Those Who About to Brake...

I’m thinking I might try fitting a brake to my unicycle. Some Details, followed by my questions:

MY UNI:
Stock KH 29, currently on the 150 mm crank length. Knobby stock tire.

EXPERIENCE LEVEL:
Started riding 6 months ago.

USE:
I use this uni for distance road riding only, but I may at some point like to try some muni.

WHY the BRAKE:
I ride 12 miles to the office a couple times / week, then usually do a fun group ride on the weekend, plus short garage workouts here and there. Total weekly mileage is maybe 40-50 or so. My evening return route begins with a 1.5-mile downhill, so I’m having to do this big descent on cold knees which is kind of annoying, especially at the end of the week after alot of miles.

QUESTIONS:
I won’t bog down the thread with the “disk vs. caliper” discussion, as this is already covered in another recent post. Besides, I’ve already settled the question for myself, since twice before I’ve had tires explode on regular bikes after the rim sidewall was thinned to the point of completely separating from the rest of the rim. If / when I fit a brake, I’m definitely going for the disk.
Anyway, my questions are these:

  1. What’s the crux of the learning curve? What’s the hardest part about learning to use the brake?
  2. Any tips for getting the technique down quickly?
  3. Any general advice for avoiding brake-n00b pitfalls?
  4. Right now, my descents are slightly slower than other riders in my meetup group, but I’ve noticed my downhill speed increasing with practice, which makes me wonder if the whole brake thing is moot. Maybe I’ll just get better and faster at going down hills over time…maybe to the point of not really needing the brake…thoughts?
  5. Is there a standard mounting position that’s likely to work well for beginners?

–Thanks very much for your time and input. :wink:

A hydraulic brake is much more powerful than its mechanical counterpart, but it’s also much easier to modulate precise pressure for consistent braking control. You will learn quickly while first riding down moderate descents, applying just enough pressure until you first feel brake contact with the rim. You can then get the feel for how much pressure you need to slow down, stop, or control your descent at a certain speed.

Your body will instinctively know to lean back, to compensate for the forward pull while braking, thus maintaining your optimum balance point. Most riders use at least some back pressure in addition to using the brake, to maintain a good “feel” for any given situation, and also as a sort of “backup” in case the brakes fail! Basically, the learning “curve” is more of a short, straight line. :slight_smile:

Hey THANX, UG! This is the second great steer you gave me…the first was getting me on a uni in the first place. heh.
BTW: I saw your kewl pic on another thread and tried cartoonize.net–great form of office boredom relief!
kthxbai

  1. What’s the crux of the learning curve? What’s the hardest part about learning to use the brake?

braking and pedalingwhile maintaining stability. The more you use the brake, the better you get.

  1. Any tips for getting the technique down quickly?

Ride the brake wet, in the rain is easiest, this will make the brake less grabby.

  1. Any general advice for avoiding brake-n00b pitfalls?

Don’t brake with more than one finger until you are comfortable braking.
Don’t position the brake in a way that will lead to grabbing it accidentally.

  1. Right now, my descents are slightly slower than other riders in my meetup group, but I’ve noticed my downhill speed increasing with practice, which makes me wonder if the whole brake thing is moot. Maybe I’ll just get better and faster at going down hills over time…maybe to the point of not really needing the brake…thoughts?

A uni brake is totally different than a bike brake because you can’t stop pedaling on a uni. Think of the brake as allowing your legs to relax as you ride down the hill, so in a sense it’s a way to coast on a unicycle, by letting the brake take the load off your legs.

Not everyone uses or even likes brakes, but even the best rider would benefit from a brake because it will allow your legs to rest, so you can ride further.

  1. Is there a standard mounting position that’s likely to work well for beginners?

Under the seat on a KH brake mount.

My take on why a brake is good:
I ride with brakes on all my unis, they save my legs, they are also nice for holding a position while you fiddle with gear as you lean against a wall/post/tree. About the only problem I have had with a brake is when i was first learning, I was climbing a hill, went to grab the seat handle, grabbed the brake at the same time, and pomptly went to the ground.

I have only been without a brake once in the past three years, this was during a trip to Utah last Summer, I had lost a pad en route, couldn’t find a replacement, so I ended up doing a fairly long high alpine ride on shortish cranks. I did fine until the big downhill at the end when my legs screamed from all the back pressure I had to maintain in place of the brake. Brakes work!

…not a problem here in Seattle…heehee. NB: Thanks tons for your excellent and informative reply! I’m completely psyched about the disk. I’ll snag one tonight…:smiley:

We salute you?

:astonished: though I doubt this would ever be a problem on a uni since you never break hard… or if you do you come to a stop immediately. Could be wrong, anyone ever have this happen on a uni?

No real answers since I’m still learning too so I’ll use the thread to pile on my question(s). Please forgive the vocabulary below, I don’t even know enough to get the terms correct.

What’s the best setup? I’ve set mine up to where a full lever squeeze translated into a slight rim grab. Like the pads don’t even reach the rim until you’ve already squeezed the lever by about 95%. In the end it didn’t work out that well as I noticed that after a while the break was more like dumbo’s feather; I was riding long descents fast because the break was there to bolster confidence but it wasn’t actually doing anything. Probably just a function of me needing to readjust the pads to adjust for wear.

I just changed it to where it doesn’t take much for the pads to really grab the rim. At least now I know it’s doing something but I can’t imagine using it on single track where any break pull would introduce even more balance issues into the equation. In fact I’ve never used the break on single track for this reason, just on long road/double track descents to save the legs.

So after all that there needs to be a question in there somewhere. What setup is the correct one to have and to practice getting used to?

  1. Adjust the break back to the original setting, where a full on squeeze does barely anything - which really stinks when the wheel isn’t 100% true (another + for disc breaks).
  2. Adjust to where a full squeeze seizes the wheel hard. So it would be a matter of practicing a softer touch.

Almost all of us who have ridden for a while rode for decades without brakes.

I just got one a month ago and am glad I did, especially with the bigger wheel (29). Sure you could do without one, but it makes it easier on the knees and allows more confidence going down hills, especially with:

  • shorter cranks
  • rough ground

If anything it might actually be more of a problem on a uni, as rim sidewalls get eaten from dragging the brake which you tend to do more. Though on the upside you tend to go slower and cover less total distance.

Personally I keep thinking of getting a brake - though I’m definitely going for a disk when I do. However I don’t think not having one limits me all that much at the moment - maybe I just don’t do long enough rides. In any case I’m sure that doing steep downs with just my legs for braking is good practice, as it is surely harder than doing the same thing using a brake.

+1
Your comments make me wonder about what I’ll be giving up if / when I fit the brake. Last night around 11:00 PM or so I started my commute home with the giant downhill that initially sort of bugged me, but it felt great! The streets were dry, traffic almost non-existent, November chill in the air–absolutely perfect conditions for a night ride. After the big drop, there a four or five long rollers, not too steep, freeway overpasses, bridges, that sort of thing. The legs just gobbled 'em up, and the feeling of mechanical purity with the stock KH wheel is amazing. I’ll prolly fit the disc, but I’m not in any rush, espeically as I’m still getting my uni chops.

Thanks very much to all the thread posters! :o