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Just to illustrate that there are better and worse ways to apply brakes, here's an example of a less-than-ideal way: I was biking on a borrowed bike and getting used to the brakes. The front brake lever was squishier than the rear. After skidding out and landing my hip on a stump, which lowered morale significantly for the next half-hour or so, I learned to give the front brake a harder squeeze to compensate for the squish. This was on a mountain trail and at the urging of my biking companion on that day.

So my question is this: How does one brake under certain circumstances? Are there times when all-front or all-rear braking makes sense, or is it always best to apply pressure somewhat evenly to both brakes, and are there different braking techniques on roads vs trails and such?

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To reduce your speed significantly while on dry roads, I recommend front brake first and hardest, because the front wheel will have most grip. If you only want to lose a little speed (but more than soft-pedalling), and gently at that, e.g. in a group riding situation to prevent others running into the back of you, then rear-brake only.

On wet roads or loose surfaces you must avoid locking the front-wheel, so brake evenly and simultaneously front and rear. You have a chance of controlling a rear-wheel that is locked and skidding; that control is unlikely to extend to a locked and skidding front wheel.

If it is icy and extremely slippery, consider rear-brake only and don't go too fast to begin with!

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