Trailing it Off…

Welcome to the next article in the BST© (BrakeSteerTurn) series

Dem’s da brakes chum

The rear brake on road bikes are a bit mis-understood in my opinion.
The following basic information will hopefully clear up some of the misconceptions and misinformation that has added to the confusion on an already intricate topic. Therefore, this article will try to dispel some of the long-standing advice and narratives that have been published on the subject.

Let me state that I am not saying the front brake is not the better choice most times, or am I denying the fact that the front brake is the most powerful and effective brake to use- when riding in a relatively straight line. But when cornering or on less than dry roads, rear braking when used properly can and will assist in slowing and stabilizing a bicycle as vertical force decreases and lateral force increases… More about that below.

Typically, I’m on and off the rear brake gently and smoothly when cornering because I’m not really using it to stop the bike, but rather to ‘scrub-off’ a slight amount of speed. If I find that I might have carried too much speed into a turn, then this technique will slow the the bike just a bit, to provide more stability rather than utilizing just the front brake when leaned over.

Without getting too technical, eventually the lateral forces or lateral load on the front tire under (front) braking could be exceeded before the load is exceeded on the rear tire. Which is why 9 times out of 10, the front wheel ‘washes’ or slides out before the rear tire does in a crash. (or resulting in a crash)

This holds especially true on anything but dry, debris free pavement and off-camber corners that can be tricky and catch riders out who insist on using the front brake only.

Move to the rear please…

The technique of braking into a corner is often referred to as ‘trailing-off’ or more appropriately, decreasing the initial lever pressure as a rider rolls from corner entry to the apex of a turn. And it is at that point a rider wants to be off the brakes entirely. Sounds easy enough in theory, right? Well sure, almost everything does! Though effective implementation can be slightly complicated or frustrating because it comes down to rider ‘feel’ which is developed and fine-tuned over time. The key to developing a good ‘feel’ is
to simply practice. The rear brake can be used more effectively which will result in using less braking force. Consequently there will be more weight bias on the rear tire to utilize for braking traction.

Get a grip…

Besides compounds, a key contributor to tire grip is the weight or load applied on each tire. The ratio of grip and vertical load is called the co-efficient of friction (AKA- traction) this normally increases/decreases relative to the vertical load (or vertical stiffness) on the tires. And so within these parameters of physics, there are certain aspects which we cannot control- I.E. external forces.

But the factors we do have control over include: tire pressure, tire width and applied braking force. All of which are ‘adjustable’ and can aid in a riders performance and a bikes stability when cornering. As an example, I utilize the rear brake much more than the front, not because I think I will go ‘head over heels’ by using the front brake alone, but because more of my body weight (or CoM) is placed over the rear wheel than the front. (this is true for every rider)

Which means that there is more applied ‘vertical load’ on the rear tire than the front tire, providing more friction or available traction for the bike and rider.

Simply put, traction increases as vertical load on the tire increases, but it is important to know that the relationship between vertical load and traction is not linear. (The laws of physics are not open to interpretation!) Once lateral load exceeds vertical load…traction is then reduced and-or broken. #buhbye front tire

Please hold, transferring now…

Although a road bicycle has no real suspension to speak of (yet) there is still some slight weight transfer under braking. The more weight that transfers from rear to front, the greater load change on the tires contact patch, which directly relates to the coefficient of friction or available traction. Add in to the mix that a higher center of mass (gravity) will also help to transfer even more weight forward.

(This is why abnormally high seat posts are actually a detriment to performance and handling, though there is virtually no discussion about it) The lower the CoM, the less weight that will be transferred, resulting in a more stable machine.

So with that all said, there is still a definitive line between utilizing rear braking efficiently and locking up the rear wheel and tire. And it is for this reason that most riders then do not utilize the rear brake. That and the at-times myth of the rear wheel coming off the ground on anything but extremely hard braking. (think emergency type stopping)

But, by not using rear braking techniques a rider is forgoing the potential for increased braking power/force and stability WHEN the technique is executed properly. To begin using your rear brake more, start by using both brakes until you can ween yourself off of the front brake as your only choice or the most often used brake.

Slippery when wet…

If this all sounds like nonsense or something you don’t want or think you don’t need to do, then consider that one of the best reasons to start using the rear brake is in wet, rainy or slippery surface conditions. As referenced prior, a bike/rider has more vertical load on the rear tire which will provide more traction (to a point) and so in less than normal dry surface conditions, the potential of losing adhesion on the front tire increases.

