I have done some research on the website after reading a few times that “brakes are great when you master them” or that “once you master the brake, you use it all the time”, hoping I would find some kind of tutorials or tips.
Several of my unis have a brake, but I don’t use it that often. On the 36", I use it when the road becomes a downhill so that I can just carry on pedaling instead of slowing the big wheel with my legs. I also find it useful on the muni in the same circumstances.
But I realized I’m always a bit wary of the brake. I have to be careful with engaging it - otherwise it might throw me to the front. I’m sure there are other uses of the brake, but it’s only theory so far.
To all you brake experts out there, share your secrets with us mere mortals!
I’m way far from an expert, but one thing I try to do is to apply the brake before I need it. You can usually see a downhill or technical section coming up, so I put on the brake lightly right before. That way I’m not surprised by having it grab too much.
Another thing I do (especially with a big wheel) is to apply the brake as I come to a stop. That way when I step off the back the uni remains in complete control, even if I was going relatively fast before stopping.
That’s about all I got.
That is actually good advice. I’ve only once used my brake going downhill, but it was way too sensitive and threw me off instantly. But when stepping off, it will stop the uni from rolling away and thereby not make me look like a clumsy fool. I will try that next time. I don’t have it on the 36" though.
I have two 36’ers, one with a rim brake and one with a disc brake. When I’m riding the one with the rim brake, I do exactly as Lance describes it. With the disc brake I can go much faster on the brakes, and I don’t have to plan ahead as much even though planning is always good. I feel much more confident with the disc brakes.
When it comes to muni, the most important thing to me is being able to have a firm grip on the seat bumper while applying brakes at the same time. I grip the seat bumber from the side and use my index finger on the brake lever. The side grip is possible with the Oracle 26 wich has a longer seat bumper than any of my other unis. I hold on to the seat with my left hand, and the brake lever is mounted so that it is twisted slightly to the right. I try to use the same grip wether I’m braking or not, so I don’t have to move my hand for braking.
The trick for me is to keep rolling in a controlled manner while preventing excessive backwards pressure on the pedals. So the brake is there to achieve this offset. With disk brakes this is much more easy than with rim brakes. I have both because i have a qu-ax 36" and a KH 26". I have set up the rim brake to slip at maximum setting to prevent problems but still prefer the disk brake. I am even considering buying a new KH frame for the 36" just to be able to mount a disk brake.
I don’t have any disc brake so I don’t know how it feels.
-On my 36er I just put back the cable rim brake, the lever is mounted on my handlebar in a certain distance from the seat .
-On my Gmuni The brake is a HS33 and the lever is mounted much closer to the seat which has no seat bumber anymore.
Braking on the 36er is weird because I’m holding the handle further from the seat when I pull the lever and also because the cable brake is less progressive.
Basically when I brake I feel myself going forward and feeling that if I brake too hard I will be catapulted in front.
In the contrary braking on the G26 is more progressive and more natural because of where the lever is and because of the more predictable power of the hydraulic circuit.
So the closer from the seat you put the lever, the more natural it will feels.
now, I suggest you to train on short downhills with your G24 as soon as it is mounted and to put the lever very close to the seat.
you must be able to grip hard the handlebar/seat stuff while pulling the lever.
At the beginning don’t try on very steep downhills, just learn on very moderate downhill and when you master it choose steeper ones.
I don’t know about disc brakes but on my HS33 when I choose steep dh, I have to pull pretty hard on the lever to be well slowed, and then I don’t have to use any leg strength on the pedals anymore, I only use my legs and my body position to keep balance.
When the downhill goes from steep to even steeper I have to pull even harder on the lever, the difference between pulling hard and pulling harder is not big.
The plastic kh spooner makes it more comfortable, but it’s weak, I saw a crack appearing so I put some electric tape on it.
When dealing with very steep dh with rocks and stuffs on it, you’ll have to be brave enough to do it, you will probably have to try several times on the same dh but it’s important that you try until success cause it’s more a psychological game than anything else indeed.
Once you pass the DH that was like impossible before, you’ll be more confident in your brakes and ability to use it and you’ll see how much it helps.
What brake are you using? I have a magura hs33 on my 24" muni and I bought mechanical/hydraulic road bike disc brakes for my 29" and 36". They are all adjustable, so I keep them set so the pads make enough contact to slow me down but not tight enough to actually lock the wheel. It helps to get the technique without the sudden stop if you grab it too hard!
I have Maguras on my 29 inch which I have not been riding for long. Prior to this I have been a a 26 without brakes for about a year.
I didn’t have any trouble applying the brakes but at the moment releasing them.
During long braking periods one can lose perspective on how much the brake is doing compared to the legs especially as the brakes allow faster descents. It is easy to get the impression that the brakes are not doing much, until they are released.
I found the brakes especially important with the original Moment cranks. The uni was much more prone to go into wobbles while back pedalling than it is with the straight Nimbus cranks I have on it now. I have always ridden with low Q cranks so maybe it is mostly about what I am accustomed to.
