Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Hand Signals/Re-thinking the rear brake

oh boy, two-posts-in-one
When I started bike commuting I read up on the bike traffic laws and discovered the alternate right turn signal - extend your right arm outwards (RCW 46.61.758). Ditched the the awkward left arm bent at the elbow pronto.
handy card from Washington Bikes. didn't notice the
requirement for brakes that skid the wheel until now.
Some bikers who use the left arm for both signals route the front brake to the right handlebar and the rear brake to the left, so they'll always have the stronger brake available on the right when signaling.  Using the right arm signal means you can't use this setup, but I don't see that as a problem as I never really need to brake hard while signalling.

RCW 46.61.758 says "The hand signals required by this section shall be given before initiation of a turn".  So I usually brake a little if I have to, then throw out the arm, and return my hand to the handlebar for the turn.  Can brake with the opposite hand if needed to slow down during the signal.

Which leads me to re-thinking the rear brake. Since discovering the front brake is the more powerful one, I've been dutifully favoring it. In case of an emergency stop, I wanted it to be second nature to use the front brake.  Found out quickly on the rocky trails out at Riverside it's a different story mountain biking, but around town I apply more pressure with the left hand.

But a couple times I've crashed during a low-speed turn because I locked the front wheel.  Both of these happened on the Marin Muirwoods with it's cheaper disc brakes, so that could be part of the problem.  It got me worried every time I turned into a driveway or attempted a sharp turn.  I finally started using the rear brake more in these situations and re-gained my confidence.  I also re-learned the obvious - try braking before the turn, not during.

Since then, I've been using the rear brake more when I just need to feather back on the speed a little, as in approaching turns.  Sometimes it's just the rear brake, sometimes both. I've gotten better at  reflexively using either or both brakes when I need them.

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