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How does braking affect your corner speed?

At the mountain bike world championships in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, Claudio Calouri and Rob Warner were talking a lot about braking.

Riders who appeared to do too much braking went visually more slowly than riders with a “good” braking strategy. And of course, this was apparent in race times.

More often than not the riders who consistently appeared to brake well went much more quickly over the entire race run.

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Yes, we all know that braking can affect how fast you are going, but so far not many people know what a good braking pattern looks like.

The data is still very new, but I wrote about the very first braking study during XC racing here. It turned out that you can change your braking from lap-to-lap and make up for fatiguing legs!

That was over a whole XC lap… But how much does braking matter heading in to one single turn?

I was really curious about this, so using the most accurate brake power meter, I tested several riders’ braking strategies over a short descent into a left hand turn.

This article was recently reviewed and published in the International Journal of Performance Analysis in Sport.

**Check out this link to a free e-print!**

Why do riders brake heading in to turns?

Riders brake when they feel that they are going too quickly. For different riders this will happen at different speeds. Pro riders are much more willing to travel very very quickly, while beginners will begin slowing down even when they are not moving very fast–especially when heading in to turns.

There are a few reasons for this.

And it’s a bit of a vicious cycle!

The first reason is that the pros are much more confident. And this goes beyond just being more willing to send it!


The pros are very confident in their bikes–and especially in their ability to slow down in a split second if they need to!

Another main reason is that the pros are willing to ride faster is that they have the bike handling skills to be able to take the turn at a very high speed. They simply can go faster  in the turn, thanks to good weight distribution on the bike, proper lean angles and control of the direction of the bike.

But by slowing down too much before a turn and not having the skill to exit with speed means you are not riding very fast or very in control.


What did we test and what were the results?

Of the dozens of riders we tested, we found some really good results.

Corner plot

We had riders coast down a short, straight hill (no chain) to control their speed on the same bike with a brake power meter. Sections A and B were in a straight line, but sections C and D were the two parts of the turn, split at the apex. We controlled the line they took as much as possible by taping the track narrowly. They did this 3 times in a row.

Once we collected all the data we broke the short track into sections on the computer and analysed their pattern of braking and where they were doing their braking. The measurements we focus on were,

  1. Brake work: the total energy removed through braking

  2. Brake time: the total time spent braking

  3. Brake power: the energy done in braking divided by the time spent braking (i.e. how hard they were braking)

  4. Time: the time to complete the whole track and time to complete each section