Adapting to the given road conditions is critical for safe, efficient riding. If it’s not wet roads, perhaps it will be dirt or gravel roads. This is where a gentle touch on the rear brake helps slow the bike and gives a rider a more control. Better to slightly lock-up the rear, as compared to locking the front tire, which will usually result in a fall/crash.

So my question is; how good a rider would you want to be? How safe, how efficient? Do you want to become more proficient on the road in all conditions? Of course you do, because it’s NOT about going fast. It’s about being in Control, riding safely and having the confidence to do so.

I challenge you sir…or madame

Can you step up your game? I believe you can. I say you have the ability to become better or start using rear braking, trailing-off brake pressure into a corner and executing avoidance maneuvers when and if needed. If you improve these braking/control skills, I guarantee the next time it may start to rain or you encounter an abnormal road surfaces on your ride, you will not only possess the know-how but the confidence to ride without a lot of unnecessary worry and undo hesitation.

By continuing to learn and teach ourselves new techniques, we can improve or lessen the inevitable loss of our skill-set as we age. Think of it as another tool in the toolbox!

The only way to gain confidence is through control. So to this end, we should each practice to attain the necessary feel to learn how to manipulate the rear brake just short of lockup. Not stabbing and grabbing the brakes, but squeezing smoothly AND progressively. Practice today, practice tomorrow, practice on your next ride. But practice!

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It is 3 key elements my dear Watson…

The BST© (Brake Steer Turn) series presents another rider training article

While turning is certainly not a secret, I do believe this piece is something worth reiterating again and again- because again and again…we sometimes see our fellow riders not completely understanding and/or executing a basic turn in a safe and efficient manner. Being on the correct or proper line- at any speed is first and foremost critical to safety.

What I’m referring to is, a basic constant-radius corner. A basic turn is made up of three parts; the entrance, the apex and the exit. Of course there are other various types of simple or complex corners and/or turns; These include double or triple apex corners, decreasing or increasing radius types, chicanes, esses, hairpins, etc. But this article will center primarily on the simple (design) of a basic 90° corner. The main focus will be on the ‘mechanics’ of the basic corner, how to execute the fundamentals of corner entry and exit, but not so much on the intricacies of cornering techniques.

note that this diagram is referring to a single lane and not the entire roadway

Point of Entry

Starting with the approaching entrance of a corner, which is always the first part of any corner, a rider will and should go through the following progressions: 1. Initial braking application, 2. braking release point, and then, 3. the TIP- (Turn In Point).  As a rider approaches the entrance, they should only be thinking about these first three tasks above. Not about where they are going or where their corner exit is… (yet) Keep in mind that the window or frame of time in which all of these things are happening will be in fractions of a second.

Once a rider has ‘hit’ the corner entrance mark, then the focus should immediately be on the apex of the corner. Now depending on speed, lean angle and external surface conditions, it may be possible to adjust the bikes line mid-corner, if indeed the rider finds themselves ‘off’ the most effective line. Now this could be a tricky maneuver depending on speed and conditions. Though a short gentle pull or a slight dragging of the the brakes (preferably the rear brake) mid-corner will usually be safe to do, in order to get the bike back on its ‘proper’ line. Of course lean angle is a significant consideration, which will typically be determined by rider/machine speed. Remember, radius determines speed. (as does the coefficient of friction- also known as traction…)

What the above phrase means is, the given curb-to-curb radii of a roadway corner will accommodate varying speeds- according to how ‘tight’ or ‘open’ a corner is. Wide sweeping corners will usually allow a rider to enter fast and stay fast through the entire turn. Not so with a hairpin or decreasing radii corner. It should be noted that if a rider is needing to significantly brake mid-corner, then entry speed was likely too high or the TIP was markedly off. If the rider hits the apex fairly correctly, then the next step is to focus on corner exit.

Exit (stage left?)

Arguably, corner exit is perhaps the most critical part or section of the corner. Screw up the entrance or be too wide of the apex…and a rider will always, always be on the incorrect line for a ‘proper’ exit. If the rider made the entrance and apex reasonably well, then the exit pretty much takes care of itself- though the rider must still be very mindful of any variable or change in road condition(s) and obstacle(s). “It all begins with Vision”

This segmented approach to a turn, where a rider divides a corner into very small portions or segments, enables the rider to work through the ‘mechanics’ of a turn, task by task. What this does, is essentially allow the brain to focus on fewer decisions per millisecond.

