…Unless you’re riding REALLY gnarly trails of course.
I’ve had my Oracle 24 for a little while now (since last summer) and for the most part it’s great although I find myself hardly using the brake at all. The trails I ride aren’t extremely difficult but they’re pretty tough in places yet, as I’ve progressed as a rider, the brake has been gathering dust so to speak. It’s just more fun to ride without braking (apart for the ocasional section where braking makes you faster).
Is there anyone else out there who’s experiencing the same thing or am I just a bit weird?
It’s my opinion that only the absolutely most skilled MUNI riders will be able to properly feather the brake in single track situations where they are really necessary. When I’m in a situation that I want to use the brake, I can’t because I’m simply too busy trying to negotiate the trail.
For road riding brakes are a completely different animal. I can think of at least one really steep downhill street where I definitely was glad to have the brake for a drag. It was on a 29er, but even on that wheel it would have been a whole lot more work going down that hill without a brake. On steep downhills it’s tough to recover once the speed picks up too much.
I just got my first 36er that doesn’t have a brake… yet. I’m still getting to know this beast but I know it will have a brake long before it has a T-bar or any other accessory. Taking this thing down a steep hill would be real skarey if the speed got too fast.
It takes a while to learn how to use a brake, so you won’t use it much at first, but it’ll grow on you and at one point it will become an essential part of your riding style.
I had a Magura rim brake for months before I started using it, now I run a 200mm hydraulic disc brake, couldn’t imagine running brakeless now, I’d have to limit the difficulty of the trails I ride and/or run long cranks.
Reasons for a brake:
So you can run shorter cranks
So you can rest your legs on downhills
So you can make fast stops and direction changes
So you can keep your wheel steady while taking a rest
So you can do amazing powerslides
I use my brake on my muni all of the time on any downhill, even small short easy hills. It saves my legs and energy and as a result I can ride twice as long as I normally can without brakes. Note, I am using a 26" Schlumpf but even when I had my single speed 26 or 29" I used it a lot.
Once you master a brake it’s very hard to ride without one. I had to take mine off a few weeks ago to switch frames and went on one ride without my brake and couldn’t ride many sections that I normally ride as I wasn’t confident enough to ride down knowing that my legs might not stop me cause of poor leverage (short 137 cranks). So I strongly suggest a brake for any serious riders out there that want to conserve energy and go for longer rides!
It’s not that I can’t use the brake, I just find myself rarely needing the brake. Sure there are some times where having a brake makes you a lot faster but for the most part they just take the skill out of things IMHO.
Ok, so they aren’t a complete waste of time. Even I’ll admit that sliding a uni is great fun.
When Ben says it takes time to learn to use the brake, he’s right. Over the years I learned to use my brake, control the pressure in every situation, so I can go fast and still be in full control of my unicycle. There’s no way I could’ve done 8 revs of “Beau gliding” without practice.
There are too many factors in play to validate a blanket statement of usefulness. Light wheel, long cranks, going uphill, and super human leg strength would make me question having a brake. On my 26 MUni with 140’s it is nice to have a brake. My 29’er with 125’s is fine without.
I choose not to have brakes, and in doing so, I deliberately accept the limitations and challenges of riding a “pure” unicycle. I’ve said this before, I know: choose the wheel size, tyre section and cranks, then see what you can achieve.
However, that is not to say that brakes are a “waste of time”. I can see circumstances in which they would be useful including:
A long descent that would either be tiring or even unridable relying on back pressure on the pedals. Knees are sensitive and can be fragile; I know this: I am a Morris dancer.
Holding the wheel absolutely “locked” when hopping on uneven or sloping surfaces.
With skill and practice, slowing down under control in a shorter distance than is possible with pedal pressure alone - especially on a 36 with short cranks.
For some riders, the brakes (especially hydraulic disc brakes) may be “bling” and seldom used.
Some riders may feel that brakes give them a “credibility” which may discourage some of the silly “circus” type comments we often get.
I can imagine some riders using their brakes inexpertly and falling off. If you slam your brake on when you’re riding fast, it will not end well.
The purist in me makes me manage without a brake. That said, I am not sufficiently purist to say “no handle” or “banana seat” or “solid tyre”. I choose my level of comfort and difficulty then rationalise it accordingly.
A brake is a reasonable option. Like any other item of equipment, you would need to practice to use a brake and become confident.
This sums up my opinion perfectly. I like having a brake, I think a brake is useful, big wheels are better with brakes (ouch! Coker knees!) but for 90% of the ride they are just adding extra weight. There are times when brakes make a load of difference but I’m starting to question whether it would be better to just man up and practice some more.
Either way, I love my Oracle and I’m probably not going to go “pure” just yet. There are times when it’s awsome to just feather your brake and fly down a steep hill.
Bwaaahaa, I need brakes cause I like to ride down stupidly steep hills, but that’s neither here nor there. I thought I would add a funny visual: The first few times I rode with brakes, I would grab the brake handle when I would go for the grab handle on the seat, when climbing hills. talk about “power” UPD’s!
I started with a Magura a couple years ago, hardly used it for the simple reason that I was too busy concentrating on riding the downhill terrain to still have to think about a brake. However I’ve been making a concerted effort to use the brake as often as I can even on simple/gradual downhills to both get used to holding the brake for extended periods and get used to feathering it correctly.
I now ride with a disc brake setup and am extremely happy that I spent some time getting used to using the brake as I find it indispensable now. Not in a way that I cannot ride without it, but rather that it makes my rides that more enjoyable as it gives me so much more control, a lot more than I had before.
Make a conscious effort to use the brake more, even on easy sections … it will just add to the set of skills. The brake is not necessary, but it does make riding easier.
I went through pretty much exactly what you described until recently when I though “hang on a sec, If I can ride this without the brake why not ride it without the brake?” Contrary to how my posts sound, I do love having a brake I just prefer the challenge of not using it. TBH though, for the sake of a few hundrend grams of static weight (rotor is too light to count) having a brake really is worth it even just to make you faster.
Two Summers ago I flew out to SLC to ride with some forum buddies, brought along my trusty KH 29 with 160mm crank. This was a set up I had gotten used to, shortish cranks and Magura rim brakes.
In transit I lost a brake pad, no one in SLC had Magura pads, so I had to ride brakeless. This would not have been a problem if I:
did short rides
had longer cranks
So, of course we went on an all day ride and I did not have longer cranks.
As a result my knees were sore to the point of developing a chronic injury that too six months to resolve and it was not as fun.
Brakes do not take the fun away, brakes increase the fun by allowing you a second means of control, by allowing you to run shorter cranks, and by allowing you to rest your legs so you can ride further and longer.
If you have not found the brake love, then you have not learned to use a brake effectively.
It is also possible that a 24" is less in need of brakes; it’s been a while since I rode such a small wheel for any significant distance, so that’s such a small wheel that going fast is really not an issue. Maybe you need a 24 guni or a bigger wheel so you can ride faster?