MUNI brake is a must have

Just to share my first impressions on using brakes for “Muniing”.
My MUNI practice is something comparable to Enduro in Mountain biking, ie a mix of XC and technical riding with some rough single tracks and steep but short downhills (I’m not living in mountains, my usual ride is 15 to 25 km long and 800m, 400+, 400- for the difference in altitude).

I installed brakes on my KH 24 yesterday, went for a ride, and… I was amazed! all the downhills I used to ride seem suddenly almost flat with brakes, and I was able to do new ones that were too steep for me before. I was also less tired at the end of my ride. Furthermore using brakes is easier than I though, you just need to lean back a little bit more (and have easy to modulate brakes like the Magura I tested).

I was a little sceptical about brakes, and now I’m convinced, and really impatient to go back in mountains for real and long downhills.

The only drawback is that it breaks the simplicity (and somehow the beauty) of a unicyle.

One final question, I saw brake level extenders on (US site only). That should be quite useful as braking with only the fingertip is not so easy. Do you know where I can find such extenders in Europe, or did somebody find another way to improve brake handling on a Muni?

You’re right fme!

Installing a brake on your muni will really improve your DH skills.

First of all, you can save a lot of energy when going down really long slopes. Constant friction on the brake pads (rim or disc) will reduce your legs fatigue.

Also, it help with the constancy of the revolution in very steep downhills. In fact, without a brake, you grossly slow down only 2 times/revolution: when your left and right pedals are down/back. With a brake, you can also control the swing of the muni from side to side, so you can go to a much faster RPM.

For the brake lever extender, I have the Delta’s and it’s pretty useful. If your have a problem for the disponibility, just design one yourself (if you don’t like the forefinger idea, you can go with a two finger design)and make it produce at some machining shop. It is not gonna cost you a lot, and it’s worth it.

Oh and for the beauty thing, forget about it and go for the feeling of mad speed!


Installing a brake will offer you a wider selection of down hills to ride on that your DH skill level currently does not permit, it certainly doesn’t improve your skills.

OK Sofa, don’t push the analysis too far.
All I meant is that : with a brake, if you can ride down that steep cliff where you crashed tring it without, you are improving.
peace out;)

Speaking theoretically here, since I don’t have a brake on mine, there is a whole range of skills that involve braking that are inaccessible to a non-braker. Brakes are not just for flattening hills. If you set up your brake with trials pads, and perhaps treat your rims, you can lock your wheel and use that in negotiating many places. For proof, check out Kris Holm in ITTD on those stairs in the middle of their 10-day trek (I forget the name of the stairs off-hand). Watch and listen closely, and you’ll see some fully-integrated brake techniques. You have to listen carefully, because the musician incorporated some violin scrapes that tend to mask Kris’s brake squeals. Was that intentional? I have my own thoughts on that, which I will keep to myself… :wink:

A question for fme:
What length cranks do you have on your muni?

>A question for fme:
>What length cranks do you have on your muni?

I have a standard KH24 with 170mm cranks. Quite good for rough terrains, may be a little long for XC long distances, but the KH is not really a XC Muni.
165mm could be a better compromise, but I don’t know if 165mm cranks are available for the KH hub.

They are not

I disagree. Braking on a uni is way more technical than a bike, and there are specific technical skills associated with braking such as:

  1. Using a brake to assist dropping onto steep, long transitions.
  2. Using a brake to maintain better traction while descending slippery terrain (because the braking is more even than with your feet, it often improves traction)
  3. Learning how to better balance during descents when you no longer have to worry so much about braking.
  4. General differences in body positioning while braking, such as the fact that you can brake even when your cranks are vertical.
  5. Brake-assisted gliding on paved roads or smooth dirt roads.


Hi Kris,

Can I have more precision on this?

I can easily do gliding on paved roads of a speed of 30 km/h; but if I want to go like 40 km/h, the uni start to bo very agitated under me, due to the spinning cranks. I use my 24 muni for gliding since I believe it’s more stable at high speed than a trial 19’‘, and you’ve got more place for the resting leg between the seat and the top of the frame than on a 26’'.

Does it help with stability on high speed gliding? And do you use your hand normally for braking, or do you set the oil presion on the Mag before and use your two arms for the balance? OK enough questions.


Correct, but installing a brake does not improve you DH skills as mentioned by the original poster.

Getting down a hill with a brake that you couldn’t without one has not improved any skill.

It certainly opens the door to a much wider range of what is possible though.

I’m not saying it couldn’t but I’ve never thought about it in terms of high speed gliding.