As far as the original question goes (what do you use the brake for, other than just saving your legs on downhills), here are a few things I like the brake for:
On very steep downhills, it spreads the braking action over the whole pedal cycle. Using just my legs I have to brake very hard when the pedals are near horizontal, and not at all when they are vertical. Result: I end up skidding twice per wheel revolution. The brake prevents skidding, and gives more control. If I look back at my track on a steep downhill, the skidding is really obvious.
I like to use the brake to ease myself over the edge of a drop, if I’m going slowly and not doing a little hop off. The brake really helps avoid the “kick” you get from the edge, otherwise.
I’ve been working on using the brake to control my landings on small drops, when I don’t want to pedal out of it (to keep my speed down, or because there isn’t much room before another drop). I’ve had a lot of problems with over-flexing my ankle when I try to control the landing, instead of just rolling with it. I’m not very good at this yet, since it takes a lot of finesse to not brake too hard and end up going off the front.
I use it to come to a complete stop on a downhill, when I need to turn at a switchback or something. I have a lot harder time doing this without the brake.
I use the brake for mounting assistance. I think some brake helps when I’m trying to get started on a very steep downhill. I also like to do a brake-assisted mount on trails with a lot of camber, where I stand on the uphill side of the unicycle, use the brake to lock the pedals horizontal, and just step onto the uni from the side, starting with the downhill side pedal (which might be the forward or backward one, depending on which way the camber goes - I always put the left pedal forward, but might be starting on the left or right side). I’m not sure if there’s a proper name for this mount.
It’s easier to use the uni as a support to lean on, when I’m just standing there, with the brake locked! This happens pretty often at the top of a steep uphill…
Good overview MrImpossible… I have also been wondering what to use the brakes for other than taking some pressure off the legs on smooth downhills. The last use was extremely important to me Saturday. I locked the brake and used the unicycle as a crutch to get help after breaking my foot. I hope I don’t have to use the brake in that manner again.
I just remembered another use for the brake (similar to the one described above).
There are some downhill sections that are just too steep and technical for me to ride. In those cases even walking down is difficult. That’s when I walk the unicycle down in front of my with the brake on, using it to control my own descent on foot.
I remember MrImpossible saying last summer how he used the brake all the time. Thanks for the detailed explanation.
I didn’t realize that I’m already pretty good at mastering the brake to use the uni in a pole for a rest.
Just have to practice now!
I didn’t fully appreciate my brake until I installed bar ends on my mUni. Once that happened, I was able to balance the braking force, which caused the seat/frame to move forward, with the force of pulling back on the bars. My setup allows the brake lever to swing from the left to the right, and there are a handful of different braking techniques / positions I use. If the hill is not too steep or technical, I keep both hands on the bar ends while braking. Also, the bar ends help me situate my body more on the back of the seat, which prevents the effect of braking shifting my body weight too far forward on the seat. In most situations, it’s better to fall forward than back, but on really steep hills, I’d rather upd off the back.
My suggestion to beginner brake users: don’t wait until you get to a hill to practice braking. Find a flat, soft grassy area and practice braking to the extreme, where the braking pressure is so great that you can barely pedal through it. This is a great workout and will get your heart rate soaring. It will also get you thinking about how to more firmly hold onto the seat/handle while braking.
Since I’m no expert at braking, I have to prepare to brake. First, I have to assure that one or both hands are firmly on the bars, make sure the lever is in position, practice feathering the brake until it barely starts to engage…then I’m ready to brake. The trick is to have maximum and independent control over the steering and braking with the same hand.
I need to take my own advice and practice braking more often.
I’m still learning proficiency braking on my KH 29" Schlumpf (rim brake with the lever on handlebars) which I ride primarily on the road but I feel good about the advances I’ve made with muni braking. When I started practicing fixed wheel braking I was already very proficient at freewheel braking and I was surprised how terrible I was at it. I practiced a little bit with my 26" unicycle but didn’t start practicing in earnest until the last few months (on my 24" unicycle). First I’ll say that I agree with a common opinion that brakes are a hassle and not absolutely necessary in a lot of terrain / configuration combinations. However I’ll also say that they are essential in some terrain / configuration combinations and they allow a faster riding style in many terrain / configuration combinations. These are the principles I used to improve:
Experiment to find a grip that works best. I like to use my index finger on a KH Starfighter on an Avid Speed Dial 7 lever on a brake mount under the front bumper. I use my other three fingers to pull up on the saddle as necessary. On a steady decline I use the brake as a drag brake, finding the right amount to pull it up and then holding the bottom of my finger against it to help prevent accidental braking after a bump. That’s instead of pulling with the tip as I would on a sudden sharp decline.
Find a hardware configuration that works best and how to tweak it. Besides what I mentioned above I use a TRP Spyre mechanical caliper. I check the feel before I ride and adjust the cable at the screw where the cable goes into the caliper.
Find good places to practice. At first I would ride trails that I could already ride well without a brake but were still steep enough to benefit from it. I started with very light constant pressure and gradually got used to stronger pressure. I generally try to get into a low posture and angle the frame of the unicycle back. I started slow and gradually have been increasing my speed. I’ve also been practicing on steeper, bumpier terrain.