Key Elements

A primary factor is to always try and remain relaxed on the machine. Remember that once a bicycle is in motion, the gyroscopic effect of the wheels help to keep the bike stable. The rake and trail of the steering geometry (which are fixed by the fork type and its offset) will  assist in keeping the bike stable and going straight, even after the front wheel may be deflected by a bump or irregularity on the road.

This is because of the self-centering aspect of the tire’s contact patch is positioned behind the steering axis. Though, when a beginner or nervous rider ‘clamps’ down (the ‘ol death grip) on the bars, it tends to provide unwanted input that may interfere with the bike’s ability to straighten itself out. So keeping the upper body relaxed and fluid will be a help rather than a hindrance in cornering.

One Vision ( one real decision…)

It’s always best to get your body and vision set up for the corner early, before the entrance. Then a rider needs to begin to initiate counter-steering, along with shifting the body position by slightly pivoting the shoulders and hips towards the bend of the turn. As Counter-steering, along with body pivoting, will allow the bike to ‘tip’ into the corner without much force applied. It should feel natural and easy. Not hurried or panicked.

Hurrying or rushing the corner will usually result in a rider running wide towards the middle and wide of the exit of a turn. The faster one rides, the trickery entry speed determination becomes. This is where VISION, or Forward Vision is the most critical.
Keeping the eyes far ahead towards the exit of a turn at ALL times is a core, key factor. Finding the optimal entry/corner speed takes practice, a lot of practice. These are some of the fundamentals of cycling that are often overlooked or just skimmed over. But as easy or basic as this may seem, it is a core skill-set that needs constant reinforcing. Especially as riders age and spatial judgment and visual perception slowly degenerate.


There seems to be a constant ongoing debate (though it is moot) about whether counter-steering or ‘body’ steering is the most effective way to steer a bicycle (or a motobike for that matter). There are those who think it has to be one or the other or, that counter-steering isn’t necessary at all! But in reality those who believe that notion are missing a key point. Which is, utilizing the upper and lower body together is by far the most effective and efficient way to steer a two-wheeled, inline, single track vehicle. Initial steering input should always begin with light counter-steering (a slight pushing-forward on the inside bar- which utilizes the front wheel’s gyroscopic effect, essentially permits the bike to ‘fall’ into the corner)

In summary, as the rider enters the corner, the focus quickly shifts to the apex and then the exit- all of which happens in milliseconds.  Being prepared early and staying aware will allow a rider to re-position themselves if necessary in order to be on the ‘proper’ line when cornering. Approaching these tasks methodically and accordingly may improve a riders ability to corner BOTH safely and efficiently. Now get out there and practice folks!

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Bike Handling 101

Stage 18 of the 2016 Tour de France, was an individual TT, that featured a set of corners, one being a short radius corner near the end of the run that posed a real problem for a few riders on course today. You may wonder why this was so.

Alright then let’s get down to the nuts and bolts analysis of why it did pose a problem.

(Alt video link)

If you watch the video of Oliver Naesen from Iam Cycling, you can see that his exit was a bit wide (off line) out of the prior corner and consequently, that put him off line for the entry (turn in point) for the following turn in which he ran off. Of course this is why he and his bike went off the road and over the barrier. Jeremy Roy suffered from nearly the same error. If a rider misses the turn-in-point of corner entry, guaranteed they’ll miss the corner exit… outcome? Run wide, run off, or potentially worse.


You can also see that his eyes and head were FIXED towards the edge of the road/barrier, this is known appropriately  as ‘Target Fixation’ ( this is a survival instinct reaction) which are a riders worst enemy- that’s right, survival instinct reactions, or SIR’s are NOT your friend when riding anything on two wheels.

So, look at his arms, hands and upper body in the video as well. They are LOCKED on the bars. Not only is his vision locked and fixated toward the outside of the corner, but because his brain is now in ‘panic’ mode (SIR’s) his arms, hands and shoulders are also locked in position, forsaking control.

A riders field of vision, or forward vision (VisionForward©) IS everything when riding, period. Coupled with the implementation of counter steering is mission critical when riding any single track, inline, two-wheeled vehicle. No arguments folks, you’ll lose each and every time, against the laws of classical physics.

The corner in which he ran wide and off the road started from the corner prior or even several corners before that short radius left-right turn. When a rider misses an entry of a corner, then 99.9% of the time, the rider will be off line at the exit. And if there are a series of corners, that rider will most likely ‘botch’ the entire series of turns. Unless the rider can correct mid-corner without sacrificing too much speed/time. The short radius that is in question, is a turn(s) that require a rider to ‘square it off’ or, take a wider arc/line on entry in order to have the proper exit line.

