Brake for flat distance riding: yes or no?

Out of my seven or so unicycles, only the Schlumpf 29" has a brake. The idea was that I could use it for emergency stops. However, I lack the technique doing that, so what I do now in emergencies is jump off and decelerate on foot. I always ride on the flat and so I get no natural practice with the brake, only the occasional bridge to try it out. For regular slowing down I don’t need a brake, I just pedal slower.

In view of this: For a new fast 36" unicycle that will be ridden (by me) under the same conditions, would you recommend purchasing a brake or not? Why?


On my ongeared 29" I have plenty of stopping power with my legs on 125mm cranks. Geared however that might be not the case, so a brake should be handy. But make sure you can do it properly, braking on flat is a bugger

I have a brake on my kh36. I havn’t had the courage to use it yet. I live between two steep hills (one of which is pretty damn steep). I just use my legs to brake. It does hut my calfs but it also build up the musscle. Maybe one day i’ll find my courage…

NO! No brake

Looks like a brake is similar to a hood ornimate for you. Why have one if you never use it.

I ride down some good long hills, 10-20% grade, and never use a brake.

Just leave it off.


Here is my experience with a brake:

  1. I had one on my first 36er (original coker frame with added magura mounts, and a rim that didnt have a machined braking surface). This set up was unusable for me, I never had any benefit of the brake.

  2. Nimbus 36er with machined nimbus nightrider rim and maguras. This set up had a pretty nice brake set up, it felt pretty smooth, and I found it usable down smooth descents, but trying to use it over bumpy steep areas was scary.

  3. KH/Schlumpf 36: I have a brake installed, but it doesn’t feel all that smooth. I think this is because my wheel isnt exactly true or tensioned, but I swapped out the black standard pads for gray ones and it seemed to make braking a little nicer. I haven’t really taken it out on a really hilly ride yet, so I haven’t fully tested out the brake yet. I found it difficult to use in high gear on a narrow bike hilly bike trail though.

As far as flats are concerned. If you know how to use a brake, it can come in handy stopping. I practiced for a few hours by riding fast and then stopping abruptly with the brake. There is a technique required to do it correctly, but it can come in handy.

With all of that said though…I do not think you need a brake. If only riding flat ground, I think you will end up hurting yourself more if you dont get much practice in with the brake. If you find yourself straining your legs whenever you need to stop or slow down, then you should try adding the brake.

James covered the main points. If you use a brake every time you want to slow down, then you will be conserving your energy instead of using muscle power to slow you down. Thus, you can ride further with less fatigue.

In addition, I find a brake helpful going down steep hills – especially on the geared 36. On an ungeared Coker, I don’t need a brake as badly, but I’m also used to spinning fairly fast, and it still did help on long descents.


Oh, and my advice is to just get a cheap cable brake and skip the maguras. Drill a hole in your frame and attach it that way.


A brake for riding in Holland? Hardly.

Though I know of a few riders who can use their brakes for actual stopping, I assume it takes a lot of trial and error to learn the skills and the guts of someone like Chuck Edwall or Beau Hoover to become consistent at it. :slight_smile:

I don’t know that brakes are worth fitting if you ride in a flat environment and ride on road, but once I got over the purist ‘real unicyclists only brake with their legs’ point of view I became a big fan of brakes.

Brakes help look after my beat up knees and mean that I fatigue less during a ride, can ride longer, more control and fun on descents and wake up the next day with happier knees, to ride again!

To provide an alternative point of view re Maguras. Magura’s work fine for me on 29" and 36". I ride pretty much every day with almost all of my riding off road where there’s not much flat terrain at all. What I do find with Magura’s though is that they aren’t particularly forgiving or smooth if your wheel is not tight, well built or out of true or out of round. If the wheel is spot on though, the braking experience is GREAT, for me anyway.

camrocl, man give your brake a go! Don’t start on the steepest of hills, but you still need to be on a hill where you can feel some load on your legs. Braking on a uni is an intuitive thing that you’ll get a handle on in no time. Your butt automatically drops backwards to compensate for the braking, and it becomes this auto-magic dance between the terrain, your butt and the pressure on the brake lever, with as much or as little load on your legs as you want.

So my vote - Klaas, get a brake and head for the hills! :slight_smile:

a brake would be very helpful during coker muni with small cranks. I wish i had one

A brake on a 36" in the Netherlands? Don’t bother, unless you are spinning really fast on short cranks and you are good a making abrupt stops with a brake. For most of us mere mortals, a brake is great for descending hills. Only the demigods among us use it for actually stopping while on the flats.

hey klaas,
i would recommend a brake when you ride much in the city.
i have found it difficult to brake hard on my non geared 36 inch with 125mm cranks well in the city on bike paths its not a problem you will have the time to stop.

i ques i should not ride hard in the city but :stuck_out_tongue:
still when you look up e-bay there are some good deals on magura brake so its worth it to try it out;)

Being one of the few riders to use brakes on the 36er in the Netherlands I do recommend Maguras. Even if you usually ride in a flatter area than the Zuid Veluwe (which is where most of my 36ering takes place) you should try brakes. They can be very useful when you spin short cranks, and I think you will like to have them for emergency stops, especially in the city.

There are obviously some disadvantages too: You have to get them set up very well, it’ll be heavier :), it’ll take longer to change tires or fix a flat, and they will probably scream like mine do when braking hard. Anyways, do what you feel is appropriate.

Thanks all. Based on the first ten or so responses that basically showed consensus that a brake on the flat is not very useful, I’ve decided to forego the brake at this time. It’s remarkable though that the two Dutch posters who responded do actually recommend a brake (but they both live in the hillier eastern part of the country). I can always fit a brake later on, if they talk me into it. :slight_smile:

I find it very difficult to use the brake on my 36er for stopping. I saw Chuck do it at unicon (like John’s already mentioned), and it certainly works if you can get the technique right. Makes the unicycle stop like a bike.

I live in quite a hilly place and until recently I only used my brake as a drag on the steepest hills (where it becomes hard to hold back the speed with my legs, probably 1:7 or steeper). Recently though I’ve been playing with using the brake on shallower hills and it’s much easier to go fast down hills if you drag the brake a bit and keep pedalling forwards rather than braking with the legs - it’s a much smoother action.

I’ve got a cheap BMX caliper brake on mine and it works fine. Not too grabby but adequate power when I want it. Although, like I said before, I don’t use it for emergency stops - it’s purely used as a drag brake.

I don’t think you’ll NEED a brake where you are, but I’m getting to like mine even on the less steep hills. And if you can perfect the fast stop like Chuck does, then it’ll be useful for that as well.

And like you said, you can always start without a brake and add one later.


I got used to riding with a brake, and for various reasons I’ve taken it off. I discover that I have got into the habit of using it on the flat and find myself missing it when stopping.