Rather, it just lets you glide down steeper hills than you normally could, and it also reduces how much you wear out the sole of your shoe because the scuffing becomes just for balance no matter how steep the hill is.

Brake-assisted gliding is pretty intuitive- you just get going normally and then (cautiously!) start feathering the brake. I don’t think it would be as good to use a drag brake because it’s nice to adjust it on the fly, although it would probably work.

It’s pretty delicate and you lose one hand for balance, but it’s definately helpful on steeper hills.


Thanks Kris,

I’ll surely try brake-assisted gliding as soon as the snow melt!

There is some old twisted streets down town that I couldn’t glide totally because of the speed that you get when you reach the tight curves at the end.

This tip might be pretty helpful : you slow down the gliding, and when you reach a curve, you just stop braking and use both hands for turning.

I know that I’ll need to practice it since it’s always easier in theory than in reality.


Good tip. It’s somewhat challenging to quickly stop braking once you’ve started though, because of the sharp change in balance that happens.


I’m brand new to MUni but “discovered” feathering the brake on the first steep single track I went down. Hard to imagine going down many of the steeper trails around here (Santa Monica) sans brake without blowing out my knees. I also found on long fire road descents if I lightly feather the brake and peddle against it I can use almost no energy and easily stay in balance.

One thing, however. If your rim isn’t true, the brake can grab slightly and cause lurching and consequent face-planting if you have a head of steam up.

I’d like to get an extension on my brake handle becausde some of the trails here descend for 3 or 4 miles and my fingers, already sore from rock climbing, start getting numb after a while.

Thre’s a lot of “feel” to this work, and I suspect it’s a regular art being able to ride the brake just so while blitzing single tracks. To say thre is no technique involved in this work is contrary to my experience, little as it is at this point.

John Long

You can make it down some quite steep slopes on a KH24 with 170mm cranks. If you had shorter cranks on your muni, like 150’s, then a brake is much more necessary for getting down steep slopes.

The famous Mailbox trail featured in Universe 1 and the California Muni Weekend can be descended without a brake. It’s steep and technical, but possible. See pictures of the hill here. I have not been able to make it down that hill because I backpedal too hard and end up loosing traction. But it is possible without a brake.

Using a brake on a hill like Mailbox is kind of cheating. I think it’s hills like this that Sofa is talking about when he says that using a brake does not improve your DH skills. Learning to ride Mailbox without a brake will improve your DH skills. Learning to ride down Mailbox with a brake just improves your braking skills.

For long logging road or forest service road descents or long descents on easy XC trails a brake is very nice. It really saves your legs. You can ride down descents like that without a brake but you’ll feel it in your legs at the end and the next day you may find it difficult to walk down stairs.

There are also very very steep slopes that can be done only by using a brake. I look at those slopes and say “I really don’t have an urge to try to ride that”, but some people do. If you want to ride stuff like that you gotta have a brake.

Is this true Kris? Or were you applying the brake the whole time and it was just when you landed hops/drops over rocks that the wheel locked up and made a squeeking sound?

For that matter has anyone ever bothered to tar their rims like biketrials riders do?

Yeah, I used to think using a brake was bordering on cheating, but it really does open up whole new realms of rideable terrain. Brakes are great! I run 150mm cranks on my MUni, so its faster for XC riding, but I haven’t noticed that I’ve been using the brake a lot more since changing from 170mm cranks.

–Laters, T

Re: MUNI brake is a must have

On Tue, 24 Feb 2004 15:36:10 -0600, danger_uni wrote:

>It’s somewhat challenging to quickly stop braking once
>you’ve started though, because of the sharp change in balance that

I guess (not being able to glide at all) that you’d better ‘feather
down’ the brake rather than stop braking at once.

On a sidenote: is it possible to do a ‘brake-only’ glide, without
using foot braking? I’m not sure if it should still be called gliding

Klaas Bil - Newsgroup Addict

“Heck, even my toes were aching from trying to grip the soles of my shoes! - Tommy Thompson”

Basically it’s true. It’s hard to use the brake when your bouncing around, so you have to feather it for the brief smooth areas. It also makes it much easier to slow down and turn a tight switchback corner when you don’t have to brake with your feet.

Maybe a better example in a film is the descent off La Malinche in Unizaba. The slope was hummocky heather and dirt, no trail, and without a brake I couldn’t have ridden anything.

One place a brake is especially useful is Moab, where the traction is so good that you can descend things that are ridiculously steep without slipping. Often a brake makes some of these slopes easy, whereas it would be extremely difficult without one.

One place that I don’t think a brake is as much help is where it’s really broken up steep terrain, because you can utilize the short level sections for better braking with your feet.