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I understand that most fixed bikes have a front brake for emergencies. What are your thoughts for a singlespeed? Is the front brake enough, or should you have a rear brake too. Also, do most people have their front brake on their left or right hand?

Sorry, I'm new to this. I really appreciate your help. Thanks.
 

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Different opinions

raa1976 said:
I understand that most fixed bikes have a front brake for emergencies. What are your thoughts for a singlespeed? Is the front brake enough, or should you have a rear brake too. Also, do most people have their front brake on their left or right hand?

Sorry, I'm new to this. I really appreciate your help. Thanks.
I run a front brake on my fixie for the obvious reasons. I also don't always ride with my cycling shoes and clipped in, so it's impossible for me to skid stop with the gear I'm running. I've decided I'll never put a freewheel on it because of the fact that it only has one brake (riding fixed is also just too much fun!). Now I'm pretty good about doing periodic safety checks on all my rigs, but there seems to be this lingering paranoid fear of the possibility that my one and only brake would fail at high speed while coasting down a steep descent. Then I'd either bale or stop Flintstones-style. Not something I want to think about.

In my opinion, no, I would not run a single speed with only one brake. It would be partly for my own sanity but also due to the fact that a fixie allows your legs to take atleast part of the functional role of a rear brake. If you do a considerable amount of prolonged descents, then a running a single front brake introduces the risk of a tire blowout from overheating of the rim. Other than that, it's certainly possible to do. A buddy of mine trained throughout the winter on a SS with a single-front brake.

As far as lever orientation, put the front brake as you would any other bike. I run all my bikes with the front brake on the right; that doesn't make me one of the special elite motorcycle riders (actually, I've never ridden a motorcyle:) ) that also rides a bike, I just happen to like them set up that way. My single front brake lever on my fixie is also on the right side.

Hope that helps.
 

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Independent braking

raa1976 said:
I understand that most fixed bikes have a front brake for emergencies. What are your thoughts for a singlespeed? Is the front brake enough, or should you have a rear brake too.
There are lots of reasons to have two independent brakes, one front and one rear. Here are a few:

- Can shifting braking from front to rear depending on environment. In loose, low traction conditions (dirt, gravel, oily roads) over use of the front brake can cause the front tire to lose traction, which usually results in bad things. While it is easier to brake skid a rear wheel, it is also much easier to control a rear wheel skid.

- It is always good to have redundant braking. Sure, brake failures are not common, but their consequences can be very bad, so it is good to have two seperate brakes (on a fixed gear, back-pedaling is one of the brakes).

- On long, steep descents, using two brakes can distribute heat dissipation, and decrease the chances of a blow-out (clinchers) or glue melting (tubulars).

So yes, it is advised that a single speed have two brakes.
 

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Mark McM said:
There are lots of reasons to have two independent brakes, one front and one rear. Here are a few:

- Can shifting braking from front to rear depending on environment. In loose, low traction conditions (dirt, gravel, oily roads) over use of the front brake can cause the front tire to lose traction, which usually results in bad things. While it is easier to brake skid a rear wheel, it is also much easier to control a rear wheel skid.

- It is always good to have redundant braking. Sure, brake failures are not common, but their consequences can be very bad, so it is good to have two seperate brakes (on a fixed gear, back-pedaling is one of the brakes).

- On long, steep descents, using two brakes can distribute heat dissipation, and decrease the chances of a blow-out (clinchers) or glue melting (tubulars).

So yes, it is advised that a single speed have two brakes.
Add to that the ability to drag the rear brake to modulate speed on a long decent. You do that with your legs on a fixie, and you don't want to do it with the front brakes, both for cornering reasons and to keep them cool for an emergency stop.

As for what side, I moved my front (only) brake to the right on my fixie, and will switch the gearie this year. My reasoning is
1: I can have my hand on the brake in traffic, and still signal with my traffic side arm.
2: I am right handed, so right handed front braking means both more stopping power and better modulation of the less forgiving front end.
3: It matches the motorcycle.

