Upgrade your brakes to increase stopping power. Is it really what you need? Tires may be your answer
Many times i have this question coming my way: my brakes works but i need more power. What upgrade do you recommend?
Well this opens a can of worms as in most cases the brake set is more than adequate for the job in hand. It leads to the fundamental of braking where increasing the stopping power of your hardware will not stop you faster.
Paradox? What is the underlining of this statement you will ask.
Firstly let talk about brakes, usually 1 at the front and 1 at the rear. they can be in various shapes or forms, roller brakes, cantilever, V brakes, Hydraulic rim brake, coaster brakes, disk, either mechanical, hydraulic, hybrid , 1, 2 or 4 pistons and even feet (those BMX riders will understand).
All the above brakes are good, (maybe i will put a reserve on the foot brake though), when used for their attended purposes, with a proper setup and the understanding of their limitations.
To bring your bicycle to a stop, you will pull on those levers find at the end of your handle bar and then this action will make the brake works and stop the bike. Easy and simple.
The fact is the your bike is slowing down due to the wheels starting to rotate slower than your traveling speed. By pushing the brakes, you are asking your tires to increase the friction with the ground, more friction you have ,the more you will slow down. If you brake the friction, then your tire has no bite. The tire ,in most cases, will lock, or under-rotate and for then will slide.
To increase braking power there a few steps to observe, today we will talk about tires.
Are your tires in good condition? tread, compound, pressure, size etc...
Are you using the right tire for your riding condition and nature of the ground?
Many tires are available from various manufacturers, width, compound, weight, size, prices, brand awareness will make you decide and choose a tire over another one. We all have favorites, and we all know what is the best tire for our bike and riding conditions. So in order to understand braking power and increase that friction, we must be open to other possibilities. Bike relies 100% on mechanical grip, there are no ground effect, no huge spoilers to bring those tires down.
The trend is to put the biggest tires possible within the limit of your frame, in the idea of bigger is better, bigger contact patch with the ground will be better for sure. Well is it?
Most of the time, bigger tires will be fitted with fast rolling thread to compensate for the increase in rolling resistance,in term of short, close pattern knobs.
Probably not the best idea is you are riding on a very loose surface, with the hard ground under a layer of dust, or small gravel. Tires will soon float above that surface and the short knobs will not be deep enough to get to the hard ground laying under the loose layer. for then braking power will decrease.
This is one example of wrong tire used in confidence based on myth and other social media truth. Or recommended by a friend. Your own experience and your thirst to try different things will give you the experience and understand your needs.
In a nutshell, the first step to increase your braking power is to increase the friction with the ground. When you achieve this then the next step will be your fork and shock. That is another chapter coming soon. In the mean time, ride hard, ride fun and be safe.