This is a crucial piece of the puzzle, your bike’s cornering radius is determined by its entry speed. Missing an apex shows that a rider is in too hot (too fast), the rider is rushing the entry of the corner and then giving up the proper exit line and subsequently, control and speed.

If anyone tells you (this includes any so-called expert, pro, former pro, coach or shop mechanic/owner, etc) that counter steering, in conjunction with body lean isn’t necessary to steer a bicycle, then just know that that person is quite ill-informed and does not have an understanding of the mechanics of braking, steering and turning a bicycle/motorcycle.

Oh, you can try to argue against physics and four basic applied FORCES ( gravity, inertia, (aka- centrifugal force) friction- (aka- traction) and  centripetal Forcewhich affects balance) that are acting against rider and machine,  but you cannot win, ever. Machine weight has no significant bearing, because the bicycle steers the SAME exact way as a motorbike, it just takes much less input on the bars, but a rider still needs to counter steer. that’s all folks.

Minimizing lean angle and maximizing contact patch is paramount. Unlike mountain bikes, road bikes have very little to zero adjustability. Therefore, the tires and the rider are the most important factors with regards to bike handling. Understanding this and the ‘mechanics’ of Braking, Steering and Turning (BST©) are the keys to good handling skills.

Counter steering first and foremost is an AVOIDANCE maneuver skill. Of course it makes turning a bicycle most efficient and safe as well. Bottom line is that if you’re not utilizing counter steering, you’re missing out on a critical aspect of bike handling. Especially as speeds go up. My advice is to practice, practice, practice the Fundamentals.

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LeanIn Cornering©

LeanIn Cornering© Concepts

Turn Left - Copy

The objective of LeanIn Cornering©  Concepts is to provide rider training utilizing relevant information, how-to bike handling skills and drills that will make for a better and safer road rider.

Riding drills are a part of our ‘classroom’ for teaching the proper techniques to improve your bike handling abilities as well as riding into a corner and exiting out of a corner with accompanying lectures on techniques.

Rider training is possibly the most valuable aspect of riding, for any type of rider. For beginners and novices to seasoned riders. Our BST© (BrakeSteerTurn©) methods and coaching will help you to gain confidence by attaining more control over your machine.



#ridercoaching #ridertrainng #skillsanddrills

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Countersteering: An Absolute…

The second ‘how-to’ in the Brake Steer Turn (BST©) series.

Lately I have been reading up on road cycling articles and watching cycling videos on the subject of bike handling and descending skills. Mainly as a rider and former moto racer I have a genuine keen interest in the topic and I am curious as to the latest information being doled out.

I figure, perhaps there is something I could glean as well, heck I’m always open to learning something as long as it is both credible and valuable. Though lately what I have been reading and watching is a bit frustrating. Some bits I have been reading and viewing (from so-called ‘experts’) is really a mix of good advice but with a bit of outright incorrect advice.

So, I’m not going to call out any specific Bicycling type magazines, or a so-called Global video channel, the so-called coaches-experts or the various cycling web sites that are purporting some of this misguided info persay, but there are more than a few top line publications and cycling sites that are doling out  some poor advice and somewhat questionable opinions on bike handling and descending skills.  In fact there is even a poor misguided magazine bloke AND a pro women who claims that you don’t need to counter steer at all! (very poor analyses and understanding on their part)

The worst part is some if not many riders will take that advice to heart. So I heavily advise…to Steer clear of those who profess to be ‘experts’ without having a good grasp of physics and dynamics of bicycles. In fairness it is a very complex subject (single track, two-wheeled vehicle dynamics and physics) perhaps a portion of their advice is just simply short-sighted, from a lack of understanding the dynamics of two-wheeled vehicles. Just to be clear, Both bicycles and motorcycles are classified as single-track vehicles. Though they vary greatly in weight, they BOTH steer in the same manner and both utilize counter steering, no ands, ifs or buts about it.

Okay, so let’s dive in and point out what I know to be incorrect information regarding two-wheeled steering dynamics. There seems to be much confusion about steering a bicycle (or motorcycle for that matter) often this confusion results in compromised control, which leads to either poor cornering technique and-or a crash. Simply believing or thinking that one can properly steer a bicycle with just body lean or a shift in body weight alone is absolutely false.

But apparently this has become the popular narrative, but I assure you, it is a False Narrative. And as far as where to put a riders hands or where to steer from, the popular opinion that a riders hand must always be in the drops is another misleading statement. In fact, a rider actually has more leverage in the hoods than in the drops.

