When using brakes to stop, the most efficient brake to use is the front wheel brake. Because of the lack of a freewheel, braking on the rear wheel will not do much to slow you down…the momentum of the back wheel and constant pedaling will be too much force for the rear wheel brake to do anything. This will only wear out the brake pads and make an annoying sound. The front wheel brake will be much more efficient in slowing down the bicycle because there is no counter force working against the brake.
The second and most widely used method of stopping or slowing down a fixed gear bicycle is through the method known as skid stopping and this involves no braking devices. This method of stopping is achieved by pure human force and working against the natural motion of the fixed gear style. This is very much a skill that is more easily learned through trial and error and trying it for yourself…words can guide you, but it is something you must try to actually figure it out. What skid stopping amounts to is locking your legs up so that the rear wheel stops completely…and this is all due to the lack of a freewheel system; your legs stop pedaling, then the rear wheel stops moving. The best place to practice this is on wet grass so that the rear wheel will slide more easily. It is also easier to learn this skill with a low gear ratio bike so that the resistance you feel will be much less. Another secret to achieving this stop is to lean forward a great deal…you want to get as much weight off of your rear wheel as possible so that the tire loses traction with the ground and the skid is easier to initiate.
The timing of the skid is also very important to doing it correctly. Your legs must be in a good position to exert the correct amount of counter force against the normal rotation of the pedals. If you feel like your right leg is stronger than your left, wait until your right leg reaches about 9 o’clock and your left leg hits about 3 o’clock…this is a good rule to follow when initiating the skid. At about this time, lock your legs up, lean forward and push against the natural rotation of the pedals. When you begin to skid, hold this position until you reach your desired speed or until you have completely stopped.