Coached Cycling Skill Sessions; improve your bike handling

Posted by Holly Seear : British Cycling Level 3 Coach and owner of

We will be covering fundamental techniques such as braking, before building to some more advanced skills.

(Course details below)

Brake Lever


The front brake (right hand side in the UK) provides most of the braking power and the back brake assists and provides stability.

In dry conditions greater than 2/3 of the braking power is provided by the front brake and around 1/3 by back brake.

This does not mean the front needs to be squeezed harder, just that the front brake provides most of the braking for a similar pressure.

The bike will be more stable if the rider applies the back brake (left hand in the UK) just before the front and/or moves body weight back prior to applying the brakes.

A lot of newer cyclists shy away from putting too much front brake on, fearing they will go over the bars or the front wheel will slide out from under them. In normal, dry conditions, applying more front brake when riding in a straight line, or even solely front brake, will stop you faster and 99 per cent of the time will not result in a skid.

When traction is poor (eg. in wet conditions, when there is a lot of loose gravel on the road, or in the unusual circumstance of braking whilst cornering), the front brake is a riskier strategy, and may well end up in a skid. In these conditions, use the back brake to slow you down. Rather than grabbing handfuls of brake, increase the pressure slowly, giving yourself plenty of time to slow and stop.

Practice braking hard, and then releasing the brake and reapplying it. This is a good strategy for a faster stop, as it can help you gain some control over your bike and prevent a skid situation, a little like the ABS brakes on a car.

Top Tips

  • Look ahead so you can anticipate hazards
  • Assess the surface conditions (ie wet surfaces increase the stopping distance and loose surfaces increase the likelihood of skidding)
  • Keep your hands over the brake levers
  • When applying the front brake hard to stop as quickly as possible, lock your arms out in front of you to brace yourself against the deceleration.
  • Keep your weight towards the rear of your bike, by keeping your centre of gravity low and far back, you’ll maximise your traction and minimise the risk of going head over handlebars
  • If you skid release the brakes briefly and reapply (feathering your brakes)
  • Especially in a group ride, avoid grabbing handfuls of brake
  • Remember you can also use your body as a brake, by sitting up tall and increasing your surface area exposed to the wind

Where possible DO NOT BRAKE DURING CORNERING, aim to adjust speed prior to the corner. If a rider needs to brake during a corner the rear only should be applied gently, as using the front brake will reduce the lean of the bike, therefore straightening the line of travel.

In EMERGENCY BRAKING cyclists should move their weight back in anticipation of the braking forces which will try to propel them over the front of the bike. Practising emergency braking is a worthwhile exercise so it will be automatic should you ever need it!

Remember to keep an eye on the condition of your tyres and be aware that the pressure in them affects your braking as a higher pressure will mean less grip, as less of the tyre surface is in contact with the road.

Check your brake blocks regularly and check the pads are lined up properly with the rims. Be aware certain rim types require specific brake pads.

Ensure you can reach your brakes, often women and people with smaller hands find it hard to reach their brakes, especially when on the drops. It is worth asking the bike shop to adjust them or insert a shim to bring them closer or even consider smaller designs of handlebars.

Coached Cycling Skill Sessions

We have developed a series of cycling skill sessions to improve your bike handling technique. By breaking the techniques down, and introducing them to your regular rides, you will ultimately become a more efficient and confident bike handler; enabling you to ride further, faster and safer!

The course offers five coached sessions with Vikki Butcher and Holly Seear, British Cycling qualified coaches, that will focus on your balance and co-ordination, pedalling and gear selection, braking and cornering and group riding discipline.

The sessions would be suitable to any level of cycling experience; even elite riders can benefit from reviewing the basics.

Course Dates: Wednesday evenings; 6th,13th, 20th May (missing 27th May) 3rd, 10th June
Venue: Trevelyan Middle School, the gated entrance on St Leonards Road, Windsor.
Time: 18.30 – 19.30
Cost: £85 for the course of 5 sessions, DISCOUNTED to 700cc members to £75.

Spaces are limited, if you would like to reserve a place contact Vikki at

You can confirm your place by making payment in store.

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