Where to place your hands or steer from is simply a personal preference, but when a rider is in the drops, a rider is placing more weight on their hands, wrists and shoulders- as weight is being shifted forward (and so to, the Center of Mass, debunking yet another ‘theory’ that riding in the drops “lowers the center of gravity” which is mostly rubbish. Because whether in the drops or in the hoods, the center of mass is so much not affected by hand position, but rather by body position. And furthermore, getting your shoulders a couple of inches ‘lower’ only very slightly affects CoM. It is not measurable in fact.

But for the average rider, this extra weight on the wrists/arms/shoulders could result in less control. Next time you head out for a ride, try counter steering in an area that is free from traffic. In the drops make firm inputs to the bars. Do this a few times or as many times as you want. Then do the same in the hoods. Note your observations.

Alright, so some of the misguided advice goes something like this; ‘push down on the outside pedal, press your inside leg against the frame and lean your body…that’s it”  -Well, that is Misleading advice, which causes problems for riders, both new and experienced. The idea that a rider can properly steer a bicycle at any speed other than very low speeds by just utilizing body weight and using only body lean is one giant myth (which has busted by the way)

Counter steering always works, just push on the bar and bike responds Instantly, each and every single time. This allows the rider to have more control, resulting in safer riding conditions. Now that is not to say that body lean isn’t a worthy technique, when combined in conjunction with counter steering. Body lean is merely a component in the bike handling mix, but it is not the sole skill. I have and still advocate using ones torso and hips to aid in turning-cornering, but the main component of cornering is to employ counter steering.

Utilize just body lean and a rider will more often than not, run wide, will usually miss the apex and subsequently, the risk of crashing rises as speeds increase. Have you ever wondered why many of the pro’s run wide, or run off the edge of the road or crash in a turn? Well, barring an obstacle, it is usually a result of compounding factors. The first is they typically start their turn-in too early, they typically use just their body to make the turn instead of counter steering and once they begin to run wide, they then succumb to Target Fixation.

Now there are some exceptions, some of the best pro riders like Sagan, Nibali, Evans, Cancellara and other great descenders understand and utilize counter steering and that is what separates them from the rest. Yes, steering is light on a bicycle and that causes most riders to have difficulty in separating the lean of their body with the slight effort it takes to counter steer.

Praising the virtues of  Body Steering ONLY or as it is sometimes called, counter lean, –that is ‘steering’ without counter steering is potentially dangerous. [link:  While a rider can certainly initiate the steering action using counter lean, a rider cannot maintain the arc or angle as both speed and ‘external forces’ increase (the forces acting against a bicycle are gravity, inertia and friction- the latter generating Centripetal Force)  If the turn or series of turns are decreasing in radius, then a rider will simply miss the apex and run off the road or at the very least run wide.

There are so many riders who still suffer under the misconception that body steering is all that is necessary to turn and-or corner a bicycle in a safe and precise manner. The end result is that they are dedicating themselves to an idea or notion that has the potential to do harm to themselves and possibly other riders around them. Counter steering truly becomes evident when there is an obstacle to avoid.

If a rider uses just the ‘body lean’ technique, the rider will experience a momentary lag from body input to actual movement on the bicycle, as in the bike won’t do what the rider wants it to do, at the exact moment when the rider expects it to. So, if a rider needs to initiate a avoidance maneuver or a quick, sharp turn, the rider will most likely end up in a heap or at least crossed up.

If a rider is confronted with a obstacle from road hazards or other riders and is not able to initiate firm and concise counter steering, more than likely, the rider will be unable to avoid said obstacle(s). If a rider relies on just using body lean most of the time, when that critical moment arrives and quick, firm counter steering is necessary, it won’t be an automatic reaction, instead, survival reactions (freezing up, tightening the grip on the bars along with target fixation) will all take over and that could and will probably be disastrous.

I defy anyone to descend quickly and just use body or counter lean alone. Try it. Keep your hands on top of the bars without gripping and pushing on the bars. Just rest them on the bars and go attack your favorite descent. You can get back to me after the body cast and bandages are removed. Or not, if perhaps you’re paralyzed or maybe even worse. The fact that so-called experts are telling and propagating the body lean technique to steer in a descent is down right dangerous and just irresponsible in my experienced opinion.

If you are inclined to really delve into single-track vehicle dynamics for both bicycles and motorcycles, there is a very in-depth and very technical wiki article here: Countersteering Dynamics and Implementation

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