Controlling speed on long downhills

Hi Lee,

Great book I enjoy it very much. It’s the best investment since I bought my first MTB, well that and attending your clinic.

I do have a question about braking. On your book you said to keep the legal speed of 15 mph. I try to do it on a smooth grade or rolling singletrack. How about on a long 4-5 miles fire road what should I be doing? If I don’t brake I can quickly gather speed but if I try to slow down I’m just dragging my brake. Is there a secret formula to roll smoothly and still maintain relatively legal speed?

Thanks again for writing the book. You have no idea how much it helped me. I hope you are in SoCal soon. I want to do a Jedi Knight clinic.

Best Regards,

Hey Albert,

Thanks for writing. I’m stoked you’re enjoying the book. Brian and I are planning the second edition, and that will have even more cool stuff.

The 15 mph speed limit is ridiculously slow, but it’s the law in most of the U.S. That’s why I suggested in the book that people keep it under 15. That’s the responsible thing to say, right?

The problem is, any time you try to maintain a specific speed, you end up dragging your brakes, getting stiff, bashing into bumps, losing control and having no fun.

Technical trails make it easier to control speed, because the terrain dictates how fast you can go. Steep fire roads make speed control tricker.

On or off
Rather than treating your brake levers like a dimmer switch (always on part way), you should treat them like a light switch (either off or on).

Let’s say you feel comfortable at 12 mph on that fire road descent. DO NOT drag your brakes to maintain 12 mph. Instead, let your bike coast up to 15. Brake hard to slow down to 9 mph. Coast back to 15, slow to 9, and so on. You should be either coasting or braking hard. There is no in-between.

Say you’re on a race course or a trail with no speed limit. In that case, you might descend as fast as you possibly can, and only brake for corners and extra-gnarly sections. You are either aggressively pedaling/pumping/jumping/manualing/cornering or you’re braking hard.

The brakes are off or on. There is no in-between.

Have fun,

— Lee

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