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This is related to the "What is the recommended type of tire for riding on wet pavement" question.

I also live in Seattle. So now has come the time where I often need to go down some steep hills on wet pavement. When I need to stop I sometimes skid. What is the best way to stop or prevent the skidding/fishtailing? Either, new components for the wet weather or new techniques I need.

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4 Answers 4

up vote 11 down vote accepted
  • Being aware of your weight distribution can help a lot. You want to make sure you are not leaning forward and taking pressure off of the rear tire.
  • You can also help keep your rear tire planted by giving a slight downward twist on the handlebars with your wrists. Kind of the opposite of a bunny hop.
  • As far as braking technique goes, try to be "progressive" about it. Instead of just applying all the braking power at once, or applying a tiny bit of brakes and just waiting for the bike to run out of steam. Try squeezing the lever, and as you start to slow, apply more and more brakes. This will help you stop in a shorter distance without your losing traction.

A note about skidding: Generally rear tire skids can be handled when they happen. A lot of times the best way to ride them out is to keep on the brake and slowly ease it back out. If you just let go of the brake immediately, the rear tire can snap back around and it is easy to lose control. Front tire skids are a little different. If your front tire starts to skid you do want to let go of the front brake immediately. Keeping your front tire rolling is very important to maintaining control of the bike.

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Here's some technique: Slow down. Allow extra distance to come to a stop. Hang your back end over the saddle, to shift weight toward the rear of your bike. Brake harder on the rear wheel than the front wheel; doing this reduces the risk that your front wheel will lock and cause you to fall.

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You could use your tire presure a bit lower than you'd use on dry surfaces, since it improves the tire traction (provided you do not underinflate them too much, as to make the tire deform laterlly while cornering, or pinch flatting while transposing small obstacles).

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There's always a tradeoff there. Lowering pressure increases the "spot" size, but reduces contact pressure, and both contribute to traction. Contrary to popular belief, eg, reducing auto tire pressure does not provide better traction on ice, but actually makes it worse. –  Daniel R Hicks Oct 12 '11 at 22:33
    
@DanielRHicks : yeah, I agree, but for every slightly irregular surface, asphalt for example, lower pressures mean the wall of the tire will contour the surface of the road. With high pressures, only the rubber will ellastically deform. But sure, it depends on each surface and each slipping condition (sand, snow, ice, water). An interesting article on the topic is here: rivbike.com/kb_results.asp?ID=57 –  heltonbiker Oct 13 '11 at 13:41

Practice braking! With practice you'll get to know when you're about to start skidding and you'll be able to reduce the pressure on the brake levers. Ultimate stopping technique goes like this:

  1. Get in a low position (if you can - the bike might limit how low you can get).
  2. As you increase pressure on the brakes shift you backwards trying to keep you weight in your feet.
  3. Drop your heels to drive your weight into the pedals. Brake as hard as you can without skidding.
  4. As you come of the brakes gradually move your weight forwards.

In terms of components you're tyres are the most important factor in how quickly you stop - wide spaced knobs are good for stopping and softer compounds are better as well. Lowering pressure will improve stopping distance as well. The problem is that tyres that stop well won't roll as quickly.

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I think it's probably more useful to practice braking than to practice breaking. After all the the purpose of the former is to avoid the latter. ;) –  Daniel R Hicks Oct 19 '11 at 15:43

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