Best,
Gordon
 

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raa1976 said:
I understand that most fixed bikes have a front brake for emergencies. What are your thoughts for a singlespeed? Is the front brake enough, or should you have a rear brake too. Also, do most people have their front brake on their left or right hand?

Sorry, I'm new to this. I really appreciate your help. Thanks.

a freewheeling rear without a brake is a good recipe for an endo
 

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Front braking doesn't necessarily mean endo

FatTireFred said:
a freewheeling rear without a brake is a good recipe for an endo
Why? Sure, if you overbrake with the front brake you can endo. But if brake only just as hard with the front brake alone as you can with the front and rear combined, you won't endo. In other words, it's the deceleration rate, not which wheel is braked, that determines whether you will endo or not.
 

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Mark McM said:
Why? Sure, if you overbrake with the front brake you can endo. But if brake only just as hard with the front brake alone as you can with the front and rear combined, you won't endo. In other words, it's the deceleration rate, not which wheel is braked, that determines whether you will endo or not.

no sh!t... sure when you're coming to a slow planned stop it's no problem, but in panic stop situations a lot of people (noobs and less skilled) are just gonna grab a fistful of lever and *bang!* be lying there in the street after landing on their head. Notice I wrote it's a "good recipe", not an inevitable thing.
 

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Mark McM said:

Thanks for making my point:

"If you take the time to learn to use the front brake correctly, you will be a safer cyclist.

Many cyclists shy away from using the front brake, due to fear of flying over the handlebars. This does happen, but mainly to people who have not learned to modulate the front brake.

The cyclist who relies on the rear brake for general stopping can get by until an emergency arises, and, in a panic, he or she grabs the unfamiliar front brake as well as the rear, for extra stopping power. This can cause the classic "over the bars" crash."
 

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Mark McM said:
Why? Sure, if you overbrake with the front brake you can endo. But if brake only just as hard with the front brake alone as you can with the front and rear combined, you won't endo. In other words, it's the deceleration rate, not which wheel is braked, that determines whether you will endo or not.
On the other hand, it's impossible to endo on the rear brake only. You also won't slow as quickly as using only the front (better still both) would allow. If you are using both, the maximum available deceleration before endo/fw lockup (depending on surface conditions) is achieved with lower clamping force on the front, so modulation is easier and safer. For example, there's an amount of clamping force on the front wheel (braking front wheel only) that would send you over. If you're stopping near that maximum force, the bulge from a rim weld, a slight out-of-trueness, or a little dirt on the rim presents a real danger. If you're using both brakes in a maximum stopping effort, you only have 65-75% of that original force on the front brake. Gives a larger margin for modulation error. I think that's the thrust of the original 'recipe for an endo' comment, and hence you're both right.

Side note: There is a patent out there for "anti-lock, anti-endo" brakes for bicycles. The single brake lever operates the rear caliper. The resulting force on the brake bridge (the opposing force to the braking wheel) is used to actuate the front caliper. Grab the brake, both are at maximum force until the rear starts to get light or skid, which eases off the front to the point that the rear wheel starts grabbing again, which re-increases the braking to the front. Result: maximum possible braking every time. The downside: pretty much maximum possible braking every time. Neat idea, though.
 

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FatTireFred said:
Thanks for making my point:

Many cyclists shy away from using the front brake, due to fear of flying over the handlebars. This does happen, but mainly to people who have not learned to modulate the front brake.

"
The thing that hasn't been mentioned is weighting the back tire when applying maximum front brake. When you throw your butt off the saddle and back over the rear wheel you dramatically increase the amout of front brake you can apply.

Also, I believe that Sheldon says that basically the fastest you can ever stop is with front brake only, because maximum stopping power happens just as the rear wheel is unweighting, and thus the front wheel is most weighted. Even with both brakes in use, under true maximum braking the rear is doing exactly nothing.
The thing is, sometimes you need less than maximal braking, at a time when front brakes are not safe, ie turning, slick surface, etc. In this case, a fixie rider can resist the pedal, but a freewheeler better have a rear brake.

Gordon
 
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