Any tips on how to use the brake for technical muni?

I have searched for other threads but most of them just debate whether people use brakes or not. My question is for muni riders who do – how?!

I have a brake on my KH29” and have been using it for a few months already, with no problem at all on smooth trails, even steep ones. However, as soon as it is bumpy, I struggle. I keep trying but with little success so far, so any tips would help. Practice is not a tip, just a given, so please ellaborate!

For instance, I would like to know how you transition from not braking to braking and vice-versa. It seems to be my problem: as soon as there is a drop (even very small ones), I release the lever completely and hold onto the seat with all my fingers. And then I need too much time to find the lever again after landing. Things get out of control when there is a quick succession of drops… Should I keep grabbing the lever during the whole descent?

Also, do you use the same braking technique when there are multiple small drops (a bumpy descent) as when there are a few larger drops (say >1ft)?
Any situation where you don’t even try to use the brake?



I use one or two fingers on the brake. Get a spooner if you don’t have one - it makes a massive difference, even if it is a bit expensive for such a teeny thing, it allows you to control braking better, and also lets you get back on the brake very quickly if you lose it.

I try my best to keep a finger on the brake over drops and bumps, and keep the braking pressure roughly constant. If you have your finger on the brake, then you can really feel how tight it needs to be and get better at braking over drops and keeping the wheel turning at a constant speed.

The more you practice, the less you will end up with your finger being bumped off the lever, I find it does sometimes get bumped a little when I go over very rocky stuff at high speed, but not anywhere near as often as it used to.


I find that if you just pull it until its starting to touch the rim, but barely slowing you down then if you hit a big bump, it won’t jog you so you pull it right on.

Some decents I won’t even bother to use the brake. Especially if they are very rocky or bumpy. I find that very bumpy downhill is easier to control your speed on than smooth open downhill. Not sure why :o

For example. In this video, the only time I used the brake was when was going slow at the bottom of the steep section towards the cliff above the lake.

As you can see, the rocks and turns slow your decent somewhat anyway.

One way to learn brake “feel” is to ride in the rain, this allows the pad to slide easier and makes braking less abrupt.

In terms of using the brake on tech stuff, I find it is a hard thing to do unless you use your brake all teh time as it will not feel natural. I run long cranks, so I generally have enough power and control, but I will use the brake to help me rebalance if I find myself too far back; braking brings you forward.

As you initiate the brake, you do need to be back somewhat since braking brings you forward. I tend to start braking before I need it, this way I go into the hill or obstacle already on the brake, so no sudden changes to upset my balance.

In terms of set up, paying attention to pad alignment is important, think of how a brake engages, you want the leading edge of the pad to touch first, then the remainder of the pad comes in contact with he rim progressively. This is the same for a bike.

Keep your rims and pads clean, flip them when they start wearing.

I have been using my brake less as my skills stregthen. One of the problems with brakes is that you don’t have as much control in certain situations, so for me I prefer some downhills to be done brakeless as tehbrake makes it more precarious. I tend to use my brake more on steep low tech hills and legs only on short steep tech.

I can see how brakes could be a very effectve tool based on comments by KH, but my skill set isn’t there yet, so I use them mostly to rest my legs and correct rearward balance.

Definitely get the Spooner if you haven’t yet.

When riding down rough stuff I keep one finger on the Spooner at all times. Typically for successive bumps I’ll ride the brake up to the bump and let off slightly to roll over the bump. Then I ease onto the brake as I come off the other side, trying to absorb as much of the force of landing with the brake and not my rear leg. Repeat.

Thanks guys for your replies and the useful tips.
I should have mentioned that I do have the spooner - and I agree it is a great help, expensive but I would not use my brake at all without the spooner, so…

What Nurse_Ben described is pretty much exactly what I am doing at the moment - I don’t use it on technical descents because I find it easier to control my balance without the brake.

But going forward, I would like to start using it more on technical descents too as I don’t always have enough torque to keep my speed down (with my 29", 150mm cranks). I would also like to use it right after landing drops because at the moment, if the slope is too steep after a drop, I am in trouble and the unicycle typically shoots from underneath me.
I will try phlegm’s technique.

PS: Edd, great video by the way. I had not commented in your video thread, but highly impressive stuff!