What happens if you pull your back brake in mid air?

What happens if you pull your front brake in mid air?

Does your bike go lean forward or backward?

Someone told me you can use these techniques to control your jump.

  • 2
    You mean while the bike is in mid-air? The change in angular momentum will induce a very slight forward tilt. Of course, if you engage the front brake in mid-air and hold it while you land the "forward tilt" will be quite a bit more pronounced -- in the worst case you would break your neck. Commented Nov 7, 2017 at 0:05
  • @DanielRHicks Can I use the back brake to drop my nose if I'm too far back? Commented Nov 7, 2017 at 0:09
  • Both brakes will have nearly the same effect, assuming both wheels are spinning at about the same speed on "lift off". And the effect will be very slight -- probably not noticeable. Commented Nov 7, 2017 at 0:32
  • 6
    You can test this by hanging your bike, freehand pedalling, and then clamp down the rear brake hard. See the bike jump! But then realise a bare bike weighs 1/10th of bike+ rider so the resulting rotational effect will be smaller.
    – Criggie
    Commented Nov 7, 2017 at 1:14
  • @Criggie Check out my answer, I tried the technique at the bike park and am pleasantly surprised with its effectiveness Commented Jun 12, 2018 at 18:46

2 Answers 2


If your wheel is spinning hard in the air, and you apply a brake hard, the rotational momentum has to go somewhere.

However your wheel is rotating forward, and stopping it will make your bike rotate so the front drops. Often that's not what you want.

Also the time available is really small and your reaction time shortens the effective window too.

If your wheels are not spinning fast then there's no stored momentum there so applying the brakes will do nothing.

The question you didn't ask is "What happens if I land with the brakes hard-on?" and that generally means badness if you land with any forward momentum.

The front wheel will be locked so it will either make the brake slip or it will make the tyre slip on the ground, starting a front-wheel washout. There's also a chance your front wheel will turn sideways which will lead to a taco or a complete OTB (Over The Bars). Doing this is most likely to put you in hospital or worse.

  • I've seen a 4WD get its front wheels in the air bu accident, did a hard brake, and then the front wheels hit the moving ground while the wheels were stopped. It wrecked the vehicle's front propshaft, which was an axle approximately 100mm / 4" in diameter. The whole vehicle was probably rolling at 20-25 km/h so in the range of cycling speeds, but weighs 25x as much as a bike+rider.
    – Criggie
    Commented Nov 7, 2017 at 1:12
  • 2
    The worst danger with a locked front wheel is a head-over. I know a guy who's in a wheelchair due to a head-over. Commented Nov 7, 2017 at 1:47
  • 1
    Hey, i tried this at the bike park and have found it is a useful technique. See my answer for more info Commented Jun 12, 2018 at 18:35
  • 1
    Also, I feel the question "What happens if I land with the brakes hard-on" is not even relevant. It's pretty common sense that you shouldn't touch the brakes while your landing off a jump. Only after you've landed should you engage brake if you are sketchy and need to stop the line Commented Jun 12, 2018 at 18:44

My Test

To anyone curious, I tested this tactic at the local dirt jump bike park on my BMX. My BMX has only a back brake, so I have not tried yet with the front brake.

It is true your bike will slightly nosedive if you grab brake in the air.

How I integrated this technique into my riding

I have started to use this technique if I am too back-seat in the air and want to bring my front-end down.

It isn't very abrupt (unless you are going really fast), so it's useful to fine tune your landing if you are too backseat.

The faster your wheel spins, the more you nose dive - so be aware of that. On bigger jumps, you want to do it closer to the end of your airtime, because if you do it too early you might go over the bars.

It is a correctional technique

Note: this is a correctional tactic. You should not be doing this on every jump!

I have seen some riders at the bike park who are reliant on this and grab back brake on every jump to bring their front-end down. Only use this technique if something went wrong.

How do I start using this technique?

If you are thinking of trying this out start on a small jump and get used to how it feels... simply tap your brake to stop the wheel about halfway through your airtime - DO NOT under any circumstances hold the brake in the air; if you hold the brake, there's a chance it will be engaged when you land and this could cause you to fall (especially if you are doing this with your front brake).

Why only the back brake?

I suspect using both brakes would cause even more of a nose dive effect, but I have not tried it yet... TBH, I only want to make small adjustments, and I fear tapping both brakes will be too abrupt... however, it might work... try at your own risk.

Motocross riders use it

Motocross riders use this technique all the time - (e.g. they gas if they're too far forward, and pull brake if too far back). Watch a video of a motocross backflip, and you'll notice they are gassing as hard as they can (to bring that bike around). I assume when moto guys do front flips, they grab brake, but that is only speculation. The effects will be much more abrupt on a motorcross bike - this is because moto bikes move much faster and are heavier.

Differences between motocross and bike

There is no gas/throttle on a bike, so if you nose dive your out of luck; if you are learning, nose dives / nose cases are your biggest concern for bad falls. Remember when learning how to jump, it's always safer to be a little backseat than too far forwards.

  • 2
    Excellent work - thank you for coming back to provide completion and closure. Consider marking this answer as "accepted" because its what worked for you.
    – Criggie
    Commented Jun 12, 2018 at 19:06
  • @Kolob, are the quotations from another source, or are they yours? If they're yours, they shouldn't be in block quotes. Block quotes indicate that the material is not original.
    – user37615
    Commented Jun 14, 2018 at 1:32

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